Thursday, June 07, 2007

Sparky Marquis, the Steve Irwin of Australian Wine

In early May the Wine Press Club of NSW (Australia) gathered a panel of five speakers for a range of presentations and a forum discussion on marketing wine. The forum was moderated by Darren Jahn, President, Wine Press Club of NSW, and the speakers included: Phil Sexton (Giant Steps and Innocent Bystander Wines), Mark Kehoe (Grays Online Auctions), Bert Werden (WineStar), Sam Willard (Cellarforce) and Sparky Marquis (Molly Dooker Wines).

The edited transcript can be downloaded. The whole document is worth reading. But, with a little imagination, the stream of consciousness from Sparky Marquis is as close to wine comedy as I’ve read.

On Marquis Philips – we started Marquis Philips which went from, in its first year 2001 was 8,000 cases and by the time we sold the company in 2004 we were 120,000 so we went from 8,000 to 120,000 cases in three years. We, mind you I think we only got paid six bucks for that company. Anyway, that’s how business goes.

On drinking Mollydooker wines, while pouring it over a fellow forum member’s head - This is 2006 vintage. We bottled this on Friday right? (Sorry ‘bout that Sam). Right. OK. I just poured it all over his forehead. Sorry about that mate. What we tell people is if you’re going to drink our wine straight away, pour a little bit out, don’t pour it all over the table because you’ve wasted some then and you’re going to have to lick that up later on, right? Pour a little bit out, stick your finger in the top. Always treat our wines gently. (Shakes the bottle madly) Never rough ‘em up. Never worry about, I mean you have to very careful when you treat our wines. Pull your finger, see that? Did you see that? This here, the froth on the top, is nitrogen. If you think about – I’m trying to be careful of Sam’s notes and phone here right at the moment. Hold that Sam.

On selling Mollydooker wines - We released our website in the US the other day called ‘Buy Molly Dooker’ because the number one response after we sold out in 21 days last year was ‘Where the heck can I buy Molly Dooker’. So we bought the website called ‘Buy Molly Dooker’. We put an e-commerce business on it, exactly the same as Bert was talking about - it cost us 300 bucks. It cost us more for the SSL certificate whatever that is – just so we could put https, not just http on our website. I don’t understand what means right? And we sold $1 million worth of wine. Not pre-order. Paid for in our bank account in fourteen days. We expect to sell $5 million over the next couple of days of wine from our direct website in the US but we expect to sell $15 million through our retail friends, our restaurants, the guys that we are going to back 100% to support.

On wine show medals versus critics points - I don’t know. It’s hard to say. For us, you know, we have always been about putting our wines out there and having them judged by whoever is prepared to judge them. What we found in the wine shows is that the direction of the wine shows tends to be with, OK let’s go with finesse or lift or whatever, rather than just something you enjoy, and but in so saying, we tasted with Campbell Mattinson the other day and we showed him – I mean like, I mean you think about it, like the Molly Dooker that we’ve got up there is, I think we say 16.5 on the label but it’s something like 17.2% alcohol. And you don’t know that for the first four glasses but on the fifth glass you certainly do. And you know, I think that the wine, the show judging has gone a little bit into ‘What should we judge to be the great wines’ as opposed to ‘What do I enjoy drinking?’ and for me, everything’s been about what I enjoy drinking. Not what would I taste but what would I drink the whole bottle of …or at least give it a fair shot a drinking the whole bottle of, and then drink the rest the next morning for breakfast because I start drinking at eight o’clock every morning so it’s alright for me.

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