Valé Harvest, we hardly knew ye.
All good chapters must end, and the Harvest Growers Co-Operative chapter has done just that. When we started the project in 2015, growers in the Northern Adelaide Hills were in dire need of support after four years of challenging vintages - including the incredibly difficult 2011 vintage and the impacts of frost and bushfires in the following years, as well as historically low prices for grapes. The Harvest project provided an income for growers in challenging vintages - above what they would usually receive. We would bring the winemaking, growers would bring the fruit, and we'd share the profit 50/50 upon the sale of the wine. Through this project, we provided growers with up to 400% higher value for their grapes than the usual relationship of a winery buying fruit from a grower, particularly when compared to the contracts with larger wineries.
Neat huh? The brand grew to a pretty sizeable scale, meeting its goals of assisting growers experiencing financial stress and working with them to convert some vineyards to more sustainable varieties such as Fiano & Nero d'Avola in the Adelaide Hills - which was awesome! We were pretty cosy with the project, but a few things occurred...
1 - While we were making these wines in an accessible and conventional style, we were so caught up in making them true to variety, we kinda stopped drinking them. They were pretty safe wines, and for lack of a better term, weren't all that Unico.
2 - The returns on grape-growing have improved, and growers are now receiving fairer prices for their grapes. Unico Zelo has also grown to a comfortable size where we can purchase this fruit on standard terms and still offer above-average prices.
3 - The ATO came a-knockin' and kindly asked us to stop profit sharing and revert to a conventional winery/grower relationship as the Harvest project was a bit too "complex" for them. After some "discussions", we "agreed".
So, because of these reasons, we thought it disingenuous to continue making wine under the Harvest banner, and we've taken this opportunity to re-invigorate the project across the board.
We decided to re-imagine the brand top to bottom to reflect the growth of the Australian wine industry in the last few years. The wines we are introducing have a bit of a 'Bistro' influence. They are wines that could be enjoyed by anyone, anywhere, but still have a really fun and drinkable nature to them, with pretence and winemaking seriousness left at the door. The wines cater to cravings and moods rather than defined wine categories. We are finding more and more that your average wine drinker will more likely ask for a 'Light Red' rather than a specific variety, exactly what the Tropo wines are speaking to.
In terms of a grower-first mentality, we haven't thrown the baby out with the bathwater. Tropo continues to prioritise long-term relationships with growers, the same ones who have weathered the vintages with us since 2015. We purchase fruit for above-average rates, continue to work with new farmers when their contracts are falling through, and now we purchase fruit from them straight up rather than profit-sharing. The primary goal of Harvest is still here, but we're accomplishing it before the sale of the wine rather than after it, and we're pretty happy that the success of the last five years means that we can afford to do this.
So what does the future of Tropo look like? We have to admit that the 2021 Tropo Vintage is essentially beta mode, as we only found out after vintage that we were unable to proceed with Harvest - how's that for timing... Well, we will take a bit more of a Unico attitude to the wine - maybe some Orange wine made from Sauvignon Blanc? Pet Nats? Even some Riesling? Cabernet? Who knows, but we are excited about what the future holds for Tropo, as we are only just getting a grasp of what this brand can be. But rest assured, everything we do will be by this mantra: Approachable, Drinkable, Affordable. Bring on Vintage 2022!
- Tags: Unico Happenings