Managing Director, Reschke Pty Ltd
The Reschke family’s relationship with Coonawarra in the southeast corner of South Australia began over a century ago with the establishment of a farming and cattle grazing enterprise.
Four generations later, in 1989, Burke Reschke, who had previously worked in futures trading and property, embarked on developing vineyards on the land.
Through the 1990s, the demand for Reschke grapes grew, and they quickly became used for some of Australia’s Icon wines. The first Reschke label, Empyrean, is now their flagship wine, only produced in limited quantities and in the best years. Theirs is a vineyard which combines cutting-edge viticulture practices, such as a computerized under-vine drip irrigation system, with traditional techniques.
Having appointed respected former Southcorp winemaker Peter Douglas to take charge, from day one the focus has been on quality, rather than the volume. Coonawarra is famous for its Cabernet Sauvignon, though Reschke also produces some Merlot, Shiraz, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc.
These boutique wines are distributed internationally. Though Reschke are looking for a new distributor in the US, they are doing well in Canada. And, according to Burke, China “looks like its going to explode”. In the UK, the brand has gone down a well-traveled promotional path, and have been the official sponsor of polo events like the Cartier International tournament.
Packaging, though, is where the brand has done something a little different, and has won awards for their innovation. Their Fume Blanc comes in a reusable bottle with a “glass stopper”, and is customized with a subtle screen print etching under the label.
Of course, Burke has had his setbacks during two decades of producing wine. To honour their tradition of raising cattle in Coonawarra, Reschke chose the image of a bull as the slogan for their bottles. This led to a distracting trademark dispute with energy drinks company Red Bull. Reschke thought that the matter had ended four years ago when Red Bull lost the initial case, but they also took issue when Reschke launched the Bull Trader label.
But those disagreements were nothing compared to what happened in 2003, when Burke had a horrendous car accident. With two badly broken legs and four broken ribs, he was so badly injured that a neighbour who rushed to the scene of the accident couldn’t even recognize him.
“I was in hospital for ten days; two and a half of those in a coma,” Burke said. “But I was determined to carry on with my life and so I started work on budgets the second day I was out – although I can’t have been thinking too clearly as, looking back on them, they didn’t make a lot of sense. My legs were pinned and wired, and I wore an eye patch for three and a half years. I’ve had 11 operations so far on my knee and seven on my face, six of which have been full ‘face-offs’ to realign all the bones.”
“I want to prove the doctors who said I’d never run again they were wrong – as a good friend of mine said: ‘I’m not going to die wondering’”.
Q. Does making wine feel like work to you?
A. Not really. There is quite a bit of pressure running a company of this size but not nearly as much as trading Futures and when the work is something you are passionate about then it doesn’t really feel like work. The thing I hate most is getting stuck in the office and unfortunately, that is most of what I do now.
Q. Why do you consider the process of wine making a creative form of art?
A. I certainly consider wine an art form, as we are making something to appeal to senses, like taste and smell, just as a painting or any other form of art appeals to the senses. The reason people like it or not, isn’t something you can break down scientifically. You can only explain obvious faults and tastes but everyone’s tastes and opinions differ. In this regard, you can only direct your wine towards the most liked styles or in our case, a style that isn’t largely produced and is in shorter supply and try to excel in that area.We have chosen to produce table wines – in other words, a style of wines that are suited to be drunk with food and we are aiming at the top end of that market. A lot of wines now are softer sweeter wines that are good sipping wines but too sweet to have with food.
Q. Which part of it do you enjoy the most?
A. I enjoy the fact that I have all of my strongest passions in my work: I have the country lifestyle with the business of a city job with lots of travel and most importantly, it is all within the food and wine industry…Perfect when it works.
Q. Cork or screw cap?
A. I would rather see 90% of my wine at 100% than 100% at 90% quality.
Q. Your attention to detail is amazing. Which is the most important part to get the wine right?
A. My focus is 70% vineyard. You can’t forget the other areas but the race is won or lost there! It is hard to restrict yields because it often costs more to do and it is hard to put a figure on the increase in value of the grapes through the different tastes.
Q. What’s the perfect wine?
A. The perfect wine for you is the one YOU like the most…. Or in my case, the one that everyone else likes the most.
Q. Asides from polo, is there anything else that Reschke sponsors?
A. We do sponsor a few charities as it always feels good to give back and a few other glamour events – fashion events or jewelry launches.
Q. Please tell us about any other innovations at Reschke Wines.
A. There are quite a few more packaging ideas we have developed but the most important of the ideas are the ones in the vineyard. We have set the standard for some of the innovative sustainable viticultural methods.
Q. Which is the ultimate destination for Reschke Wines?
A. Reschke wines are already in some of the top restaurants in some of the biggest cities. I am very happy already with the positioning of the wines. I think it is a matter of letting the wines speak for them selves and let them get a bit more recognition with the wine lovers out there.
Q. Rescke vineyard has grown to 360 acres. What expansion plans do you have for the future?
A. 400 acres…I’ve just bought another vineyard.I do have a few other large plans in the near future but they will have to be revealed later.
Q. What else do you do besides making wine?
A. Drinking it!I do have a few other hobbies that my doctor doesn’t like such as snow skiing and water skiing.
Q. What do you look forward to on Pelime?
A. Networking with other likeminded professionals.