Winery mailing lists, then and now

I have been diligently removing myself from winery mailing lists for a few years, but when I began indulging in wine, it was exciting to receive the ramblings. Here’s some background on a few that continually piqued my interest.

Mount Mary – Mailers started out as little more than a price list with a brief description of the available wines, but Dr John Middleton adventured these into pamphlets packed with philosophy, history, education, musings on taxation, retailing and so on. The print seemed to get smaller and the brochure longer.  A newsletter full of character, pungency and wit. Always interesting – even the parts I could understand and disagree with.

Mount Mary had a waiting list before you could join the mailing list, and the most restricted wine was the Pinot Noir. People rushed to return their orders as fast as possible, with Mt Mary desperate to stop faxes and couriers molesting them. On release and tasting days there were queues, and people purchasing everything they could up to the limits. John was distraught at customers that “flipped” his wines to retailers and auction houses soon after the wines became available.

And for a while there was gewürztraminer.

Once I made an appointment to see John, and was surprised to see him mowing the lawn in a very tattered machine. Another time, he generously donated a bottle of his prized Quintet to some impoverished (but wine-interested) University students. Once I enquired about getting a magnum, and this was cheerfully aranged – after I had supplied an empty magnum-sized bottle.

Pipers Brook – Dr Andrew Pirie’s release newsletters were also vibrant, with part of the novelty being that the wines came from Tasmania. The newsletters highlighted the (painfully) small volumes available, sometimes offering very mixed packs, as volumes of newer varietals came on-stream, and different bottlings from varied special block selections were made.

(AP Birks) Wendouree – Another winery with a waiting list before  customers progressed to the mailing list; and curiously the order forms carry marks indicating the longevity and worthiness of the customer. Customers may get their order quantities adjusted (downwards).

The format of the newsletter has not changed, and reads in essence “the following wines grown made and bottled at the estate are now available”, followed by blend proportions and age of vineyards. Appealing in its apparent simplicity, and for all their renown the wines remain very reasonably priced.

When I toured a few years ago, Tony Brady pointed me toward one of the vineyards and laconically said “watch out for snakes”. If you visit, make sure to view the small, immaculately constructed shelves holding their stock of museum wines.

Baileys of Glenrowan – Readers could easily discern Harry Tinson’s heroic struggle to describe his new wines, and his restiveness to improve their quality each year. The newsletter was modest in tone, but the wines certainly spoke of their place. The area had imposed an enormous stamp on Harry and he reciprocated.

Moss Wood – Newsletters began simply, but blossomed into artworks, describing in great detail various technical tweaks in viticulture and winemaking, plus fabulous tables of vintage ratings and comparisons. Having correctly planted Margaret River’s strength with Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, Moss Wood persevered with 2 Semillons and Pinot Noir. Now they have multiple sites to choose from, with greater blending and varietal options.

Now, we are in the world of the internet, and emails and websites have largely replaced snail mail.  The newer technology means potential for more photographs, updated reviews, blogs etc. The downside here is greater opportunity for marketers to go ballistic, and for web designers to inflict illogical and obtrusive designs. But I have hoarded some of these old paper newsletters to trigger the voyages along memory lane.


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