Quenching a Thirst for Creativity – Craig Stansborough

Leader (Barossa Valley) June 2014

Craig Stansborough is convinced he has the “best job in the world” as he reflects on his successful career in winemaking. “I still get a kick out of opening a bottle of wine I’ve never had before,” he said.

The 2014 Barons of Barossa Winemaker of the Year has just completed his 21st vintage with Grant Burge Wines where he began as cellar manager before working his way up to chief winemaker. Craig admits that winemaking wasn’t the first occupation he thought of as a young man, growing up in Gawler and fresh out of High School. “I did everything from working in a factory to roof tiling… “I had an interest in wine, but didn’t think it would end up as a career. Then I landed a job as a cellar hand at Seppeltsfield – my first job in the wine industry. Basically, after about day two that was it; I knew what I wanted…I found it pretty intriguing.” Craig found himself in an environment conducive to learning. One filled with characters, “traditional” cellar hands, “interesting, genuine people” who all helped him embrace his new found passion for the wine industry. “I found the people lovely…I was lucky. I was there with Nigel Dolan and James Godfrey, Wendy Stuckey, Ian Shepherd…”

Craig’s drive, focus and commitment to the industry caught the eye of winemaker, Grant Burge who offered him a job with his winery in 1993. What followed was a meteoric rise within a growing company that was developing into another success story for the Barossa. But the Williamstown father of four has never lost sight of the bigger picture and is philosophical as he shares his thoughts on the industry he loves working in. “Of course there’s your ego and you want to make something that’s great, but I think sometimes we take ourselves far too seriously. “I’m not the sort of winemaker that thinks it’s a matter of life or death. I’m not a cancer research scientist, I’m not a doctor; I look in awe at people who find cures…who have to make decisions on people’s health and life every day. “I’ve had some personal experience… my first wife passed away with a brain tumour. Once you go through stuff like that, your perspective is brilliant. “It’s also important to know there are so many people employed in the company that are relying on the winemakers to do a good job so the sales people can sell and people can stay employed. That is really critical, especially in this environment at the moment…”

Craig is a hands-on, creative winemaker who likes to “push the boundaries” and work with grape growers whilst still being mindful of those who appreciate the award winning Grant Burge style. “Certainly, one thing I do as chief winemaker is to push our guys to push themselves. To make sure they try different things… I don’t think we want to be constrained… I’ve got a pretty vivid imagination when it comes to some stuff, I picture things in my head and try and bring them to fruition.” This creativity is allowed full reign with Craig’s own label. Purple Hands – a project he and his friend started in 2006. “Grant is very generous in allowing me to do that. It just keeps things a bit interesting…mucking around with other varieties. You ask any winemaker, they all have lots of ideas…visions of what they want to do and what a wine should look like. Sometimes, you just want to branch out and do something a little bit different. Craig is appreciating the resurgence of the old grape variety, Grenache grown in his own vineyard. “I feel we’re sort of part of that in terms the style we make for Purple Hands…. “Pinot-esque”, lighter styles. Making really elegant wines which I think some people out of the Barossa don’t think is possible. “It’s been really successful for us in terms of Halliday ratings. We got voted in the top ten new wineries in the country last year, we’ve had wines at 96 points.”

Trying out new ideas whilst maintaining traditions keeps Craig motivated. He also has a passion for fortifieds and the team at Grant Burge is expanding their range which includes a 20 year old tawny, muscats and sherries. “We don’t want the history – the art of fortified winemaking to die.” And as a Barons of Barossa Winemaker of the Year, Craig is also very keen to promote and market the Valley. “I’m very motivated in ensuring that the Barossa doesn’t get pigeon holed into one particular style.”There are ways and means of making beautifully elegant wines from this region and there are already lots of guys doing that. But somehow, we get stuck in this big alcoholic, big wood type scenario…

There is plenty of scope for making beautifully structured, elegant wines that are great drinks. “In the end, to me, that’s what wine is… it needs to be a really great drink.”

Barossa Winemaker of the Year, John Lewis – Newcastle Herald Apr 2014

CRAIG Stansborough, Grant Burge Wines’ chief winemaker, has been crowned Barossa Valley 2014 winemaker of the year.
The award, presented at this year’s colourful Barons of the Barossa Declaration of Vintage celebrations, came on the cusp of Craig’s 21st vintage. Craig is familiar with winemakingon a large andsmall scale. In addition to his day job with the big Grant Burge operation, in 2006 he and his mate Mark Slade established the Purple Hands boutique venture that this year was given a fivestar rating in James Halliday’s 2014 Australian Wine Companion.
The Barons celebration also saw father and son team Wayne and Scott Grope declared Viticulturists of the Year.  Wayne has completed more than 40 vintages, during which the family vineyards have quadrupled in area.  Scott joined his father in 2003 and together they have worked to make their vineyards more sustainable through improved soil management practices, minimum tillage, increasing permanent mid-row swards, under-vine mulching and soil moisture monitoring.
For a number of years they have been trialling various eutypa dieback control methods to try to get on top of what they believe is currently one of the biggest challenges facing Barossa winegrowers.  The Barons of Barossa is a wine fraternity founded in 1974 by a group of Barossa wine figures. George Kolarovich of the Kaiser Stuhl Barossa cooperative was elected first grand master.  Other founding barons were Wyndham Hill-Smith (Yalumba), Colin Gramp (Orlando), Bill Seppelt (Seppelts), Sir Condor Laucke, Bruce Hoffmann, Peter Lehmann and Cyril Henschke.

