Coronavirus conversations: Ewan Proctor, Jackson Family Wines

After being Penfolds’ ambassador for Asia for three years, Ewan Proctor has returned to his motherland of Australia. Having worked internationally in wine education, cellarhand and sommelier roles, he has now joined Jackson Family Wines as global brand ambassador for the company’s Australian wineries, namely Yangarra, Hickinbotham and RockBare. Proctor speaks to db Asia about how the Covid-19 pandemic has affected operations in Australia, as well as what he hopes to achieve in his new role.

How has Covid-19 affected your company and what has been done to adapt to the situation?

In the Australian wineries and vineyards, we have just navigated our way through an unprecedented vintage with the impact of Covid-19 striking a bullseye with the grape harvest. As Australia quickly moved towards a lockdown, two-thirds of our international harvest interns returned to their home countries, so we found ourselves having to pull together at the winery with all hands on deck to ensure that the wines got made without disruption. There was a bit of manoeuvring to adhere to social distancing regulations in crucial aspects of the process, such as availability of hand-picking teams, but thankfully everything fell into place.

In a wider business sense there is, in some cases, an adjustment in strategy that is necessary because of the downturn in on-premise sales and a pivot towards retail or e-commerce. Moreover, I’ve been impressed with how the company has embraced the opportunity to go online and bring even more consumers into an intimate experience with winemakers and ambassadors, hosting tastings from the vineyards, wineries and even their own homes.

Why did you decide to join Jackson Family Wines?

I was attracted by the positive company-wide approach to sustainability and environmental stewardship, the family culture and the allure of working with some truly remarkable, regionally specific, single estate and single vineyard wines.

What does your job entail?

It’s a rapidly changing concept in the current environment! I recently completed a turn as full-time cellarhand for the vintage in McLaren Vale. It was an incredible opportunity made possible by the lockdown and cancellation of events like Tasting Australia and the Chengdu Wine Fair, both of which I was scheduled to attend. While travel and tasting events are curtailed, I’m enjoying the opportunity to be creative with content and ideas that assist our partners and their consumers to discover and connect with our wines.

To you, which is the most engaging market in Asia?

I feel like one of the most challenging markets for Australian wine, in terms of untapped potential, is South Korea, however the most engaging is a different story. On a personal level, I’m enthusiastic about new markets for me like Thailand and Singapore, but I’m generally looking forward to returning to the Asian market in a broader sense after a two-year absence.

Can you tell us your experience in Shanghai as the Penfolds ambassador? How would you describe the wine scene there?

I like to describe my experience in Shanghai as being seated in the front row of a roller coaster. Most of the time it was unbridled exhilaration, sometimes even a little scary! The opportunity for growth professionally and personally was quite profound, and I found the pace of change really stimulating. However, as a person who loves history and can be nostalgic, it was sometimes heartbreaking to see things I adored disappear – like a restaurant, live music venue or a whole neighbourhood. That’s life in Shanghai, it’s so dynamic and you are compelled to move on to new things. With that in mind, I’m hesitant to describe the wine scene there right now, as two years in Shanghai is like a decade elsewhere. It’s a city I really love, and I can’t wait to get back and see what’s happening there on so many levels.

Australian wines are big in China now. How will you introduce the three brands to this competitive market and make them stand out?

I’d like to think I’ll play a part in building on that success, and I’ll always be grateful for the opportunity to be part of that story. All three brands have distinct personalities, however they will stand out because of the provenance of the wine, the attention and resources that are directed towards caring for the environments from where they are sourced, and the clear identification of where the wine truly comes from – that is something that more consumers are seeking out in this segment of the imported wine market. Couple that with the acknowledged skill of our winemakers and the numerous accolades they have earned across the portfolio, and I believe we’re in a very enviable position.

How well does the Hong Kong market perceive Australian wines?

Hong Kong is such a gateway and often a first mover on new regions and varietals that begin to gain favour in Asia. With this curiosity and ease of access in the market, it’s no surprise we also see a great reflection of the wider Australian wine community in Hong Kong. The big players are of course there in force, but you can also find a greater diversity of Australian wine than other export markets around the world.

One Response to “Coronavirus conversations: Ewan Proctor, Jackson Family Wines”

  1. andy nichols says:

    Id like to have a drink with Ewan, coz Ewans me mate!

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