Bird’s the word: the Aussie wine is a hit with the fashion crowd (Bird In Hand)
A tumbledown farmhouse might seem an unlikely birthplace for a wine known now for its place among artists and A-listers, but that’s how it started for Bird In Hand, when in 1997 founders Andrew and Susie Nugent bought a crumbling building in the Adelaide Hills of southern Australia. A dairy farm with salt rot already setting in, it was old but it was right: the north-facing hills rich with nutrients, the water good.
The Nugents still live there, only now there are five of them: Lalla, Edward and Oscar with their parents. With the cattle gone, the land was planted with pinot noir, shiraz, sauvignon blanc, and chardonnay; the first vintage came in 2001. Life was good. And that, the Nugents explain, is the basic philosophy behind the brand: wine makes life a little better, and life makes wine a little better. Family life, yes, but life when it’s full with philosophy, culture, creativity, art. Art especially.
(Dave Benett/Getty Images)
“We have a love of art in its fullest sense,” Andrew Nugent says. “Wine, food, music, design. Nothing surpasses the… the fusion and creative energy that results from multiple disciplines coming together, combining in unison.”Which is how, in a roundabout way, Bird In Hand has ended up being a hit with of the likes of Liv Tyler (“I just adore [it]. My favourite is the syrah — it’s become an absolute staple at my table”) and Brooke Shields (“Their kindness really shines through in their amazing vineyard — a favourite is the Nest Egg chardonnay.”). Because the Nugents love their wine, but are driven by something else, too. What? “The constant search for creative inspiration,” says Andrew. “And the delight in sharing elevated moments.”This desire to share is what’s driven the family to build what they dub “creative partnerships” with the likes of the National Portrait Gallery, Clapham’s Studio Voltaire and even the Standard’s own Theatre Awards. There are more at home — the National Gallery of Australia being perhaps the biggest, though the brand has also long worked with indigenous Australian art collaborative the APY Collective (supporting the indigenous population is a keystone for the brand: “To be able to celebrate and learn from more than 65,000 years of Australian culture… is hard to surpass.”).
(Helen Abraham Photography)
But why should cultural relationships matter to a wine brand? “They matter if there’s love and creativity at their core,” Andrew explains. “Then they result in the shared moments of fun, joy and artistic expression. They become valuable to us personally.” That personal value is clear, as it’s driven the Nugents to move their wine into music, theatre, and performance. “Liam Gallagher created a special moment,” Andrew says, perhaps knowingly, but at exclusive suppers and awards and on red carpets, other friends have been made — think Naomi Watts, David and Victoria Beckham, Cindy Crawford, Alexa Chung. Clearly, the combination of a shared philosophy and first-rate wine is a potent one. These connections help keep the brand’s profile high, which in turn helps the Bird in Hand foundation, 10 next year. It’s one foundation that supports 11 others — some beneficiaries are culturally-tuned, but others help seriously ill children, the blind, refugees, another sponsors school scholarships. The next time there’s a red carpet, a gallery launch, or a high-profile concert, there may also be Bird in Hand. It’s all a long way from that tumbledown farmhouse.