just a Moment With … Bruce Tyrrell, MD of Tyrrell’s Wines

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This week, we speak to the MD of Australia's Tyrrell’s Wines, and just-drinks subscriber, Bruce Tyrrell.

The MD of Australias Tyrrell Wines, Bruce Tyrrell

The MD of Australia's Tyrrell Wines, Bruce Tyrrell

  • How long have you been working in the drinks industry?

Almost since I was born. My earliest memories of the family winery were when I was about three years old and my father tipped a bucket of water and grape skins over me. I have only worked for the family business and in almost every sector of the place.

  • Who was your mentor when you started? What did they teach you?

I have had a number of mentors through my career; Ian Home, who started Yellowglen, was a great friend of my father's – he taught me about innovation and how to handle people. Ray Kidd and Don McWilliam, who were the heads of Lindeman’s and McWilliam’s, taught me what made the industry tick.

  • How has the industry changed during your time in it?

The industry changed from getting refrigeration in the winery, which brought about the white wine boom of the '70s; Australians subsequently changed from being consumers that drank sweet, sparkling and fortified wines to being some of the most knowledgeable table wine drinkers in the world. There's also the ability to travel quickly and easily, as well as faster communications; firstly, via fax and now via the internet. We have also seen the decline of family companies, the rise of multi-national corporations and perhaps, the sniff of a return of the family business.

  • What do you like most/least about your job?

I love the smell of fermenting Chardonnay and new oak in the early hours of the morning. The industry has also allowed me to travel and to meet wonderful people all over the world. My great hate is cold, wet vintages, and corked wines.

  • What are the main challenges facing the industry today? How would you combat them?

There is a largely stagnant world economy with no real sales growth or average price growth. Wine companies, like ours, have got to continue to specialise and work to expand the premium and super premium markets.

  • What do you think has been the most exciting innovation in the industry?

In my lifetime, it would have to be refrigeration to control our white ferments and, more recently, the ability to communicate quickly and inexpensively with consumers.

  • Which drinks company (apart from the one you are employed by) do you most admire?

The company I admire most is LVMH for its ability to maintain its high-end position in the market.

  • Who or what has been the greatest influence on your career in the industry?

My greatest influence has been the realisation that, in Hunter Semillon, I had the rare gift of being able to work with a product that was truly unique in the world of wine. We often say that, at Tyrrell’s, "Semillon is a bloody obsession".

  • What's your favourite drink?

Aged, high quality white wine that still has good acid.

  • And your favourite drink that is not in your company's portfolio?

On a hot day, I love a light, crisp, clean lager. And, if I could drink 1962 LaTache for the rest of my life, I would be a very happy man.

  • What has been the most peculiar situation that your job has put you in?

I was in New York in 1983, and a retailer told me that nobody would buy Australian wine because they don’t make wine in Australia. Also in New York, on a very hot August day, I had a retailer pull a gun on me when I was trying for a quick sale.

  • Where do you see yourself in ten years time?

I will be in my early 70s then, so I hope to be watching my children continue to grow and develop the quality reputation of Tyrrell’s wines. I will probably also spend a bit more time poking about with our cattle.

Sectors: Wine

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