Veteran winemaker Mike Press is challenging the traditional business model adopted by multinationals to consistently produce quality drops at affordable prices.
Confounding the experts and frustrating the industry’s big players, most releases from Mike Press Wines are priced between $12 and $15. “In this competitive age you have got to get really mean and keen in your costings,” Mr Press said. “I think the corporations are jealous of the fact we are winning awards at these low market prices. I can’t say their wines are better or worse, but the big companies are chasing us down now.”
Leading wine authority James Halliday said Mike Press Wines was able to consistently deliver a product that spearheaded Australian wine’s best value-for-money offerings.
“Mike Press Wines are still exceptionally low-priced given the quality of the wine, which in turn reflects his long and very significant experience in making wine in South Australia,” Halliday said. “His wine being sold at $12 a bottle is unthinkable.”
Halliday’s Top 100, published today in The Weekend Australian Magazine, lists his favoured selections for wines above and below $20. Mike Press Wines labels feature twice in this year’s list, which attracted 1242 wines for judging, down from last year’s record 1582.
2013 Adelaide Hills Merlot – 94 points
2015 Adelaide Hills Sauvignon Blanc – 94 points
Halliday attributes Mr Press’s seventh consecutive inclusion in the under- $20 category to an ability to consistently deliver an accessible product of high quality.
Following a 43-year winemaking career, including with Penfolds, Mr Press purchased his own vineyard in the Adelaide Hills in 1998. He produces popular cool-climate staples such as pinot noir, merlot, sauvignon blanc and chardonnay. After a decade of vine maturation, Mr Press said recognition by Halliday was a great reward for his label.
“It hasn’t been all rosy, we’ve made mistakes,” he said. “We started working the streets, stuffing letterboxes, trying to get our word across.
“It’s very gratifying to continue to get into the list when you think of the thousands that enter, and we regularly pop up with one or two and, once, three.”
He said a decision to maintain competitive prices for his wine had drawn criticism from some of his peers at large companies. But Press said his aim was to produce affordable wines, with little variation to the price. “Our philosophy was not to make a fortune, but to work on selling wine that would give us what we thought grapes were worth at farmgate value,” Press said.
“I don’t care what the big companies do — we are going to continue to offer low prices despite my colleagues complaining about us selling too cheaply.”
A growing trend among beer and wine drinkers to steer away from popular brands in search of niche labels only helps smaller companies, he said. “People are looking for something that is artisan and boutique, and I think that helps us in the marketplace.”
Halliday said his 2015 Top 100 reflected a welcome trend of overall improvement in wine quality since 2012. “We have had a succession of very good development of vintages over 2012, 2013 and 2014,” Halliday said. “That has certainly given a lift to the overall quality of the wines submitted this year.”
There were 36 varieties submitted for judging, with shiraz, cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay the most popular.
The Weekend Australian | Saturday, 21 November 2015