Kiwi Sarah Adamson and her Australian partner Greg Lane had been working as winemakers for seven years - building experience and thoughts about what they liked in wine - before they founded Scout Wines in 2017.
At that stage, Sarah was working at Deviation Road, a family-owned winery in Adelaide Hills, and owner Kate Laurie was very supportive of her forging her own brand. “The push” came at just the right time, says Sarah, who named her brand for Jean Louise ‘Scout’ Finch, from Harper Lee’s novel To Kill a Mockingbird.
The character is both a questioner and observer, something Sarah and Greg wanted to reflect in their winemaking. “Throughout our winemaking careers we have questioned all aspects of grape growing and winemaking, challenging ideas and practices, but also observing how wines are crafted and perfected.”
They began with a couple of tonnes of Chardonnay and created their first wine, Scout 2017 Adelaide Hills Chardonnay, before moving to New Zealand. “We had always thought that New Zealand was where Scout would call home,” says Sarah.
“For both of us, having worked globally, we felt New Zealand was the best place to achieve what we want, due to the climate, the soil and the industry we have here.”
The brand has continued to grow, and the couple were able to pull through the difficult vintage in 2020, she says. “Being multi-regional, we were able to come to terms with Covid-19 as it progressed at the start of vintage, and rework our intake. We are fortunate to have some fantastic, supportive growers who understood our situation.”
Their sales initially took a hit when the hospitality industry went into lockdown, with most of their wines in bars and restaurants. But “the back end of 2020 brought a really strong sales result so we are really upbeat going into the 2021 vintage”, she says.
Sarah is enthusiastic about the New Zealand wine industry. “We are a young industry really, and as a young brand in amongst that, it feels like a really exciting time.” She thinks small brands with unique offerings, like Scout, only strengthen the industry.
“Diversity of ideas and styles will help New Zealand enhance its reputation for premium wine, benefiting everyone in the end.”
She hopes the industry remains “mindful of where we have come from – small wineries and wine brands which rode on a passion for making great wine. By remembering that, we can be supportive of the next generation of young winegrowers and winemakers.”
Everyone she has met in Scout’s journey has been supportive and helpful, Sarah adds. “I hope people reading this understand how important a bit of encouragement means to a young winemaker – don’t underestimate it.”
This article was first published in issue 127 of New Zealand Winegrower magazine.