Looking beyond the vines

08 Jun, 2013 03:00 AM

ANNA Hooper's passion for the wine industry was evident from a young age, with the Adelaide-born winemaker eyeing a career in the industry in her early years of school.

"By about five or six, a seed had been sown that winemaking might be the career for me," she said.

"My mother worked for a winery and I really remember the smell of the winery when the wines were fermenting, and just the vibe of the industry seemed exciting.

"During school, when we started having to think seriously about where we might like to go with our careers, it was something that I could really picture myself doing.

"I must admit that coming from the city, it was deemed quite an unusual career choice by my teachers but by that age I knew that science was where my strengths were, and I also really wanted to move to the country and the open spaces.

"After school work experience at Yalumba I was pretty set on that so I didn't really look back on my decision to get into the wine industry - it was a pretty clear pathway for me."

Her passion for winemaking has already taken her around the world - from completing vintages in South Africa, Bordeaux and Burgundy to working in the fine-wine department at Harrods in London - and now her determination to create a more sustainable wine industry led to her being crowned Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation Rural Woman of the Year for SA.

The Cape Jaffa Wines winemaker was victorious ahead of Australian Wine Research Institute viticulturist Mardi Longbottom, continuing the wine industry's domination of the award following viticultural consultant Mary Retallack's win in last year's national awards.

As a state winner, Anna receives a $10,000 bursary to fund a proposed project that will benefit primary industries and rural Australia. The bursary can be used for leadership training, establishing business plans, developing training programs or - as in Anna's case - overseas study tours.

Anna's award project will investigate the environmental performance of Australian wine companies compared with their global competitors.

"I love our industry - I think it's fantastic and it's very diverse, and I think we have a good reputation for sustainability, but I'd like to see that reputation go even further and for Australia to be leading the way in terms of its recognition on a global scale," she said.

"My project sets out to compare the drivers for sustainability in Australian businesses, with a focus on small to medium-size producers - that's where my experience is - in the context of other world producers that are quite recognised for sustainability."

Anna will visit New Zealand, South Africa and California as part of her study tour later this year.

"I'll be setting up a series of qualitative research interviews with people who I think have been part of the influencing sphere for our driving adoption of sustainability in those areas," she said.

As part of the award, Anna and Mardi will also be able to complete an Australian Institute of Company Directors course, which boosts the participants' knowledge of the role of strategy development, risk management and financial performance in business.

It was only after attending the 2012 SA awards that Anna realised the opportunities the award offered.

"I thought it was such a fantastic thing for women," she said. "The award is about having a really meaningful vision for your industry and being able to show that in the past - but also in your future - that you've got the capability to pursue that vision.

"What I really liked about this award was that it represented a massive challenge for myself, and as well as the bursary there's a lot of leadership development opportunities that appealed to me. I knew that it would force me to challenge myself and that's where I wanted to head with my career. I certainly didn't expect to win but I thought I might as well have a go."

Anna's involvement with Cape Jaffa Wines - established by the Hooper family in 1993 - started when she was working for French wine producer M Chapoutier at Mount Benson.

"Chapoutier was in a joint venture with Cape Jaffa - Chapoutier was interested in local advice, and Cape Jaffa was interested in learning about Chapoutier's biodynamic farming experience," she said.

The business relationship between the two producers took a more personal angle when Anna married Cape Jaffa director Derek Hooper, and in 2003 she started working at Cape Jaffa full-time.

Cape Jaffa Wines has a focus on shiraz and cabernet sauvignon, with the company's range also boasting chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, pinot gris, rosé, semillon and merlot.

Their 30-hectare vineyard and on-site winery is run according to biodynamic principles, while the winery office is partially powered by solar panels and a wind turbine.

The biodynamic approach, founded by Austrian Rudolf Steiner, incorporates organic practices and aims to create harmony between the soil, plants and animals.

It promotes the use of natural preparations - such as filling a cow horn with cow manure and burying it to enrich the mixture - and encourages operators to time their vineyard activities in accordance with the phases of the moon.



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