Music to Drink by – John Lewis – Newcastle Herald Apr 2014

TWELVE downloadable music tracks are the latest promotional tool for Grant Burge’s Barossa-based wine brands.
Under the Savour The Sound banner, the Burge companyhasmatched 12 original music performances by South Australian musicians to nine Grant Burge Vineyard Series wines plus the Burge Moscato,Non-Vintage Sparkling Pinot Noir Chardonnay and Aged Tawny fortified.
According to the PRblurb: ‘‘For centuries wine has been keenly matched to the senses of sight, tasteand smell, and this winter Grant Burge enhances the senses further by launching the Savour The Sound campaign, bringing music to the ears of fine wine drinkers’’.
The 12 tracks can be listened to or downloaded at savourthesound.com.au/.

The Top 20 Wineries – Australia & NZ Grapegrower & Winemaker Apr 2014

13. Grant Burge Wines

AN OPTIMIST by nature, Grant Burge is in conservative mode. This time last year he was confident when many were cautious.
But three financially-challenging vintages have taken their toll on the fifth generation winemaker, who grows up to 55 per cent of his production.  “Our vineyards have let us down in a yield sense, which has cost us a fortune and lifted the bottom-line cost of our product dramatically. Our margins have dropped and it’s had an impact on profitability.”
The company increased sales by 9 per cent in 2012/13, buoyed by a domestic sales hike of 19 per cent.  Which was then offset by a 10 per cent decline in exports, much of which was caused by a failed brand-building partnership in China.
Burge has moved on from that letdown, and is encouraged by steady growth in Canada and good results in Europe. Particularly Britain, “We’ve stuck with the UK, making very little margin on 30,000 cases sold to restaurants and regional retailers. But we’re in it for the long haul.” Burge sees New Zealand as the fiercest adversary in export markets and a shining example of what Australia needs to do. “They’re kicking butt. They’ve made a huge name for themselves with a cohesive, coherent message and have managed to keep their cool, clean, green image while holding onto higher price points.”
Meanwhile, Australia’s been suffering from a lack of profitability and a resulting tendency to look inwards. “People haven’t been focused on thinking forward but instead of how to save their companies. We need everyone to be cohesive, making money and pouring it into marketing ourselves as a word-class brand.” He thinks the image projected by Savour Australia is the right one, and would love to see another such initiative in 2015.
Even in conservative mode, there’s plenty going on. The company’s followed up its refresh of the Fifth Generation range with a new, more premium look for its $19 to $25 Vineyard range built around various Barossa blocks. Burge is also keen to keep pushing Tempranillo. He sees it as a good variety for the Barossa and even wants to create his
own Rioja. “We’re doing a lot of research. It’s not some fad thing. We want to do it well and make sure it’s sustainable in a market sense.”  Another big move was February’s
merger between his distribution arm, Vignerons of the World, and its counterpart at the Rathbone Wine Group, Four Seasons Fine Wine. “Irrespective of how good the wine and brand are, you have to have incredibly efficient ways of making grapes into wine and getting on the retail shelf. Burge & Rathbone Fine Wine Merchants is an incredibly compatible fit as a sales organisation,” says Burge.
The changes don’t end there. Burge has now completed a four-year replanting program, switching many whites to reds. Now the attention shifts to the winery, which he promises to “massively transform” over the next three years with new technology. He’s got permission to redevelop the red fermentation facility in Tanunda, and sparkling wine is also in focus.  Sales in this area have grown at around 20 per cent a year for the past 10 years. But working with such large quantities of mostly whole bunch-pressed fruit presents challenges, especially with cooling. “We’re trying to revolutionise the whole process, which we’ve done in theory,” says Burge. “This will be a world first. We’ve hit on something that’s going to be very exciting.”However, conservative for Burge certainly doesn’t mean going into his shell. “Despite my pessimism, I’m still carrying on with experiments and innovation in the winery. I’ve been in the industry 45 years and I still love it.  It’s my life.”

Grant Burge Wines Wins Top Award – Barossa Herald Mar 2010

Grant Burge Wines has done it again with the Barossa Valley winery bringing home the trophy for the Best Australian Sparkling Wine at the 2014 Sydney International Wine Competition.

Their 2004 Helene Grande Curvee won the award at the prestigious competition on Saturday, March 9.

It adds to a swag of other medals and 90 plus point reviews since the wine’s release last year, including two top trophies at the 2013 Hobart Wine Show for Best Sparkling Wine and Best Tasmanian Sparking Wine of the show.

“Winning at Sydney is a special honor,” Grant Burge, owner of Grant Burge Wines said.

“Knowing that our wines enhance and complement the consumer’s dining experience is very important to us.

“Our goal is to position Helene as the first choice on restaurant sparkling wine lists in Australia.”

Grant Burge Wines has a stunning reputation for sparkling wine with their Sparkling Pinot Noir Chardonnay NV frequently ranked as one of Australia’s top sellers.

“Despite the NV’s success, over the years I’d always wanted to release a vintage sparkling wine, to showcase the distinctive fruit that we have here in Australia,” Grant said.

“In 2003 I started sourcing cool climate Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from various locations around Australia, and it became clear that the Tasmanian parcels had the right acid/pH level, alcohol, varietal fruit definition and phenolics for a truly great vintage wine.

“In 2004 the decision was made to set aside a small amount for extended bottle maturation – and so the Helene was born.

“It exceeded my expectations with its incredibly complex biscuity bouquet and elegant palate, finessed by a natural fresh linear acidity. The long finish is everything one looks for in a great vintage wine.”