After years of experience in the wine industry, Tom White was tired of working for other people and wanted the challenge of creating his own path with the chance to test his skills to the limit. In 2008, he established a winemaking and sales consultancy company, and by 2012, he had purchased a vineyard in Marananga, Barossa Valley, and established the Curator Wine Co. brand with the company’s first vintage from 2013.
Tom changed the grapes grown at the vineyard to ones that do well in the area, and then built a winery to produce wine on site. The brand and business rapidly grew to include a larger portfolio of wines, with fruit sourced from their own vineyard as well as multiple Barossa growers (including Greenock, Eden Valley, Stone Well, Vine Vale and Gomersal). The company recently added a cellar door for tasting, too.
“As of the 2020 vintage, we’ve been making wine in our own winery on site at the Marananga vineyard,” says Tom.
Today, Curator wines are distributed throughout Australia and exported to Malaysia, South Korea, the UK, and Singapore. The wines produced include Old Vine Barossa Valley Shiraz, as well as Cabernet Sauvignon and small amounts of Eden Valley Riesling and Montepulciano Rosé.
There have certainly been challenges along the way, including dealing with domestic taxation rules (WET regulations). During COVID, it’s been even more important to develop a variety of sales channels and not focus on singular markets.
“Their market diversification is strong,” says Accru Harris Orchard Director Sarah Stribley. “China was a significant customer of theirs, so when China changed the tariffs on Australian wine, their diversification minimised the impact.”
Building a great business
Tom says that to him, building a great business is about integrity and providing good value to customers, especially in these challenging times. He’s tried to keep things simple and focused, without trying to be everything to every consumer.
“For us, it’s most important to make excellent wine that’s both great value and a delicious drink – either to hold onto or to consume right now – in a package that is simple and classic,” he says. “We’re just focusing on the premium end of the wine market and not going below the $15 per bottle price.”
Another key piece of the puzzle is paying close attention to what customers want and then providing it.
“There is an idea of the wine that the Barossa produces, and I have made that style unapologetically,” he explains. “My red wines are all dark, full of flavour, have high quality oak and are smooth and delicious. I don’t bend to the critics who want to see new varieties and earlier-picked, leaner styles of wine. I make what the Barossa Valley does best!”
Sarah adds that to her, Tom has built a great business in part due to his adaptability and the industry connections he’s established.
“He’s been able to evolve in changing times, and people enjoy dealing with him,” she says. “Tom has great relationships that have served him well.”
Accru Harris Orchard’s role and involvement
Tom has worked with Sarah and Accru Harris Orchard for over 10 years. The team assisted him with the initial business set-up and helped during periods of heavy expansion that required ‘back of house’ adaptations. They’ve also served as a sounding board throughout the journey and assisted in the complicated WET tax evolution over the years.
“The business has evolved quite rapidly, and we’ve recommended structural changes to get the best tax outcome and asset protection,” explains Sarah.
“We’ve been able to not only purchase our own vineyard, but also build our winery, too – none of which could have been done without the guidance of Accru Harris Orchard,” notes Tom. “We’re making it through this pandemic so far, too, which Sarah’s team has assisted with superbly.”
In the coming months and years, Tom hopes to expand his wine range in existing international markets, as well as find new markets for the brand. He’ll also continue to do small amounts of contract processing for the right clients and take full advantage of the new winery.
“There may be a new cellar door in the future, too, but for now I’m fine with our current ‘by appointment’ tasting room that’s attached to the winery,” explains Tom.
To learn more, visit the Curator Wine Co. website. As a special offer for Accru Harris Orchard clients who’d like to purchase any wine from Tom, enter the code aho25 to receive a 25% discount off the website listed price.
Want to learn more about how Accru Harris Orchard can help you build a great business? Contact our team today.