SA winemaker Anna Hooper is one of the latest inductees into the Businesswomen’s Hall of Fame. She shared her story with Food & Drink Business.
Anna Hooper’s love for wine started as a child, following her mother, an agricultural scientist, around the laboratories of an Adelaide Hills winery.
“From a young age I loved the smell of fermenting wines,” she says. “Aromas can create quite strong memories.”
Today, her focus is on making wines for Cape Jaffa Wines in the newly established wine region of Mount Benson on South Australia’s Limestone Coast.
As well as being recognised in the 2016 Businesswomen’s Hall of Fame, Hooper was named the RIRDC South Australian Rural Woman of the Year in 2013, and sits on the Limestone Coast Grape and Wine Council.
Hooper was always a country girl at heart, enjoying natural spaces and untouched environments. So it made sense for her to become an advocate for sustainable farming.
Her drive for sustainability has been widely recognised, with the company inducted into the Advantage SA Sustainability Hall of Fame and placed as Runner Up in the UK Drinks Business Green Personality Award 2014.
Hooper started in business at a time when there were only a few winemakers trialling biodynamic practices.
Her husband Derek Hooper had already started Cape Jaffa Wines, but when she came on board she turned the business into a strictly biodynamic enterprise.
“Like any agricultural company, we had to manage the issue of seasonal variations and find a competitive advantage,” she says.
Apart from their biodynamic farming, the Hoopers have found their point of difference by handcrafting all their wines using a combination of old and new world techniques, drawing from their experiences at a number of French wineries across Burgundy, Bordeaux and the Rhone Valley.
Red wine fermentation particularly pays tribute to the time-honoured European way, which involves hand-plunging wines in open concrete tanks. French oak is their only choice for storing and maturing wines.
They have a policy of minimal intervention, and their sustainability mission is achieved through the use of wind and solar energy.
At the moment, Hooper sees an increasing demand for higher-priced products but doesn’t believe Australia is well-poised to compete on price, despite having the potential to produce premium ranges.
“There is more potential to discover new regions, varietals and blending ideas and cater for consumers who don’t always like the wines that sell at retail,” she says.
“The consumer is more adventurous and much more aware of what they’re buying now.
“They are asking questions about the environmental credentials of the brand, and they want to know the philosophical beliefs of the people making the brand.”
Hooper advises anyone seeking to produce a boutique or artisan product to make sure the product is unique, and can be competitive in the market.
She also emphasises the importance of staying true to your original concept.
“You get so much advice from people about where to source and what the usual procedures are,” she says.
“ You need to set your own direction and not waver from your own pathway.”
Hooper has personally sought a lot of inspiration from travel.
“It’s important to get out there and look at other regions, or other countries – then come back ready to incorporate what you’ve learnt into your own innovations,” she says.
“I’ve been to trade shows in Australia, but the problem is that if you’ve seen something done, then it’s already done.
“It takes a leap of faith to work in agribusiness, but the higher the risk, the higher the reward.”
Suzi Dafnis (CEO of HerBusiness) founded the Businesswomen’s Hall of Fame in 1998 to inspire Australian women through the stories of their high-achieving peers.