After more than 20 years in the wine business, Tamara Grischy has developed a refined palate and a keen eye for the next big thing in Australian wine.
Born in Port Douglas, Tamara was raised in her family’s restaurant, Catalina, where hearty family meals were always paired with a bottle of wine.
As Head of Auctions at Langton’s, Australia’s leading fine wine marketplace, Tamara has been closely involved with the Langton’s Classification of Australian Wine for 20 out of the almost 30 years it’s been up and running.
The mother-of-three also makes time to run the small wine label ‘Silent Way’, which she owns with her winemaker husband Matt.
In 2018, Tamara received the Woman of Inspiration award at the Australian Women in Wine Awards in recognition of her efforts in shaping the local industry and paving the way for greater female representation in wine.
The CEO Magazine sat down with Tamara to discuss her career journey, the changes she’s seen in the Australian wine industry and the next generation of winemakers.
Q. What drew you into the wine industry?
A. After I left school, I initially wanted to pursue a career in sports. But I fell I love with the social aspect of the wine industry – and I’m still in love with it today. I’m a people person, so I loved meeting the growers, makers, salespeople, marketers and business owners. They were all so warm and generous – like a family.
“I fell I love with the social aspect of the wine industry – and I’m still in love with it today.”
Funnily enough, I went on to marry a winemaker. I met my husband, Matt, while I was studying at Roseworthy Agricultural College at Adelaide University. After we were engaged, we moved to New Zealand and I started a job at Wairau River Wines. Matt was soon asked to return to Victoria to set up a wine company and that’s when I first joined Langton’s in Sydney in 1998 as Marketing Manager.
Q. Tell us about your journey with Langton’s.
A. We started as a traditional auction house and, with the rise of the internet, it was my job to launch the business online. I did so over three years and it was a fantastic time of growth.
In 2009, Stewart Langton sold the business to the Woolworths Group and I became Head of Langton’s Fine Wine Auctions. The family business transformed into a corporate organisation and it was challenging but I loved the change and all the new resources and opportunities they brought into the brand. Today, Langton’s is made up of an auction service, a brokerage service, an online retail service and a B2B winery direct service.
Q. What are the greatest trends you’re noticing in the wine business in Australia and internationally?
A. Langton’s launched its Australian Wine Classification in 1990 as a guide to the country’s best wine. It’s defined by our market and what our customers buy, not by one opinion. It’s a fantastic barometer of what has changed over the past 30 years in the wine industry.
One thing I’ve noticed is an oxymoron I like to call ‘modern tradition’. The Classification is about classic wines with strong and unique track records. However, these classic wines are continually redefining and evolving their style of winemaking. As the vineyards grow older, winemakers are gaining a better understanding of what works best and it’s becoming a lower-input process.
They know when to step back and let the land and earth work and they know when to step in and tell that story to the customer, bringing them in on the journey. They’re traditional wines that are evolving and becoming more sophisticated, hence, modern tradition.
Q. How are the next generation of winemakers creating change?
A. In all the traditional winemaking families, we’re seeing the emergence of the next generation. They’re creating their own blends and it’s very much influenced by the desire to minimise the environmental footprint of the entire growing and winemaking process.
There’s also a strong female uprising in the industry. Women are starting to become leading winemakers, salespeople and business owners. The more women that get into this industry, the more women will come. It’s empowering to see.
Q. You have a busy job, three kids and you also run your own small wine label ‘Silent Way’ with Matt – what does work–life balance look like for you?
A. It’s a crazy life, but the biggest lesson I’ve learned is that I can’t feel guilty and I can’t compare myself to other mothers, which is an easy thing to do. I’m not always going to be the best at everything and that’s okay.
Being in a flexible working environment is more important than ever and, thankfully, I have an extraordinary partner who allows me to do what I do. We need to empower women within this industry, because so many female winemakers have children and they need a flexible support system in place.
Q. Can you tell me about Langton’s involvement in the Barossa Wine Auction in April?
A. The Barossa Wine Auction occurs every two years and we really value our involvement in the event. The Barossa Valley is a classic winemaking region of the world and it’s so important to our customers.
The Barossa Wine Association approached us many years ago to help them grow and develop the auction. Now, we host the live auction as well as the online auction, which allows people from all over the world to get involved.
The best part is that it’s curated by the winemakers themselves. They select wines straight from their cellars – wines that aren’t widely available in the market. It gives customers access to wines that are rare and highly collectible.
Q. What are your tips for those looking to start investing in wine?
- Read as much as you can about wine. Read different opinions from different authors until you figure out who you relate to and who you can take advice from.
- Stick to the great vintages. Look for brands with strong track records because they’re the ones that will likely increase in value over time. Our Classification is a great place to start because it shows what customers are investing their money in.
- You don’t have to start with a lot of money. Even if you spend A$30 on a bottle, you can’t go wrong because you’ll always have the pleasure of drinking it – even if it doesn’t increase in value. A perfect example is the Wynns Coonawarra Black Label. It’s a collectors’ staple that will give you so much pleasure over time and maybe even a little return.
- Think about the cost of storage. People often forget about the price of storing the wines properly, insuring their wine and the cost of selling down the track.
Q. If you had to pick a favourite wine, what would it be?
A. The more I get into wine, the less loyal I become to a certain brand. I don’t want to drink the same bottle over and over – I want to try as much as possible. In saying that, of course there are some wines I find myself coming back to.
Looking at the Barossa Wine Auction catalogue, there are some highly collectible large formats from 2012-15 available there that you can’t access in the open market, such as Rockford’s Basket Press and Flaxman wines.
For more news on women in wine, we sat down with the leading ladies at some of Australia’s best wineries, breweries and distilleries.