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Sydney cellar door pays for itself through billionaire wine customers

The red tape Château Tanunda had to wade through to open its cellar door in a historic part of Sydney has proven well worth it for the high net worth individuals the store attracts, its owner tells Sarah Neish.

In an exclusive interview with the drinks business, Château Tanunda owner John Geber reveals it took four years to secure a license for its Sydney cellar door due to its location in the most historic part of the Australian city.

With the Barossa Valley sizzling more than 1,300km away from Australia’s busiest hub, Geber felt it would be prudent to have a presence in Sydney for those visitors who might not have time to make it out west to visit Château Tanunda in person.

Tanunda’s Sydney cellar door, named The Rocks, opened in October 2021 offering tastings of Old Vine Expressions from AU$70 per person, allowing guests to sample wines made from 50, 100 and 150-year-old vines.

Geber tells db that the upmarket store tends to attract high net worth individuals who are looking to stock their personal wine cellars with “something no one else has”.

He recounts how the combined total wealth of three Singaporeans who recently stopped in at the store was AU$9.8 billion.

“One of them bought wine worth AU$100,000,” said Geber. “I would never, ever have met these guys if they hadn’t walked through our Sydney cellar door.”

The new Hong Kong

According to Geber, many of the customers who visit The Rocks are from Southeast Asian countries.

“Singapore is the new Hong Kong of the world,” Geber claims. “It’s all about financial mobility there. Capital flight is on!”

Calling Singapore “the shock absorber” of Asia, he explains that he believes the country “is going to become an incredibly important place.”

“Asia overall is up-and-coming with Asian markets in double digit growth for Australian wine at the moment. Since the China tariffs hit, we’ve had to do a lot of work there as China was one of our biggest markets. We’ve also been working on reactivating Japan.”

Geber shares with db that he plans to position the brand towards ‘high wealth’ individuals and is “going big time on old vine expressions.”

“The top-end of the market is recession-proof,” he insists.

The clientele that Château Tanunda increasingly welcomes favours “unique and limited supply”, which is something the producer’s heritage Shiraz vines have in spades.

“Their roots can reach down as far as 30ft,” he says. “We can prove that the most consistent and beautiful wines from around the world come from their own rootstock.”

“Australia lost its way a bit in telling its premium story,” adds Michelle Geber, managing director for the winery. “Our vision is to bring premium, luxury Australian wine back to the world.”

Plans are afoot to open a Duty Free focus in Sydney airport to further establish the Château Tanunda name with affluent international travellers, both from Asia and elsewhere.



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