SubRosa wine listed on James Halliday’s wine guide
IAN GILBERT, The Weekly Times
August 8, 2018 12:00am
FOR winemakers, this time of year brings a mixture of trepidation and excitement.
It’s got little to do with the weather; bud burst is still a few weeks away.
No, the midwinter jitters are brought on by the release of the annual Halliday Wine Companion — the holy grail of wine reviews.
An entry in this wine-lovers’ bible can elevate a small independent winery on to a bigger stage, or a decent score out of 100 from author James Halliday can steer an already-established label towards greater things.
For Grampians couple Nancy Panter and Adam Louder, seeing their SubRosa brand listed in the new edition of Halliday, released last week, is the reward for the hard work involved in running a family wine business.
“It’s a benchmark, and it’s the most respected benchmark in Australia,” says Nancy.
“You can use that review as a talking point with wine shops, restaurants and consumers.”
Nancy and Adam’s story starts in the US — fittingly, as Adam was a “flying winemaker” for several years.
At 37, he has completed 32 harvests in some of the world’s finest wine-producing regions, including Margaret River, Bordeaux and the Napa Valley — plus, of course, the Grampians.
He was making wine in the Napa and Nancy was working in global brand and marketing PR for Visa on projects such as the Olympics when they met in 2011.
After they returned to Australia, SubRosa started to take shape.
The Grampians — specifically Eversley, east of Ararat — is now home for the couple and their son Toby, 2.
For Adam, making his own wine in the region is a real homecoming; he cut his teeth under visionary Australian winemaker the late Trevor Mast at Mount Langi Ghiran in 1998.
Adam’s attachment to the winery has turned full-circle with his recent appointment as head winemaker at Mount Langi Ghiran — the “day job” that underwrites his own venture.
As for their own label, Nancy says: “Adam has worked for 20 years making wine for other people and he wanted to use the experience he has and make wine like he wanted to make wine.
“We only make a small amount — we make as much as we can with the funds we have available.”
James Halliday calls SubRosa “one of the best new wineries in the 2019 Companion”, enthusing about the Pyrenees shiraz, which warrants 96 points out of 100, with 95 apiece for the Grampians shiraz and Pyrenees nebbiolo.
(Incidentally, the winery’s name comes from the Latin phrase sub rosa, which means “under the rose” and denotes a custom of secrecy or confidentiality.)
While consumers see only the glamorous end of the business — a beautiful glass of wine and an evocative review — it belies the hard slog required to promote small wine labels such as SubRosa.
“You talk to anyone who works in wine marketing and they’ll say it’s easy to make the wine but hard to sell it,” Nancy says.
It’s hard to overstate, therefore, what a glowing review in Halliday’s guide can mean for a smaller winery without the big marketing dollars to plug its wares.
In 2015, Yarra Valley winery Serrat scooped the Wine of the Year accolade for its shiraz-viognier, a bottle costing about $40 that outpointed the likes of Penfolds Grange (costing in the region of $750).
Serrat sold out of stock the morning the book was released — 4000 email orders were received by noon — and even then buyers were limited to six bottles a person.
A bottle reputedly sold at a charity auction shortly afterwards for $2000; while that was the exception, bottles were selling through wine merchants for a not-inconsiderable $400.
Now, even with that giddy pedigree, Serrat’s wines have risen by barely a tenth in price, proving that James Halliday has an eye for the good guy as well as the good wine.
If the latest edition has anything like the same effect for SubRosa, it will benefit not just their business but Grampians wine tourism as a whole, suggests Nancy.
“Australia produces extraordinary wine and the more that Australia can embrace supporting the local winemaking industry, the more that wineries will be more profitable and be able to make better wine tourism experiences — there’s a flow-on effect,” she says.
For Nancy Panter and Adam Louder, it seems, everything’s coming up roses.