ESV Client Spotlight Series: 15 Minutes with John Geber, Owner of Château Tanunda Estate
Tell us about your business
Château Tanunda is an icon and cornerstone of the Barossa wine industry. Established in 1890, it is Australia’s largest and oldest Château. We are also one of Australia’s most successful wine makers in Continental Europe, where there is a very strong and loyal wine culture.
While the Château is 125 years old, the Geber family have only been the proud custodians for the past 18 years. Over that time, we have focused on growing the business in Europe, China and the US. Our next focus is the competitive Australian market where we believe we have enormous potential and opportunity.
What would you say are the top three skills or attributes needed to be successful in business?
First and foremost, you need to have vision. It’s vital to start there and work backwards.
Secondly, you need tenacity. Downright stubbornness at times. And thirdly, you need the ability to be able to take a knock and get back up again. And the knowledge this will happen several times throughout your career.
What motivates you as a business owner?
I have always been motivated by taking on projects that everyone says you can’t do. When the vast majority of people say it’s impossible, I see it as a challenge to step up and see how I can make it happen from the other side of the coin. It seems to work most times.
Excluding yours, what company or business do you admire the most?
I have always admired Richard Branson and the incredible journey of Virgin. Branson is the epitome of an entrepreneur who did things that everyone said he couldn’t. I like his cheekiness, his energy and that he builds success in his own unique way. He has taken on huge challenges against all the odds and has not been afraid of reinvention, often with zero experience in that industry.
How do you define success?
Having a clear vision and one you enjoy chasing. You’ve got to be passionate. Yes, it’s great to earn money along the way however it’s your passion and drive that should define the work.
Chateau Tanunda is also a family business. My wife manages the finances, my son the accommodation and my daughter is in marketing. I consider being at the helm of a thriving family-run business a great success and anyone who combines business and family would understand why.
How long have you worked with ESV and what do you value the most from the relationship?
We have worked with David Robinson (the principal of Harvey’s who merged with ESV last year) for 26 years so it’s been a long-standing and trusted relationship. The most important thing for us is that we work with a firm that really understands our business, our vision, our goals and our growth strategy. We also value ESV’s international perspective, knowledge and contacts within Europe.
Where do you see yourself and your business in 10 years? 20 years?
The Barossa is acknowledged as the home of Australia’s finest wines and the world's best Shiraz, and I can tell you Australia makes wine that is as good as the most expensive wines in the world. Our wines currently target the ultra-luxury market (upwards of $300) with our flagship product, a 100-year-old vine Shiraz, recognised as the best in the world with a bunch of trophies to prove it.
Chateau Tanunda will emerge as one of the top wineries in the world, in line with ‘First Growth’ of Bordeaux but in an Australian new world way. Bordeaux first growth wines command an ultra-premium price point commensurate to their superior quality, and are widely known among those in the wine industry. When wine lovers think of an equivalent of first growth in Australia, they will think of Chateau Tanunda.
In one word, characterise your life as a business owner:
I need two words. In a family-run business there really is no separation between personal and business. Therefore, I would characterise it as “intertwined commitment”. You’re either in or out.