Erica Crawford is a friend, business mentor and Wine Baroness. Much of my marketing acumen can be attributed to this lady who together with her husband Kim, has built and sold a global wine brand phenomena. After their first wine brand’s sale in the early 2000’s Erica moved into the world of natural viticulture and winemaking with the launch of organically farmed Loveblock Wines. Like most successful entrepreneurs, Erica’s foresight anticipated the rise of minimal-intervention products and the organic movement which is now sweeping the globe in full-force.
I’m thrilled and honoured to have Erica feature in this blog and in time will catch up with her in person for a podcast which promises to be both entertaining and enlightening.
Other than wine, what aspects of your life do you take an organic approach to?
I was jolted to a standstill by way of an accident and was forced to consider my life many many years ago. The process of clean living involved one thing at a time, and as I learnt more, I eliminated more and more chemicals. It started with Diet Coke (aspartame), then I learnt more about food labels and one by one, out went food that contained colourants and additives an so on. Organic fresh fruit & veg may look a little gnarly, but it is so much better because no chemical herbicides & pest control products are used. Similarly, with no hormones & antibiotics in meat products, organic chicken especially.
I then started looking at skincare and changed to natural products and tossed many commercial household cleaning agents. Vinegar & bicarb soda works just as well as Mr Muscle or Bam, it just requires a little more elbow grease.
Elimination of additives in food has especially helped me to be less uptight and anxious, my asthma and occasional dermatitis disappeared. It’s very hard to avoid chemicals in everyday day life, but I can control my immediate environment. Imagine the collective power of thousands of us if we all changed to natural and zero waste!
For someone who wants to brush up on their natural wine smarts, what’s a good drop to start with?
Look for wines that are certified organic or biodynamic, you can be assured that chemicals were not used in the growing of the grapes. Another bonus is that these wines are lower in sulphites as sulphur addition is capped. Or try “low intervention” or “low fi” but these are not accredited and can mean anything.
At Loveblock we try to eliminate as many wine additives as possible and we have just released an organic wine where absolutely NO sulphur has been used as a preservative. Instead, we used green tea as a natural anti-oxidant. I think the flavours of the wine flow more naturally and gently.
Do you feel there is a misconception about organic wines?
There is more of a misconception about wine that is not organic. People seem to think that wine is “natural” when in fact quite a lot of chemicals are used in vineyards and wine is manipulated in the winery. With organic wine, it’s more about what you DON’T put in that matters: no chemical pesticides or herbicides, less winery inputs and a lot of blood, sweat and love.
What is the intent behind Loveblock’s organic and biodynamic vineyard practices?
International demand for food and alike is driving more intensive farming, and the environment suffers as a consequence. As a nation, we simply need to do better, all of us, not only farmers.
Biodiversity is really important for the wine industry where more and more vineyards are being planted at the expense of grazing paddocks and other crops. By working with the land organically and planting other species, we improve the soil biota and provide a robust environment for ultimate vine health, whilst also providing a balanced environment for various species to thrive.
We want to leave our patch of land (195 hectares) in a better state for those who farm here after we have gone. Going organic is a choice and for us feels like the right thing to do, you can definitely make a lot more money doing it with chemicals – its easy and efficient, but that’s not what it’s about for organic farmers. Our intention is to nurture the ecosystem of the soil and vines and give back to its roots as naturally as possible. Ultimately I believe the resulting wine is better and “truer” to its terroir.
Building a global wine brand entails quite a hectic travel schedule, how do you relax and have down time?
I’m not really good at that! I never work on long plane trips, I use this glorious time when no one can get hold of me to read paper books. I try not to watch too many movies to minimise flickering screen time. Oh and I love walking cities, even Auckland with or without my beloved little dog Queenie. Perversely, I also find creating a bit of order in our hectic home satisfying & relaxing.
You once told me to get over myself when I was a lot younger and behaving like a princess in the corporate world. I remember it distinctly. It was a turning point to consider others more than my own agenda in the workplace. How do you operate ‘with intent’ in the fast-paced and sometimes ‘cut-throat’ business world?
I very much believe in addressing issues, however confrontational and to move on. Very recently, I had to manage an ongoing conflict situation between two men: one very passive-aggressive and the other a heavy blunt instrument. It is just exhausting, but to get them to talk to each other was near impossible. I truly believe that the mental/emotional manifests into the physical and therefore try to role model and facilitate understanding and empathy. There is great personal upside in forgiving, it allows you to be free and happy.
Laughing in tough situations and finding your “people” releases tension too I believe. I remember during those early tough years with babies, business and some unforeseen challenges, I found my girls….my sisterhood, we would eat cake, tell stories and laugh: at ourselves, our situation, life… laughing has always done it for me.
You recently had a big birthday. Has your vision and intent for your life changed since this milestone?
I honestly haven’t had time to reflect, I have my head down in a really big research project on aroma compounds in wine which I love. I want to write the book on the Kim Crawford brand-phenomenon, see my family and friends more, spend more physical time in the vineyard …..so, reflecting isn’t something I do often because the present is always so precious to me.
I consider you to be quite discerning on the finer things in life… what’s your view on the future of natural perfume?
I love this question because wine and perfume are equally misunderstood and face similar challenges. People assume wine is “natural” and that all scents in commercial perfume come from plants!
Perfume always used to be natural of course, it wasn’t until one of the large French perfumeries managed to bind some of the volatile aroma compounds in the late 1800’s that the “scent” category became accessible to all. These days, pretty much everything in perfume is chemical apart from the water, you just need to walk through the Duty-Free shops at the airport to appreciate the sledgehammer that perfume has become.
Wine and perfume share some of the aroma compounds present in plants & grapes, these compounds are volatile and absolutely beautiful and pure when captured. I’m a big fan of natural perfume, it’s about the true flavour/scent, isn’t it? In Sydney recently, I just had a quick dab of MELIS Imperium when the Uber driver commented “that smells like Australia” and it does. The smell of the sky and the dry old bush, I thought that was a lovely compliment.