We catch up with Selina Kelly and Andre Bondar, the couple behind Best New Winery Bondar Wines, to find out what's been happening since their award last August.
The couple behind Bondar was somewhat overwhelmed by the demand for their wines after being named Best New Winery. As a fresh-faced outfit still finding their feet, the award had them hit the ground running.
“It’s definitely been positive for us over the past year. We’re really small, so we didn’t have huge volumes of any of the wines that were reviewed, or of any of our other wines really. We sold out of everything pretty fast.”
And when they say ‘fast’, it was in record time. “The wines that had been reviewed were gone within the month,” Andre and Selina say. “We’d also released a few new wines around the same time and most of those sold out within six months of the announcement.”
For this tiny McLaren Vale producer, it was an impressive result. “It was different for us as we were just starting out…it was really nice. One of our big goals had been to set-up distribution around Australia and now our wines are available in every state,” Selina says.
Since being named Best New Winery, Andre and Selina have been able to make Bondar their sole focus. “Before we had to support the business with other bits and pieces. Now, because of the award and establishing national distribution, we can comfortably do this and this alone,” Andre says.
In spite of the success, they’re not resting on their laurels. “We’re not at a point where we can sit and pat ourselves on the back just yet,” Selina says. “Everyday we’re considering our next steps.”
Will the wines sell out as quickly this year? “Previously, we weren’t using all of our vineyard’s fruit for our brand, but now we can do so confidently. We’ve increased production as much as we can,” Andre says. Selina adds, “That was sort of the plan anyway, but we would never increase our volumes without making sure the resulting wine was as good or better than the one before it. If that means we can’t make as much of something then that’s just the way it is.”
In addition to increasing output and distribution, another goal over the past year has been to improve vineyard quality. “Slowly, slowly we’re going organic,” Andre says. “We’re making first steps in that realm this year – we’re not going to survive unless we continuously improve our product and to me that’s about the vineyard,” he says.
When asked whether they’ve had to do anything out of the ordinary since the award, Selina laughs: “Oh my god, lots of photo shoots! That was fun, but we’re kind of glad it’s dried up after a year,” she says. As well as that, there’s been some international interest. “We’ve had export enquiries from places as diverse as Alaska, China and the UK,” Selina and Andre say. “That’s the next step for us, getting some export markets set-up. We love travelling,” Selina says.
Which wines should we keep our eyes peeled for in the coming Companion? “The [home-block] Rayner Vineyard Grenache and the Adelaide Hills Chardonnay. Those are the big ones for us. We also have a shiraz, a GSM and a rosé, so if those do well then that's a bonus. Personally, we love the grenache. That’s where we think we’re making a difference as it improves out of site each year,” Andre says.
They’re planting more varietals as well, so the range is set to grow over the next few years. “I’ve looked to Southern France and Spain for some more heat-tolerant varieties,” Andre says. “We’ve got touriga, mataro, cinsault and carignan. We’ve got a little bit of fiano that’s spent time on skins and is more savoury than fruity,” he says. “We’ve also got plans in motion to build a winery onsite, so that’s exciting. It won't be big, but it will allow us to have control from start to finish,” Selina adds.
With all that’s happening, are there plans to grow the team? “Not really,” according to Andre and Selina. “We like being small and keeping things simple.”
Visit our Awards Hub for related news and information on the 2018 Halliday Wine Companion guide.