We have all seen Hardy’s wines in stores all over the Philippines, and most of us have probably tried it. It is perhaps the No. 1 Australian wine brand in terms of recall in the country today. An interview with fifth-generation vineyard owner and the brand’s ambassador and corporate oenologist Bill Hardy gives us a closer look at what the brand is all about, and how new world wines have found their place in people’s wine glasses.
Tell us more about the early days of Hardy’s and how it developed into what it is today.
My great-great-grandfather started it in 1853, but if you want to go back further, he came to Australia from England in 1850, when he was only 20 years old. He didn’t know anyone in Australia and went to find opportunities. He didn’t really know anything about wine either, but was lucky because he ended up working in a vineyard for the first commercial grape grower in Australia. He fell in love with the vineyards but still needed to make some money to start his own business, so he went to the gold mines in Victoria and made a fortune, and was able to buy a piece of land in Adelaide to start his own farm. In the latter part of the 19th century, his business grew rapidly, so by 1900, he was South Australia’s biggest wine maker. The last four generations had fluctuating fortunes, but now we are the No. 1 wine-producer in Australia.
What do you do as “corporate oenologist?”
An oenologist is a wine scientist rather than a wine maker, which I was for 25 years. In 1995 onwards, I became the corporate oenologist, which involves being involved in the wine technical committee discussions. I was a member of the International wine industry technical advisory committee, so it’s more about introducing and proving new scientific techniques in making wine.
What makes Australian wine different from other wines?
I think it’s two things. First, our climate. We are lucky enough to have a Mediterranean climate in South Australia, but it’s a bit drier, so we don’t have a lot of disease problems. The second is technology and our approach to making wine. We are a young country with no wine traditions, so we’re willing to innovate and try new techniques. We invented things like night picking, to preserve the fruit flavor of the grapes, or fermenting them cold—all of these were new when we started doing them.
What can people expect from your Premium line?
Some of the wines on the top of our range are named after my grandmother and great-great-grandfather, such as the Eileen Hardy line, which has our best Chardonnay, Shiraz and Pinot Noir. What makes our premium wines different from premium wines from other parts of the world is that, more often than not, they are not single vineyard wines. For instance, in Bordeaux or in Burgundy, the wines come from one vineyard. Our wines grapes can come from two or three regions. The Eileen Hardy Chardonnay is a mix of grapes from Tasmania, Victoria and New South Wales. If you can produce wine using a totally unorthodox method, why not?
How do you know if a wine is good?
I think from its taste and if it’s something that blows your mind. The great wines I’ve liked throughout my life almost take me somewhere else when I smell them, or remind me of all sorts of different things. And when I taste them, the flavors just surprise me in their complexity and unexpectedness. Great wine is a sensory thing.
How should one enjoy or appreciate wine?
I think wine should be appreciated with food. Wine has a high alcohol content so in the majority of cases, it’s not something you just drink while standing around, because you get drunk too quickly. The best way to appreciate wine is to find the right match with the right food.
Ideal food-wine pairings:
Seafood: White wine. With Cold seafood, I would drink Riesling and Chardonnay for hot or cooked seafood.
Chicken: The best is a light-bodied red wine such as Pinot Noir or Tempranillo.
Red Meat: No question in my mind—the perfect partner is Cabernet Sauvignon.
Cheese: I would have to say Cabernet again.
Dessert: This is my favorite wine and food match. Anything based on fruit would work well with a sweet dessert wine. Anything chocolate, coffee or caramel would go well with a Sparkling Shiraz or even a Port.