Charity Begins with a Bottle - 'Epicure' The AgeTuesday, 29 May 2012
Filmmaker David Laity knew this.
A beer drinker and home brewer, he developed a taste for fine wine living in the Yarra Valley. So when looking for a way to give back to charities that helped him after he lost everything, including all his films, in the Black Saturday bushfires, wine - that is, good wine - seemed an obvious choice.
In August 2010, Goodwill Wine began online with just one charity on its books, the Country Fire Authority. Today it has 200. Wines are delivered overnight with a charity-specific label, but buyers can direct their sale's profits to the not-for-profit cause of their choice - even a school or local football team - and receive wines with Laity's Goodwill label.
The story behind this venture is a sad one: Laity, a community television pioneer whose comedy game show Hot Dog with the Lot screened on Channel 31 and then Foxtel, lived in Chum Creek with his then partner Ali. On February 7, 2009, they left for Melbourne but about 3pm Ali's sister, also from Chum Creek, phoned. ''She said, 'I think your house is burning down','' Laity says. ''We started to go back but the roads were blocked.'' Laity's films were there and yes, he had backed them up - but those back-ups were in the shed. It also burnt. ''I lost everything that I had ever done,'' he says.
After breaching police lines to drive to Toolangi, where they had been due to move the following week, rescuing Ali's dog then delivering supplies to the town under police escort, the couple spent the next three weeks helping Ali's sister and her husband defend their property before beginning to rebuild their lives with donated furnishings and supplies.
But this story has a happy ending. Laity, who worked in a Toolangi nursery to support his filmmaking but could not continue after tearing knee ligaments fighting the fires, took a three-month new enterprise course through Centrelink, then began sourcing small quantities of quality wine. With the $15,000 he and Ali received from the Red Cross bushfire appeal, they bought a label printer and their first batch of wine. ''Because I got so much help I just feel obliged to pay that forward, to do something constructive with the money that the Australian public donated,'' he says. ''It feels to me it is more about rewarding supporters of charities.''
Now Laity, who for a time slept on the floor of his Coldstream cool store and supported himself with a part-time job in a bottle shop, rents a warehouse in Daylesford. After taking a year to break even and initially donating all of his profit to meet his commitment to the charities, he is drawing a small wage - $200 a week.
Laity's biggest challenge is persuading people this is charity wine with a difference. ''The idea came about after the fires because I had tasted a lot of charity wines and they were all terrible, and this is my biggest stumbling block - that [buyers think] what I am selling is going to be the same garbage as everyone else,'' he says.
But these are seriously good wines, sold in six or 12-bottle cases at below retail prices. With many animal charities on his list, 10 of Laity's 12 wines are vegan. Some are run ends, some sourced through contacts, others from winemakers wanting to help after reading about his social enterprise in wine magazines. Buyers are not told the source vineyard, but Laity's website description includes year and area of origin. Because he usually obtains a tank sample, he is selling the wine cheaper than the vineyards themselves, so the deal is that he does not identify them.
Wines he has sold have included a 2009 chardonnay from award-winning winemaker Graeme Miller in the Yarra Valley, one of his first backers; a medal-winning 2006 shiraz from Chalice Bridge in Margaret River; a 2009 sauvignon blanc from Sticks in the Yarra Valley; and a 2006 merlot from Ladbroke Grove in Coonawarra, which sold him 40 cases when it ran out of labels. A James Hall cabernet sauvignon sold out in two weeks.
Perhaps one of the most heartwarming stories involves winemaker Marshal Caffyn who, knowing he was dying of myeloma, gave Goodwill Wine a quantity of one of his final vintages to sell, to profit the Myeloma Foundation.
So far Goodwill Wine, which donates 50 per cent of the profit, or $20 a case, whichever is greater, to the specified cause, has raised $140,000 for charity. It has 1500 customers, 90 per cent of them women, and 30 per cent of sales are to returning customers.
''Charities were reluctant at first,'' Laity says. ''The big charities weren't - they are so busy you can almost hear the ears prick up when you tell them they don't have to do anything. And the little ones embraced it. But the middle-sized ones that have done wine drives and were burnt by them - terrible wine, so much work - it is hard to get the idea that they don't have to do anything.''
Now, with major charities on board, including the Starlight Children's Foundation, the Australian Conservation Foundation and Animals Asia, his business and his credibility are growing.
Sparkling Pinot Chard Demi-Sec 2008This is a beautiful wine in a less than beautiful bottle. Sometimes a vineyard will re-use bottles when storing a wine for maturation. It’s called the transfer method and in the case of a Method Traditional Sparkling this may occur many times, basically the bottles are far older than the wines. Over the years they get scratched up but they do their job, allowing the wine to undergo it's secondary fermentation before being transferred to new bottles for sale. Alternatively, many vineyards do their secondary ferment in a new bottle and sell it like it is. I've stumbled across a batch of wine that has yet to be put into new bottle. Sadly the vineyard couldn't continue. Proper sparkling wine production is expensive business. At around $20 just to get it into bottle, most vineyards suck up the cost of it in their other wines. Why? Because they feel that having a good sparkling is an important flagship to their range. The bottom line is very few vineyards actually make money on their sparklings. This particular wine never made it out of it's old scratched up bottle. It may not make the prettiest gift but will be the nicest sparkling wine on the table this Christmas and at $19 a bottle is unbelievable value. Nose: Delicate aromas of wild strawberries, green apples and freshly baked bread emerge from very fine beads. Palate: Sweet honeydew and apples lift above the bready flavours in this beautifully crafted wine. This is a classic, balanced semi-dry wine with complex flavours and a long finish of freshly fine-tuned acid drying out any initial sweetness. Extremely fine and persistent bubbles add to a creamy lingering mouthfeel. Notes: Seven years ageing on lees has given this superb wine great depth and complexity. A combination of excellent fruit and winemaking have produced a beautiful, sweet sparkling wine. No animal products were used in the making of this wine.
Sparkling Pinot Chard Brut 2010Nose: Delicate aromas of fresh young strawberries, lively green apples, honey and melons emerge from incredibly fine beads. Palate: Honeydew and peaches sing in this beautifully crafted wine. This is a classic, beautifully balanced wine with complex flavours and a long finish of freshly fine-tuned acid. Extremely fine and persistent bubbles add to a creamy lingering mouthfeel. Notes: Six years ageing on lees has given this superb wine great depth and complexity. A combination of excellent fruit and winemaking has produced a top shelf wine. This sparkling will stand up to any $50 bottle brought to the table, making for the perfect celebratory drink. At $26 a bottle this wine may seem expensive for a 'charity wine', but I promise you will lament every bottle as it reaches it's end and marvel at how you got a wine this good for so little money. If you appreciate a quality sparkling wine then you really must try this one. This is a serious Australian sparkling wine which can be enjoyed now or cellared for 3 - 5 years to enhance it's already complex flavours. At $26 a bottle I feel it represents exceptional value. Mornington Peninsula 12% Alc/Vol 7.2 standard drinks Pres. 220 added 750ml No animal products were used in the making of this wine.
Vegan Mixed CaseBelow is a list of the vegan wine we currently have on offer in our vegan mixed case. Should you wish to see the details on each of these wines, simply click on the individual bottles that we have for sale on this page. 6 Bottle Case Contains.. Sauvignon Blanc 2014 (Coonawarra) x 1 Riesling 2015 (Eden Valley) x 1 Chardonnay 2014 (Coonawarra) x 1 Shiraz 2014 (Coonawarra) x 1 Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 (Coonawarra) x 1 Merlot 2010 (Yarra Valley) x 1 2 of each variety is supplied in a 12 bottle case.
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