Now if you ever succumb to the lure of stopping by the pie stand on the way home from work, you’ll probably feel a little guilty as you take your first bite. Naughty but nice. But, for Bruce Jack, his love of pies growing up also taught him arguably the most important business lesson he was ever going to learn. For, as in the wine industry, there are so many pies to choose from, but which one is going to catch your eye, and why? Understand that, he says, and you have got a good chance of understanding how to run your business. Here’s Bruce’s pie business sermon…
Bruce Jack has made, and does make, wine all over the world, both for major corporates like Constellation and Accolade Wines and now as part of his own business, The Drift Estate, from where he has just launched his own range of Bruce Jack wines.
Much of the money I earned from odd jobs as a kid went on an early addiction – pies. I became a connoisseur of pies. Because I rode to school from an early age, after classes and sport, I was free to sample all the pies in all the bakeries for miles around.
One day I unearthed a pie filled with fried red onion and melted cheddar cheese at a place called Silwood Baker. It was a new creation and titled a “Cheese Turnover” because of the way the baker wrapped the pastry around all that delicious gooeyness.
I was with a school mate, Paul de Waal, and it was winter 1982. I know this, because Paul’s older sister, Lindy, had introduced me to a song by Adam Ant called Goody Two Shoes and I was listening to that on my Walkman. I was desperately trying to learn the words to impress her.
It was a blustery, overcast afternoon, with rain already falling on the slopes of Table Mountain. Kids wore shorts in winter in those days and a disgruntled, chilly northwester was pushing that rain towards us and making the hair on our skinny legs stand up.
As I took that first bite of my Cheese Turnover, steam puffed out of the munched-off corner and the molten cheese cascaded onto the lapel of my blazer, burning my lip on the way. It was the most delicious pie I had ever tasted. It was beyond yummy – it was pie heaven. I did a little jig of joy.
Paul rolled his eyes, cocked his head towards the curtains of grey rain and said: “Eat up, fatso, or we’ll get drenched.”
What’s most important
I’ve made most of the mistakes there are to make as a winemaker and as the owner of wine businesses, but along the way I’ve also stumbled upon what’s important to get right.
Of all the elements in the wine industry you need to grapple with to survive – think phenology, soil science, history, inter-governmental trade agreements, mystery, geography, marketing, label design, geology, climate (change), anthropology, economics, imagination, organic chemistry, sustainability, logistics, physics, fashion, exchange rates, succession planning, relationships, etc… the one I keep circling back on as central to everything – as the critical core of every endeavour that thrives, is a deceptively simple concept – value.
Value is the master of any wine experience. This holds true for wine of any price, any style and from any origin, sold in any manner.
Unexpectedly, the ultra-premium, eye-wateringly expensive end of the spectrum is easier to get your head around. It’s also easier to achieve value consistently at this end. It’s at what I call the “lifestyle”, high-volume end of the price spectrum where consistently crafting everyday drinking wines of exceptional value is much more difficult.
It’s about value
Over the years, I have come to value value above everything else in a wine offering. And I find the challenge of crafting wines that consistently deliver value incredibly exciting.
We offer wines at almost every price point – a myriad range to be sure. But we have a single, simple ambition – we are determined to see consumers smile and do a little jig of joy whenever they enjoy our wine.
All those years go, as a novice pie connoisseur, I instinctively knew I had discovered something amazing in that Cheese Turnover. We all have this ability to be amazed by something delicious. The amazement adds to the joy, elevates it. And this is because we can all determine amazing value when we discover it.
So, I implore you all to seek out deliciousness and value and don’t be satisfied with anything less. Life will be so much more fun.
- Here you can watch a video of Bruce Jack’s recent London launch of his new varietal-driven wine range, where he explains what the wines are trying to achieve, his own winemaking philosophy and re-emphasises the importance of offering value.