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April 19, 2018
Habits

Noon Winery: The perks of staying small

With the majority of their wine sold directly to a loyal following via an at-capacity mailing list and a once-a-year opening of their cellar door, Noon Winery proves success doesn't have to mean exponential growth.

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  • Story: Johnny von Einem

In this current era of online consumerism, where almost everything is available to almost everyone at the click of a button, scarcity and exclusivity are two increasingly effectual marketing techniques.

Remarks

 Noon Winery is located at 282 Rifle Range Road in McLaren Vale and will open on Saturday 10 November for three consecutive weekends, or until sold out.

For more information on their wines, see their website.

Noon Winery, run by Drew and Raegan Noon, a husband and wife team making small batch wines on their property in McLaren Vale, fits this exact bill: the business has not increased production since the 1980s, their cellar door opens for only three weeks in November, and they reserve most of their stock for a mailing list that is currently full and only reviewed once every three years.

None of this, though, was a marketing decision.

“Actually, it’s sort of a quality of life decision,” Drew Noon says.

“Most people in most businesses, given the opportunity to grow, will grow, but for me, the purpose of, or the incentive, the pleasure and enjoyment and worthwhileness of doing what we do is about a) doing the work ourselves, and b) seeing happy customers, rather than having lots of customers and getting other people to [make the wine] and having a lot more stress.”

Drew left the Vale in the 1980s to explore the broader wine industry, but returned in 1996 after his parents signalled they would be retiring. During his time away, Drew worked in large-scale wineries, increasingly in management positions, and saw the aspects of winemaking he loved most were lost once operations became industrialised.

“I realised that I really liked the craft side of producing wine – I like pruning, I like topping up barrels and racking, and bottling, and just everything that goes into a year’s cycle of producing wine,” he says.

“By the time I came home, I knew that I wanted to stay small and keep it at a scale that we could hand do it ourselves, remain farmers.”

Drew also persisted with Noon Winery’s focus on direct sales over wholesaling (a hangover from his Dad’s pre-Dan Murphy’s generation), and even today uses the same handwritten database to send out a yearly newsletter offering the first release of wine to loyal Noon subscribers.

The Noon Winery database, carried over from last century.

“When we took over from Mum and Dad, they had this [card system], and Dad said ‘This is the mailing list.’ We said ‘Wow, we’ll have to computerise that,’ and here we are, all this time, working off of it,” Drew laughs.

“We’ve expanded it a little bit, as much as we can, and that still works… We capped the mailing list five to 10 years ago… Now every three years, we review the list and try to add some more people.

“We are conscious of it not just being an ageing list, of getting young people in and on and interested and involved and so on.”

The main event in the Noon calendar, though, comes in early November, after an entire year of toiling among the vines, months of bottling, packaging, and stacking – all done by Drew and Rae and a couple of part-time helpers – the gate to Noon Winery finally opens for its three-week run.

“It’s a bigger, longer stretch of intense work than harvest almost. It’s busy,” Drew says.

“[People] seem to love it. They anticipate it. We’ve had people early at the gate at 6:30 in the morning with barbecues and Sunday papers, and they still do that. They form a queue and it’s quite a social thing. It has an event atmosphere of its own.”

Given their feverish following, CityMag asks Drew and Rae if they’re ever compelled to join social media, and given that they still haven’t completely embraced email – “It’s almost essential these days,” Drew says – we’re not surprised to hear that particular development will probably come with the next generation, Drew and Rae’s kids, who are only now in their early- and mid-teens.

It’s a luxury of their size and their inherited following that Noon Winery can happily leave modernity knocking at their front gate while they tend to the every day aspects of running a vineyard.

Although Drew, unlike his father, did evolve enough to embrace an international market and install an upgraded bottling line, at least in the short term, little else is likely to change.

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