Q&A: The winemaker breaking the mould in a six-generation dynasty

In July last year Bec Hardy took over the ownership of McLaren Vale brand Pertaringa, becoming the first female member of the Hardy family to own her own vineyard and produce her own wine. Before the move, the sixth-generation member of the winemaking family and her husband, Richard, had worked in the family business, growing Wines by Geoff Hardy’s exports by over 788 per cent and achieving eight years of double-digit export growth.

ISB: How did you go about preparing yourself for what was probably a “pre-ordained career” as the sixth generation of a long-established winemaking family?

BH: I’ve been fortunate that my parents never put any pressure on me to join the family business. But as a child I loved the outdoors and being in nature, so viticulture was a natural choice. I gained experience in the wine industry in London and Sydney and then returned to South Australia to work with dad. In time, it became clear that the Pertaringa brand would pass to me. It’s an honour to continue in the family tradition, but also to put my own personal stamp on the winemaking and brand building.

ISB: You formally took over the family business in the midst of a global pandemic – how have you helped the business cope with the challenges COVID presents?

BH: The biggest challenge has been export – my husband and co-Managing Director, Richard, and I are big “relationship” people so being unable to travel to strengthen existing relationships and forge new connections has been difficult. But we’ve instead looked at different avenues to reach new and existing markets and connect with trustworthy partners who can represent us overseas. And we’ve also concentrated on our offering at home – brand building, PR, e-commerce and the visitor experience by refurbishing our cellar door in McLaren Vale and launching bespoke dining experiences at our home, Tipsy Hill.

ISB: Please tell us about the key elements of your export strategy that resulted in such strong sales that you were nominated as the South Australian representative in Austrade’s 2020 Remarkable Australian Exporter showcase?

BH: We seek out distribution partners of choice both domestically and internationally. We are a values-based business with a strong set of unique selling points, a great price to quality ratio across all price points, a willingness to invest in our brand and our people with a clear focus on the future and the next thirty years. Those strengths are attractive to distributors domestically and internationally.

ISB: And what impact has the recent trade “stoush” with China had on your business, and how have you diversified as a result?

BH: It has brought opportunity in time and dollars that we are able to redeploy to invest in our domestic offering. We have refurbished our cellar door, recruited two new team members in important roles and have one key role left to fill for a new full-time DTC, Cellar Door and Events Manager.

We do, also, remain optimistic and positive about the medium- to long-term opportunities in China.

ISB: How do you envisage the wine industry should go about addressing its under-representation of women in senior roles?

BH: I think change is happening and it helps when women in the industry support one another and hold each other up – there are several initiatives that champion women in wine. We’ve just hired a new winemaker, Bec Swincer, who not only has 20 years of experience across three continents but also happens to be female. Winemaking can be physical work and reaching a head winemaker position also requires a lot of study, travel and experience, and women’s role as the primary care giver has often held them back from achieving this. Offering flexibility and celebrating those who are succeeding as role models will help to redress the imbalance.

ISB: And, finally, what is your vision for the development of the business in the next couple of years?

BH: We continue to look for like-minded distribution partners to grow our distribution and our brand. We will continue to invest in our people and our brand. The past eight months, we’ve poured our heart and soul into Bec Hardy Wines and it’s rewarding to see the returns – not just in terms of sales but in repeat visitors and loyal fans. We’re positive and excited for our future.