Perhaps the best word to describe the main philosophical difference between Old World and New World wines is “tradition.”
Old World winemakers in Europe, where wines has been made for more than 2,000 years, embrace tradition with a sense of reverence and pride. Although in recent years some European winemakers have started producing more modern-styled wines, most make wines the way they’ve been made for centuries.
Conversely, New World wine regions have only been producing wines commercially for a relatively short time, ranging from decades to less than 200 years in most cases. Unrestrained by the confines of tradition, winemakers in these regions tend to be more flexible, adjusting their style to meet public demand.
Australia is one of largest New World wine-producing countries, behind only the United States and Argentina in terms of production and behind only Chile in terms of exports. Although some of its best wines, particularly made with Shiraz – what Syrah is called in Australia – really require some aging to reach their potential, most of the wines it produces are meant to be drunk within a few years of vinification, a common New World wine trait.
Established in 1853, Hardys is one of the oldest and most accomplished commercial wineries in Australia.
In 2011, Hardys was bought by Accolade Wines, which owns more than 30 brands, including the California wineries Atlas Peak and Geyser Peak. Accolade is now not only Australia’s largest wine producer, but also the fifth-largest wine company in the world in terms of sales, at about 40 million cases a year. Hardy’s produces about 10 million cases of wine annually.
Hardy’s brand ambassador Bill Hardy, who became the fifth generation of Hardy family members working for the winery when he started in 1972, recently visited the Cayman Islands for the first time. While visiting, he led tastings with hospitality industry professionals and talked about the brand.
Although Hardy’s has been making wine for more than 150 years, tradition in winemaking takes a back seat to customer demand. Hardy said that he really believes that its the product in the bottle that has made the Hardy’s brand so successful.
“We try to be as market-driven as we can,” he said. “We try to tailor the product for the market. It’s much different to the Old World.”
He used Chardonnay as an example of Hardys approach, saying that in years past, the Chardonnay the winery made was “big, golden, oaky and fat.”
“Today, it’s much more like Chablis – lighter, more citrusy, aromatic and crisp.”
By watching the wine market and seeing the rise of Sauvignon Blanc, Hardy said the winery knew the market’s preferred style was changing, leading them to change they way they made Chardonnay.
In some cases with red wines, Hardys has changed the grape blend to meet the current market demand for bigger, fruitier wines. Many of these changes wouldn’t be possible in Old World countries, where wine laws can dictate everything from the grapes a producer can use and the length of time a wine has to be aged, to the allowable alcohol content.
“We are lucky that our legislation allows for more innovation,” said Hardy.
Whatever the reason, Hardys’ success is indisputable.
“We sell more than two million glasses of wine a day in 115 countries,” he said. “Hardys is the number one Australian brand in the U.K.”
Since people in different market sectors have different tastes, creating wines to meet market demand means creating a variety of different wines produced in appropriate quantities. Hardys has 11 different tiers of wines, seven of which it considers core.
“In all, we have about 100 different SKUs,” he said.
In addition, Hardys produces wines in many formats, including standard bottles, boxed wine – which remains a big seller in Australia – and single-serving bottles, the type seen on airplanes. Some of its top-end wines could only be found in fine wine shops, while others could be found in supermarkets around the globe.
“We have amazing reach,” he said, adding that he once found Hardys wines on a supermarket shelf in Turkey.
Hardys sources grape from different regions in Australia and one of the growing trends is using grapes from newer regions like Victoria and Tasmania, which give the brand even more taste profile variety.
Here in Cayman, there are more than a dozen Hardys wines available to accommodate many tastes and budgets, including the entry level and inexpensive Stamp of Australia line, the mid-range and good value Nottage Hill line, and the premium and ultra-premium William Hardy and Eileen Hardy lines, some of which are very hard to get, especially in this part of the world.