For Kirsty Goring returning to work at her family’s wine estate after a seven year hiatus was a double case of BACK to work. She tells us how WSET’s BACK course helped her to move the family business forward.
You attended WSET’s BACK course in early 2016, what motivated you to enrol?
We recognised that it was vital to gain a wider understanding of the wine industry if we wanted to move our business forward. We were finding it challenging, as smaller-scale producers, to connect with those best placed to offer great advice. We heard about the course through the English Wine Producers, whose communications are fantastically helpful, and the description of the course seemed a good fit for us.
How has it helped you to fulfil Wiston Estate’s aspirations?
The course came literally at the beginning of my fourth week of being back in the workplace, so I was thrown in at the deep end! I don’t think I could have had a better start though. Up until that point we had been lucky to receive some invaluable PR thanks to attention from key tastemakers, such as Olly Smith and Mary Berry, but with the skills and knowledge I took from the BACK course we’ve been able to build and implement our own, tailored marketing strategy.
The course also helped us to realise and understand our potential market. Given that we are the nearest point of the National Park to London, and with Protected Designation of Origin status for the region a real possibility, we’re now very interested in wine tourism and we hope to open our cellar door within the next 18 months.
The calibre of attendees was very high and it was great to get the advice and ideas of fellow students as well as the lecturers whose collective knowledge of the industry was exceptional.
Can you tell us a little about the background of the Estate?
Wiston Estate has been owned and managed by the Goring family since 1743. It wasn’t until my mother-in-law arrived from South Africa in 1972 that the idea of planting a vineyard took hold - it seemed obvious to her that the south facing chalky slopes would be the perfect place to grow the traditional champagne grapes. My father-in-law, Harry, in true English fashion thought it best to take plenty of time considering their options - 34 years! It wasn’t until 2006 that her dream became a reality and the vineyard was planted.
Originally they had planned to employ Nyetimber’s award winning winemaker, Dermot Sugrue, as their contract winemaker. However when Dermot realised the potential of the new vineyard site on the chalk he was so excited he decided to join Wiston Estate! Together they built a new winery and it was at this point that my husband and I moved down to the Estate to get involved with the business. The first part that I got really excited about was the branding; we drew on the family heritage and based it on a plasterwork design in Wiston House (which conveniently included bunches of grapes!)
What are your plans for the business?
At the moment, around 70% of our sales are on-trade but we really feel we can build on our direct sales, via wine tourism and local events.
We do export a small volume to the United States, but learning how to exploit the growing popularity of English sparkling wine around the world and understanding more about the best routes to overseas markets – from distribution channels to local PR agencies – is crucial for our expansion.
Are there any words of wisdom that you would offer students coming on the BACK course next year?
It’s important to be up to date with industry news and publications to ensure you’re familiar with headline trends. I’d also recommend that you arrive with an open mind, ready to meet people from sectors that are doing something completely different. The calibre of attendees was very high and it was great to get the advice and ideas of fellow students as well as the lecturers whose collective knowledge of the industry was exceptional.