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Artisan by name and nature
IN 2001 AN Indonesian timber merchant seeking to satisfy a growing demand for good wine at an affordable price, challenged Western Australian master winemaker Craig Newton to build him a system that would grow grapes in Australia and produce the wine in Bali. The proviso being that it would be done without compromising the quality of the fruit in transit or during the winemaking process in a Bali winery.
For several years, as wine consultant to Wine of the God's, Craig travelled regularly from Perth to Bali managing to oversee most of the process from a distance. During this time, while training a winemaker and winery staff, Craig pursued a path of meticulous and unrelenting research. His aim was to perfect a method of shipping juice from WA to Bali, without freezing and without losing the intrinsic qualities of the premium fruit.
The juice also needed to be 100 per cent free of alcohol on arrival. Any unexpected fermentation would result in a whopping 420 per cent import tax being levied.
Craig's attention to detail and determination to produce only the best wine eventually saw him decide that he needed to be more than just a remote consultant. He needed to be hands-on and in control.
In 2009 Craig and his wife Noela entered a partnership with the timber merchant and his family and one of the original Australian partners to form the Artisan Estate. Artisan Estate became the first Balinese company to produce Australian quality wine in Indonesia at a locally produced price point.
Difficulties when dealing with government regulators is common to all wine making regions.
In this case the name of the new label needed to be a word common to both the Indonesian and English languages. Noela was responsible for all marketing and, having an extensive background in wine packaging and wine education in WA, it fell to her to find a name.
Noela said, 'The word 'artisan' in English and Indonesian means the same, 'craftsman'. So with two talented craftsmen involved, one a master winemaker and the other a respected timber merchant, Artisan was the ideal choice.'
The company's support of local artists and crafts people is reflected in the new name and the attractive labels and packaging.
There were still intricate paths to follow through the administration jungle if the exercise was to succeed. Obtaining label registration demanded meticulous planning and negotiation. It is not possible for labels to be changed on a whim.
Doing anything on a whim is not a viable option in Indonesia. It can take between nine and 12 months to get approval for a label and then it is five years before any major changes are allowed.
The first Artisan Chardonnay was released in October 2009, the Classic Chardonnay blend followed in 2010, and in 2011 the highly praised Sauvignon Blanc and Shiraz varieties were finally on the market.
Planning ahead for new additions to the range was part of the strategy. The basic label needed to remain unchanged, and even with only minor changes to the artwork and some wording there was still a nine month wait for registration.
Craig said, 'In the three years since we became Artisan Estate we have increased production dramatically. In 2009 the Sanur winery capacity was 18,000 litres. It is now over 108,000 litres. We have just loaded two new tanks that will be shipped from Fremantle in time for the 2013 vintage and we have plans to eventually increase the capacity to around 300,000 litres.
'Our strategy has been to start at the top. By supplying the better hotels and restaurants with quality at an affordable price the customers will start asking for our wines, and so the market grows as word spreads. It works because we are the creators, the makers, the shippers, we bottle it and we promote it.
'In the past we were travelling to Bali quite often but could never find a wine that we enjoyed and could afford to drink. There were the local wines, in particular Hatten Wines which are marketed very well to a certain level, as well as the others that were cheap and of variable quality, and the very expensive imported wines some of which were poor quality.
'There was nothing in the middle ground, so we decided to put ourselves firmly in there with a locally produced quality wine at a reasonable price. Over-deliver on quality, under-achieve on price and aim for volume sales. We were also the first to introduce screw caps in Indonesia.'
Noela's previous wine industry experience with Great Western Winemakers Supplies, Cospak and the WAWIA Wine Education centre has proved to be invaluable. Her area of responsibility is marketing, packaging, logos and label design while focusing on being environmentally responsible.
Noela said, 'We buy the environmentally friendly carbon reduced Lean + Green bottles from O-I Australia in an effort to reduce our carbon footprint. At the same time their lighter weight reduces our shipping costs thus helping us to keep prices to consumers as low as possible.'
If there is a packaging or presentation challenge it will land on Noela's desk. The tropical climate took a toll on standard labels, affecting the appearance and presentation of the wines.
'With the constant humidity and condensation, and because the bottles spend so much time in ice buckets, we needed water-proof labels. Combining the quality of label we wanted, embossed and gold foiled with a waterproof material, wasn't easy, but we found a local company that could achieve this for us.'
Finding a way through the myriad of licenses, taxes and regulations is a time-consuming task but Noela says it is much quicker than trying to extricate yourself from a situation that could have been avoided by simply following the rules.
'We do everything by the book, with no deviations and we have no trouble. We deal directly with the hotels, resorts and major restaurants. There is a lot of footwork and networking involved but it is the cleanest way to run the business in Indonesia.'
Training and educating hotel and restaurant staff is an important part of the Artisan model.
Noela said, 'We like to give back to Bali. We have in-house training for restaurants and hotel staff, teaching them about the wines and the pairing of food and wine. We take the staff to the winery and we show them the process from vineyard to table. Because it is a local wine they can feel some ownership of it.
'These people are an extension of our business - they are on the front line talking to customers. They are important to us so we want to give back to them.'
In the winery, Craig regularly takes shift workers from the timber mill to experience a different working environment and learn another skill.
'What I've found is there are some who are well suited to the bottling line, others who are better at packing up, cleaning and sterilising or labeling.
Noela said, 'We love being in Bali and working with the locals. But it is also about promoting Western Australia in Indonesia. We would like all Western Australians, who would be in the majority of Australian tourists in Indonesia, to know there is now a quality WA wine available for them.'
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