Winemakers On Fire Exclusive Interview: Unveiling the Tapestry of Passion and Innovation at Flinders Run Winery

Winemakers On Fire Exclusive Interview

In Issue #45 of Mike Carter’s important newsletter, Winemakers On Fire, Emanuel and Laura Skorpos were interviewed, as part of its focus on showcasing small boutique wineries that display uniqueness in wines and region.

Mike was impressed by the couple’s work building Flinders Run amid the challenges of pioneering a new wine region.

In the article, which Mike has given us permission to reproduce, you will discover valuable insights into our journey from our approach to selecting grape varieties to adopting sustainable winemaking practices.

Uncorking the Spirit of Entrepreneurship: Flinders Run Winery Founders Emanuel and Laura Skorpos Share Their Remarkable Journey

Nestled within the picturesque landscape of South Australia’s Southern Flinders Ranges, Flinders Run Winery is a remarkable example of the passion, resilience, and visionary spirit of its founders, Emanuel and Laura Skorpos. Born from Emanuel’s life-changing epiphany in his family’s ancestral olive grove in Greece, the couple embarked on an adventure to establish their winery in 1997, transforming a relatively unknown region into a burgeoning viticultural hotspot.

Through their unwavering dedication, Flinders Run has flourished amidst the challenges of pioneering a new wine region, garnering international acclaim for its exceptional wines and playing a pivotal role in shaping the Southern Flinders’ distinct viticultural identity.

In this exclusive interview, Emanuel and Laura take us on a captivating journey through the world of Flinders Run. Discover the secrets behind their award-winning wines as they delve into the art of selecting the perfect grape varieties and the nuances of sustainable winemaking practices. Uncover the importance of passion, adaptability, and a strong family bond in building a successful, family-owned winery. 

Join us as we toast to the rich tapestry of stories and insights that define the remarkable legacy of Flinders Run Winery.

Emanuel, what originally inspired you to get into the wine business and start Flinders Run? 

My journey into the wine business and the creation of Flinders Run was sparked by a profound moment—a revelation identified amidst my family’s century-old olive grove on the island of Samos. As I approached my 21st birthday, the passing of my beloved grandfather weighed heavily on my heart. Sitting beneath the shade of an ancient olive tree, surrounded by memories of my childhood and the toil of generations past, I felt an inexplicable pull—a sense of destiny was pulling at my heart strings.

Upon returning to Australia, this experience transformed into a vision to establish a winery in the emerging Southern Flinders Ranges region. A series of chance encounters and recognition of the area’s potential served as catalysts for our venture. Initially, we supplied grapes to established wineries, but a pivotal moment came when a renowned winemaker commended the quality of our Shiraz. After three years of trials, Flinders Run’s 2005 vintage debuted to international acclaim, validating our passion and dedication to producing exceptional wines as pioneers in this region.

As pioneers in the emerging Southern Flinders wine region, what key challenges have you faced in establishing a new wine region essentially from scratch?

Establishing Flinders Run in the emerging Southern Flinders wine region presented numerous challenges. The realities of agricultural life, such as relentless hard work, heartache, and substantial investments, were immediate obstacles. Developing crucial infrastructure like water sources and irrigation systems was costly. Our remote location meant we had to source resources and skilled labour from distant areas, adding further logistical difficulties. Overcoming these initial hurdles required determination and resourcefulness, laying the groundwork for the flourishing vineyard we operate today.

Our biggest challenge was marketing an unfamiliar region, as many consumers were unaware of the Southern Flinders Ranges. To overcome this, we focused on educating people about the ancient landscape and unique terroir, which proved to be an uphill battle against ignorance and misconceptions. Gaining recognition from respected critics helped validate our efforts and played a significant role in raising the region’s profile.

How did you go about researching, selecting, and importing the specific clones and grape varieties that would be best suited to the terroir in this region? 

Our redevelopment programme spanned almost four years and involved extensive research to identify the ideal clones and grape varieties for our vineyard. Key steps in this process included conducting a thorough terroir analysis, consulting with industry experts, benchmarking against successful vineyards with similar climates, collaborating with nurseries, and carrying out meticulous field evaluations at multiple stages of vine growth.

