Viticulture

From Germany to Heathcote

By Country News

Andreas Greiving has been making wine ever since he was eight years old.

German-born and raised, the chemical engineer developed a love for viticulture and oenology well before he could legally drink.

‘‘I grew up in an agricultural district, but the nearest vineyards were over 200 kilometres away,’’ Mr Greiving said.

‘‘I’d go into the woods and collect wild growing fruit; strawberries, blueberries, gooseberries, and make wine.

‘‘I don’t know where the passion comes from, but I always knew I would own my own vineyard.’’

Mr Greiving was right.

Following a career in engineering and senior management that took him to more than 50 countries, he and his wife Henni came to Australia in 2007.

They have a son, Benjamin, 15.

‘‘Henni and I met in Indonesia,’’ Mr Greiving said.

‘‘She is a dentist and interior designer.’’

When the global financial crisis led to Mr Greiving’s company restructuring, he decided to take a package and come to Australia to pursue winemaking.

‘‘We chose Australia and Heathcote for several reasons,’’ Mr Greiving said.

‘‘First of all you must decide which region is conducive to your style.

‘‘I like to make a good red wine, fruit-driven, full-bodied.

‘‘Although I lived in Cape Town for eight years, South Africa is too unsafe because of affordability and language barriers, Europe was also out of the question.

‘‘We crossed off South America because of language issues too.

‘‘Napa Valley — the cost is astronomical.’’

Mr Greiving said Australia, particularly Heathcote, ‘‘ticked all the boxes’’.

A wine tour, which led to a tasting at Sanguine Estate, sealed the decision.

‘‘Heathcote is such a unique region; it produces premium wine, vineyards are (still) relatively affordable, and the lifestyle can’t be beaten,’’ Mr Greiving said.

Although Mr Greiving is not formally trained in viticulture and winemaking, having a background in chemical engineering has helped.

He also credits Mark Hunter of Sanguine Estate as a ‘‘generous and important’’ mentor.

‘‘I learned by doing,’’ Mr Greiving said. ‘‘Listening and learning from the best.’’

Since 2009 Mr Greiving has cultivated a high performing business with a focus on premium brand and product.

While Domaine Asmara services the local market, the focus is export to China.

The vineyard operates on organic principles and is carbon neutral.

‘‘Everything is done by hand,’’ Mr Greiving said.

‘‘I do get some help during picking and pruning, but it’s mostly me.’’

The vineyard is under 12ha and grows durif, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, shiraz and viognier.

Mr Greiving said Domaine Asmara was best known for its shiraz, durif and viognier.

‘‘The opportunity is in the China market, and I’ve been focusing there since 2013.

‘‘Customers seek us out, especially for durif.

‘‘We focus on the development of a premium product and provide superior customer service.’’

Mr Greiving said it was not uncommon to find him doing business with Chinese customers on WeChat during weekends and evenings.

‘‘It’s a seven-day-a-week business. Chinese people tend to start work later in the day and go into the night.

‘‘The app can translate from Mandarin to English.

‘‘You can do business in another language, right here in central Victoria.’’

Mr Greiving said doing business with China was about relationships and referrals.

While it can take several months, even a couple of years to get traction, if you get the mix right (brand, product price and experience) the opportunities are enormous.

He said the medium-term outlook for the Heathcote region was ‘‘very promising’’.

‘‘We’re entering a period of growth,’’ he said.

‘‘From a product life-cycle perspective alone, the next decade, I think, will be exciting.’’

—Vanessa Wiltshire