Wine Monopole

Date: July 21st, 2011
Place: Adelaide Australia
Accident: Forklift malfunctioned and container hit the ground while being loaded onto the ship Goods insured: 461 cases (5532 bottles) of Mollydooker Velvet Glove 2010 was destroyed Goods value: US$1.1 million

Sparky Marquis, together with his wife, Sarah, owners of Mollydooker, felt “gut-wrenched, shocked and numb.” It was like a “murder scene, everywhere was red!” Shipping workers said the scene “smelled phenomenal” though. The news was widely reported in Australia and abroad. On Time magazine, in the world section, news article title was “Unsteady Forklift Smashes $1 Million Worth of Wine, and a Nation Mourns.

“Nation Mourns.” What is the big deal about Mollydooker anyway?

Highly regarded and awarded

Although only founded in 2005, Sarah & Sparky Marquis has established Mollydooker to be one of the most recognized Australian winery. While they do not do much marketing (people tend to do this for them for free) or brag about themselves, here’re their awards:

  • Received more 94-pt+ from Robert Parker than any other winemakers
  • Received five 99-point scores from Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate
  • Four of their wines have been chosen in the Wine Spectator’s ‘Top 100’
  • Their Carnival of Love Shiraz has made the Wine Spectator ‘Top 10’ list two years in a row
  • Sarah and Sparky have been named ‘Australian Winemakers of the Year
  • Chosen by Robert Parker among the ‘Top Wine Personalities in the World’
  • Crowned ‘McLaren Vale’s Bushing King and Queen’ a record three times

Scientific winemaking

Today, Sarah and Sparky are based in McLaren Vale and make wines following their self-developed scientific approach. They have three vineyards of their own and also buy grapes from friends, most of who have been growing for them for more than a decade. They all follow the same unique watering system developed by Sparky in the 90s called “Marquis Vineyard Watering Programme”. Mollydooker Viticulture team visits each vineyard twice a week during the growing season and scientifically works out the watering needed for the next half week to grow grapes which are as richly coloured, luscious and intensely flavoured as possible.

They also measure and guarantee the quality of the grape using their own scale called “Marquis Fruit Weight” - the measure of how far back on your tongue the velvety sensation of fruit goes). Their intro-level wines (Lefty and Party series) are 65-84%. The Love Wines – Enchanted Path and Carnival of Love – are 85-94%, with their special Velvet glove at 95+%. Any wines of less than 65% are sold off as bulk wine, and if there are no parcels which qualify at the higher levels, Mollydooker doesn’t make the higher level wines that year

Smart marketer?

Customers are usually first attracted by the fancy design of Mollydooker wine labels. Honestly, they are very pretty and I personally consider them one of the best wine label designs. They surely know how to make excellent wines but also are genius in terms of marketing (at least a very smart PR team working for them).

Wine destroyed in the 2011 accident, Velvet Glove 2010, was another Robert Parker’s 99-pointer from the genius winemaking couples. The loss of 461 cases represented 1/3 of Velvet Glove’s annual production and the cases were destined for the debut of Velvet Glove in the United States. Customers were already longing for this superb cult wine and allocation of course became next to impossible.

While Mollydooker was an instant success with its launch of the 99-pt Carnival of Love 2005 in the US, local Aussies felt the other way. The wine was too “American style” – rich, bold and BIG. Yet, this unfortunate accident sparked the demand for Velvet Glove in the US and much more domestically in Australia. The gigantic power of free publicity and perceived scarcity brought many Aussies to try and appreciate the wines. The accident turned out to be a blessing in disguise. The goods were fully insured, so there was no financial loss and it brought in more fans.

The Fun Mollydooker Shake

Another move (some people again said “just marketing”) that is criticized by the wine snobs is "The Mollydooker Shake". It's designed to correct the effects of nitrogen gas used during bottling, which “tends to flatten the fruit flavors of the wine." After opening a bottle, consumers are told to pour a little wine out, put the cap back on, turn the bottle upside down and shake vigorously, “releasing the nitrogen.” In such way, customers won’t have to cellar their young wines. (I tried it, and it worked beautifully!)

As you see, Mollydooker has solid base of both fans and doubters. Even their wines at entry level are excellent in quality and fun to drink. Give it a try and understand the story behind the label yourself.

Written by Wine Monopole — October 24, 2013

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