We meticulously documented factors such as flowering, fruit set, acid retention, and maturation levels. Following the propagation and planting stages, we continued to perform rigorous assessments of vine health, fruit quality, and wine characteristics, enabling us to make necessary adjustments to ensure ongoing success.

Through this comprehensive process, we gained valuable insights into the impact of clonal diversity and were able to curate grape varieties that are perfectly suited to the unique terroir of the Southern Flinders Ranges.

How have you gone about marketing and building brand recognition for Flinders Run wines from such a new and unknown wine region?

To establish Flinders Run’s brand identity and recognition, we developed a compelling brand narrative that emphasises our winery’s unique connection to the ancient landscape of the Southern Flinders Ranges. We launched an international marketing campaign through participation in trade shows, hosting tastings and dinners globally, which effectively introduced the region and showcased our exceptional wines.

Collaborating with local tourism boards, restaurants, hotels, and retailers further enhanced our brand’s visibility. Additionally, we leveraged digital marketing channels, such as social media, email campaigns, and a new website, to engage directly with consumers and create a strong online presence. Securing positive press coverage and third-party endorsements from respected wine critics was instrumental in garnering credibility within the wine community. Consistently communicating our brand’s values through elegant packaging and promotional materials helps reinforce Flinders Run’s identity as a family-operated producer of premium quality wines.

By employing a multifaceted marketing approach that prioritises storytelling, education, and relationship-building, we have successfully established Flinders Run as a respected and recognised wine brand from the Southern Flinders Ranges. Our strategic efforts helped elevate the profile of the region, which in turn secured Flinders Run’s position as the “true pioneers of this emerging wine region.”

Sustainability is clearly important to you both. What sustainable practices have you implemented in the vineyard and winery?  

Sustainable practices are integral to our operations, with a focus on minimising our environmental impact while preserving the health of our farmland. We employ responsible farming techniques that minimise the use of synthetic inputs, utilising cover crops and composting vegetative matter to enhance soil health.

Water conservation is prioritised through the implementation of modern drip irrigation systems and soil moisture monitoring. We also invest in energy-efficient equipment and technologies to reduce energy consumption and emissions, with plans to transition to solar energy in the future.

Our winery emphasises waste reduction, recycling, treating wastewater for irrigation purposes, and minimising the use of single-use plastics. Additionally, we actively promote biodiversity by preserving natural habitats and planting native vegetation, fostering a balanced vineyard ecosystem. Community engagement is another key aspect of our sustainability efforts, which includes collaborating with indigenous groups and supporting local environmental initiatives. 

By integrating these sustainable practices across all our vineyard and winery operations, we proudly demonstrate both our dedication and commitment to responsibly managing our operations and, more importantly, preserving the environment. In the short term, our focus is to see Flinders Run transition itself to become a certified operator and much respected custodian of these ancient parcels of land, while our long-term goal is to see Flinders Run become a generational business that will continue to grow and produce premium wines from this beautiful yet rugged landscape that is the Southern Flinders Ranges wine region. 

As a husband and wife founding team, how do you effectively divide responsibilities and work together to grow the business? 

Effective communication and leveraging our complementary strengths are crucial elements of our partnership. We respect each other’s opinions, and we’ve defined our roles based on our individual areas of expertise. I oversee the vineyard and winemaking operations, drawing on my viticultural background, while Laura’s experience in administration and HR guides our logistics and daily operations.

We collaborate on business goals through open discussions, ensuring that our shared vision remains at the forefront of our efforts. Maintaining flexibility in our roles allows us to adapt to peak periods and changing needs. Mutual support, encouragement, and maintaining a healthy work-life balance are essential aspects of our partnership, even though achieving equilibrium can be challenging in the context of an intensive agricultural business like ours.

Ultimately, our long-term aspiration is to transition Flinders Run into a generational family enterprise, with our daughter Kiera, who is currently studying oenology and viticulture, playing a key role in the winery’s future.

What advice would you give to other aspiring wine entrepreneurs looking to start their own vineyards and wineries? 

The most important advice I can give is to have unwavering passion and commitment, as building a wine business requires perseverance through both triumphs and challenges. Develop a thorough understanding of your region’s terroir by analysing climate, topography, water sources, and soil composition, which will guide your decisions on varietals, irrigation, and management practices. Seek guidance from viticultural and oenological experts to ensure you’re making informed choices.

