June 11, 2021

Ever thought of starting a wine brand with your mate? That’s what Purple Hands did.

By Angela Oemcke

Meet Craig Stansborough and Mark Slade, two good mates who came together to create the beloved Barossan brand, Purple Hands Wines. What started in 2006 with 100 dozen wines has since grown into a highly regarded wine brand producing from a range of unique varietals. With endless experience to share and an unwavering passion for the industry, you will want to hear what Craig and Mark had to say when we had a chance to speak with them.

Follow Purple Hands Wines journey on their website, and also through their Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn. If you happen to be in the Barossa, don’t hesitate to swing by Vino Lokal where their wines are on tasting. 

What was it that led you to starting your own winery in the Barossa, and where did your journey into wine begin?

Really just a love for wine and plenty of imagination and ideas that needed to find their way to bottle. Craig has been a winemaker in the Barossa Valley for over 30 years, previously as chief winemaker for Grant Burge wines. He planted his vineyard in 2000 with Shiraz and expanded in 2011 with more Shiraz, Montepulciano and Aglianico, two Italian varieties that we thought were well suited to the Barossa climate and soils. In 2006 we started Purple Hands as a wine journey between two mates that has continued to grow. We have been gradually expanding the range with a focus on the southern Barossa. We do source grapes from some local growers in addition to those from our vineyard. We were honoured to be included as a top ten new 5 star winery in the James Halliday Wine Companion in 2013, and even more honoured when we were awarded best small producer at the 2019 Barossa Wine show with 3 trophies & 8 gold medals with an amazing strike rate.

Your branding is reflective of the colour of a winemaker’s hands during vintage, tell us a bit about your approach to winemaking? 

Our approach is very much vineyard first, with soil and vineyard health the key to quality wines.  Achieving balance in the wines is our aim while crafting wines that express the variety and region they are grown in. Open fermenters, little use of new oak and as much hands off as required. We feel our wines show restraint and tend to be fruit driven and on the elegant side, after all this is what we like to drink.

Craig at the open fermenter

When it’s not about wine, what do you get up to? 

Travel, but that is not ideal at the moment. We love our sports, cricket and footy are favourites in respective seasons, luckily both Crows supporters! Food and cooking is always a big part of the weekend, and always a great excuse to explore wines from other regions and countries.

What gets people excited about Purple Hands Wines?

From the feedback we get it is a range of things, firstly they are amazed by the range and some of our unique blends such as our Rosso (blend of Negro Amaro, Montepulciano and Aglianico) and our Serata (a field blend of Shiraz, Montepulciano and Aglianico). People always comment first on the bright fruit, and secondly the flavour and balance of our wines. This is so satisfying when people appreciate the hard work and dedication that goes into producing a good bottle of wine.

If a bottle of Purple Hands wine could speak, what would it say? 

Drink me!

Outside of the Cellar Door, How does Purple Hands engage with customers, and in what ways can it be challenging?

We participate in wine events and shows such as the Adelaide Wine Markets, Cellar Door Fest, Edinburgh Hotel Shiraz and Grenache challenges and other such shows. We love to get on the road after vintage is done and dusted to support our reps around Australia, and get out and talk about the wines. There is always such interest in the story, the terroir and the winemaking and great feedback from the consumers and retailers. 

robably the most challenging aspect of doing wine events is standing on your feet constrained to a small area for 6 hours, the legs get a little sore from that. But getting the chance to engage with the public, walk people through our wines and see the smiles on their faces when they try them is what it is all about. We also try to be active on social media, hard to quantify the importance but certainly no harm in raising our profile and sharing our story.

What do you think the future of customer engagement will be for the wine industry? 

Real stories, authenticity, honesty and sustainability are the key messages. Whether this be with virtual tasting or other means, it’s the message and the wines to back this up are the critical elements.

“The vineyard shot shows our Southern Barossa view point looking along the hills and down the valley. Our organic practices are evident by the under vine growth.”

When it comes to interstate distribution and exporting to the U.K., what impact would complete visibility over distribution have on your business from a logistics and marketing perspective?

It would be great to see where the wines are going and get a feel for how far and wide the interest and purchasing is, and then see where the hot spots are then you can focus your efforts on marketing and events in areas where you have the biggest support.

What’s your approach to educating the retailers and restaurants selling your wine?

Tell them about our journey, our philosophy and what we are trying to achieve in our wines. Understanding how much or how little detail they want and most importantly what style and price point will work for them and their customer’s.

What’s your favourite memory from Vintage 2021?

Probably a couple really, one was a Saturday morning, a few days after the first Shiraz pick and tasting what was in the fermenter, at that point we knew we were in for a very high-quality year. The second was walking through the Aglianico vineyard on a beautiful sunny Barossa Sunday afternoon knowing that the next day was the last pick of the vintage and knowing we were nearly done for another year.

Craig (right) and Mark (left) having just finished going through the barrels of the 2021 crush.

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