Table Wines hopes to buck trends by doing things differently as it debuts its eco-conscious label this weekend.
Meet Table Wines: The label launching in one of the industry’s worst years
Table Wines will launch its first vintage amid a red wine glut, the lowest levels of wine production in more than 15 years, and an unfavourable export market.
These conditions are such that growers have been letting grapes wither on the vine, while a cost-of-living crisis is seeing consumers turn away from premium drops in favour of something cheaper.
Table Wines co-founder Jimmy Williams is all too aware of the market he’s entering this weekend when the business launches its first bottles to consumers.
“Whether it’s this year or not, the reason that I started the wine brand was because I’ve been bitten by the winemaking bug,” says Jimmy, who is also a director of food and hospitality marketing firm Williams and Company.
There was no stopping the entrepreneur who started the business with co-founder Max Hall, who does graphic design for the company. Together, they’ve used technology and marketing nous to build a customer base ahead of the official launch.
This week, the company hit its target in a Pozible crowdfunding campaign by offering Table’s early birds the chance to pre-order the first vintage and secure bumper “rewards” including merch, discounted cases and even magnums.
Jimmy and Max will celebrate Table Wines’ launch with friends, family and supporters this weekend at Bowden Cellars. Jimmy told CityMag he hoped the bright yellow branding on the bottles combined with Table’s commitment to being environmentally friendly would get local wine lovers on board.
“Our tagline is humble enjoyment,” says Jimmy.
“It’s an ethos I carry through my whole life. I’ve always been more interested in spending money on daily staples, like really good milk. I’ve always found the joy in simple things and I think myself and Max in our works and our creative pursuits together we are always looking for the purest concept.
“When we came up with the name Table Wines, it started off as a bit of a joke and it was something tongue-in-cheek. When we sat with it, we realised it was a really lovely concept to sit behind.”
Jimmy says the name exemplifies the brand’s values: “We want it to remain democratic and approachable.”
“I think our experience with working with winemaking clients is they probably get their head stuck in winemaking when the average consumer doesn’t speak their language,” he says.
“I think it can be alienating, and we’re wanting to lean into the idea that we’re actually very green in the wine industry.
“If you spoke to winemakers and wine brands there would be an element of questioning whether we’ve done our time or whatever – it’s a deeply traditional occupation in South Australia especially – but we’re just not really fussed.”
Though Jimmy and Max might be newcomers, they’re not reinventing the wheel when it comes to grapes and have tapped an established grower for the first vintage: a Nero d’Avola and a Vermentino.
Grown by third-generation viticulturists Bruce and Val Bassham in the Riverland, the grapes are climate-appropriate and alternatives to the chardonnays, shirazes and merlots the region is known for.
Though Nero d’Avola and Vermentino are two grape varieties seasoned drinkers rarely encounter, Jimmy says the grapes are grown by the Basshams because they suit South Australia’s dry climate.
“We were never going to do a wine project unless we were aiming to be the most low-impact wine brand we can be every year,” Jimmy says.
“That started with sourcing biodynamically-grown grapes from the Riverland. We went to [the Basshams] because we really wanted biodynamic farming and we picked climate-appropriate varietals because I think if you’re not concerned about climate change when you’re in a business that is affected by it, then you’re crazy.
“These are varietals that need very little water, we really liked that idea.”
Table Wines’ eco-friendly credentials go even further; wine is stored in light glass bottles, the founders have opted for a cork stopper over a screw top, and the label itself is made out of sugar cane pulp.
“From a packaging perspective, we’ve done everything we possibly can,” Jimmy says.
“There is a group of consumers in our space that respond to these things, and even if they don’t, we were just never going to start a business without doing it because a positive impact is something that I personally need to build into any business that I do.”
He says the Pozible campaign has allowed Table Wines to “manage our own destiny” and “engage people on a deeper level”.
It’s also given the duo a runway of capital to prepare for their second vintage, which will likely include another new varietal: Pecorino (not the cheese made from sheep’s milk, rather the light-skinned grape varietal hailing from Italy’s east coast).
Jimmy says everything Table Wines has done to date has been “in complete opposition to the advice that we have been given from our industry peers”.
“All of our industry connections said ‘don’t do it’, ‘spend your money on something else’, ‘you won’t get your money back’, ‘it’s a waste of time’,” he says.
“It’s not what you want to hear when you’re starting, but during a recession or the lowest ebb is where all the opportunities are. We are existing in a really terrible market, but we’re not existing in the same market as the rest.
“We get to come in and be fresh and innovative because we’re not bound by what has happened in the past. It allows us some freedom to set up our business in a way that we feel the industry is going to climb its way out of the hole.”
Find out more about Table Wines here.