Begin modestly and scale your operations wisely, prioritising quality over quantity while mitigating risks. Create a compelling brand story that reflects your vineyard’s unique identity and values, which will help you stand out in the market. Embrace innovation to enhance quality or efficiency, while still respecting tradition and the time-honoured practices that have made the wine industry what it is today.

Cultivate strong relationships within the industry and focus on building a loyal customer base. And don’t forget to celebrate milestones along the way while remaining adaptable to changing circumstances and the challenges that inevitably arise in any agricultural endeavour.

What does the future hold for Flinders Run and the Southern Flinders wine region in the coming years? Do you have plans for expansion, new varieties, etc.?

Flinders Run aims to expand cautiously yet ambitiously, with a focus on sustainably growing our production capacity to meet the increasing demand for our high-quality wines. We are excited about the prospect of introducing premium white varietals that are specifically tailored to our unique terroir.

Ongoing research into promising alternative varieties may even help us uncover a hero grape that becomes emblematic of the Southern Flinders region. Sustainability remains a crucial aspect of our future plans, as we intend to invest in renewable energy, water conservation, and environmental preservation initiatives, such as our indigenous sanctuary site.

As ambassadors of the Southern Flinders wine region, we will continue to raise awareness both domestically and internationally, collaborating with tourism promoters and showcasing the region’s diverse offerings through an ultramodern cellar door experience. Community engagement will be a key component of our efforts, cultivating strong local relationships and fostering regional pride and economic development.

The future looks promising for Flinders Run Winery and the Southern Flinders wine region. Both Laura and I will strive to lead the way with our passion, vision, and commitment to excellence, and as we navigate the opportunities and challenges ahead, we will remain steadfast in our commitment to produce exceptional wines that truly reflect the unique character, beauty, and charm of this rugged Southern Flinders landscape while contributing to the region’s growth and prosperity.

Essential Insights

Here are three key takeaways from our interview, focusing on the main ideas and concepts we covered:

  1. Pioneering a New Wine Region: “Educating people about the ancient landscape and unique terroir was an uphill battle.” As pioneers of the Southern Flinders Ranges wine region, Emanuel and Laura had to overcome a lack of awareness through strategic marketing that highlighted the area’s distinct story and terroir. Their global campaigns, tailored brand narrative, and third-party endorsements were crucial in establishing credibility for this emerging region.
  1. Embracing Sustainability: “Sustainability is integral to our operations, with a focus on minimising environmental impact while preserving the farmland.” Emanuel and Laura implement comprehensive sustainable practices across vineyard and winery operations, driven by their role as custodians of the land. Key initiatives include responsible farming, water conservation, renewable energy, waste reduction, and biodiversity preservation through an indigenous sanctuary site.
  1. Husband and Wife Partnership: “Effective communication and leveraging complementary strengths are paramount.” As a husband and wife founding team, Emanuel and Laura collaborate by defining their roles based on individual expertise while maintaining a shared vision and offering mutual support. Their flexibility in adjusting roles during peak periods allows them to manage their intensive agricultural business effectively and work towards their aspiration of transitioning Flinders Run into a generational family enterprise.

Thank you, Emanuel and Laura, for sharing your journey in establishing Flinders Run. It’s been inspiring to learn about your experiences and dedication to the wine industry. We look forward to following your continued progress as you guide Flinders Run through its transition to a generational family enterprise.

Join our Wine Club to get 10% off your first order!

Become a "Pioneering Vintner" by joining our wine club today!

Emanuel and Laura welcome you with a complimentary membership to explore Flinders Run through its exclusive Pioneering Vintners wine club experience.

By joining you will receive

  • Complimentary privileges designed to enhance your enjoyment of our wines.
  • Preferential pricing and special offers and first access to new release wines.
  • Your favourite wines delivered to your door.
  • member-only invitations, offers and privileges.
  • Quarterly newsletter with updates from the vineyard, vintage reports, as well as a word from the winemaker on how the wines are maturing.
Click here for more details on the WINE CLUB or register your interest below now!
 

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