Renowned New Zealand chef Al Brown and his winemaking friends have joined forces to launch Tipping Point, a wine brand that not only supports charities close to Brown’s heart but that celebrates the regions also.
Here, we chat with the mastermind about how the range came about, the charities he’s teamed up with, and the challenges he’s had along the way.
Why did you decide to create your own wine range?
Sometimes opportunity just knocks. I wouldn’t have dared to dream about the possibility of having an opportunity to make a bunch of wines (along with some very talented winemakers) from three of our premier grape-growing regions.
How did you choose the charities to partner with?
It is a tough job narrowing down causes and charities to approach, as there are just so many deserving ones out there……That’s where the idea around the ‘Field Blend’ came that from, where we could change out a different charity each calendar year. The other charities which have a more permanent association with ‘Tipping Point’ going forward are all causes close to my heart, what I kept in mind was to get a good spread around the environment, ocean/waterways, and endangered species.
Tell us about the ‘Field Blend’ wine?
While I believe ‘Field Blend’ has most likely been being made since day dot when vines were first planted centuries ago, it’s a relatively new practice currently being explored again in different parts of the wine-producing globe. Essentially you are creating wine in ’The Field’ so to speak, the winemaker with their talents and understanding of the nuances from different varieties can essentially create interesting wines by blending a selection together when crushed. I was a little hesitant when I first heard of the idea, but the result is a delicious, fresh, and elegant wee drop. The varietals that Dave chose were Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer, and Sav blanc……crazy I know, but don’t knock it until you try it.
How did you come up with the unique bottle shape, labeling, and brand name?
While I was mostly just getting in the way with the actual making of the wines (besides blending, where I felt I could offer up something), creating brands and trying to tell stories around all the design collateral is something that really excites me. Again I am not a designer, but I do believe I have a strong aesthetic around what I like and what I believe should hopefully work. ‘Point of difference’ plays a major part in that thinking.
Informality is what I hang my hat on, and I have been very fortunate to meet the most talented graphic designer I know, about 15 years ago. Gary Stewart of ‘The Gas Project’ is a genius, he is also one of my closest friends. He is responsible for all the design collateral around everything that the Al Brown brand entails. From books, menu design, products, t-shirts, mustard bottles, etc, they all have Gary’s fingerprints and DNA all over them. He is a special guy.
What challenges have you had throughout the process?
The main thing that we always keep front of mind, is informality, good quality, honest, fun, approachable, and more importantly, these days, being able to give back or pay it forward to things that actually matter. Yes it’s commercial and we all need to be compensated for our efforts, but I learned a saying a number of years ago while being involved in a project in China.
One of the Chinese colleagues came up to me early in the project and said “ hey Al, are you long-term greedy or short-term greedy?” Greed is a confronting and somewhat nasty or uncomfortable word, however, I totally got what he meant……nothing comes easy, you put the effort and Mahi in long enough, everyone will win, in other words, no shortcuts. With ‘Tipping Point’ it was about creating a wine that didn’t take itself too serious, with a good story, was approachable, and great value for money,
Which wine is your favourite from your collection?
That’s like asking who my favourite daughter is……but honestly as I should I love them all. It’s a ‘horses for courses depending on the time, place, and situation.
Will you be serving this wine at your restaurants?
What has been your favourite moment during the creation of Tipping Point?
When Gary came up with the tag line…….’ Serve & Protect’