Winemaker plans to dominate the world with Joiy – Chris Archer
Chris Archer is a sophisticated man with a simple plan: to dominate the world of wine. One product, one hundred ways to serve it, in one thousand locations around the globe. Chris
thinks knows he can do it. He’s got the grape as his weapon, the Riesling as his specialty, and a quarter of a century’s worth of experience guiding him.
The last 25 years have not been easy for Chris Archer in the wine industry. There is an unnecessary fixation on enforcing a rigid career hierarchy in the fluid industry of winemaking that hinders creativity and free-thinking. It’s a fixed glass ceiling that most expressive vintners hit, where they’re forced to choose between a good salary and doing what they love – making premium wines with the consumer in mind.
As your eyes travel down this page, you’ll come to realise that Chris is not especially fond of being told what to do. That’s why he refused to choose between a good salary and what he loved. He refused to go into the “heartless world” of consulting. He refused to put three generations of debt into his family by opening up a vineyard.
Instead, Chris has become an entrepreneur. He’s chosen to build Joiy, his own wine brand, and to set ambitious goals for himself to do something no other winemaker has done before. Chris is going to make Joiy a household name worldwide – perhaps a little like when someone says, “Would you like a coke?” you instantly know what they’re referring to, what the drink tastes like, and what colour the packing will be.
Chris saw becoming an entrepreneur as the next step in the natural progression of his career.
“Every company is worked by the front,” he said, “and I think that as you get older and you become more experienced, you sometimes think that the company is going in the wrong direction, and you think that it should be done your way.”
“I got to that point where I realised that I had to create a position for my self for the future.”
Creating that position has meant being completely different in every aspect.
But it’s not like Chris hasn’t tried to fit into the “norm” that most winemakers fall into. After leaving employment, Chris created his first premium wine under Archer McRae, which he then presented to Neil McCullum, owner of one of the best wineries in New Zealand.
McCullum promptly told Chris that he was making a wine that will be lost amongst the 1000 other wines fighting for the same dollar. Chris heard that, if he kept operating in the flooded market he was in, he would eventually go out of business.
“At that point, I wanted to prove the world wrong that this is not going to happen. So that started the project which is Joiy.”
When it came to the structuring of the business, Chris looked at global brands like Heineken, Corona and Coca-Cola, and how they had managed to achieve the status they have worldwide, while no wine brand had previously been able to do so.
The resulting thesis was that, what makes those companies different, is how much they invest in their brand – a rare occurrence when it comes to wine labels.
“If you look at the wine industry,” Chris says, “they don’t put a lot of effort into brand. And I think that thats a big strength for us. Have a look at all the wine brands on the shelf, and look at which ones have a registered trademark. If a company doesn’t put money into just registering its trademark, it doesn’t have really a lot of respect for brand and brand retention.”
“In the wine industry, we have a habit of making up labels. We’ve all seen them, and I really hate that because it cheapens our industry. I really worry that the production-driven volume has damaged that because they’re all trying to use the same words, but behind it theres nothing. With Joiy, everything about this product has been brought through the imagery.
“We started right from the barebones of our ingredient which is Riesling, and Riesling is originally from Germanic-Austrian heritage. So you’ll see its origin in the imagery that we use.
“Riesling can be classic. It can be exotic. It’s got structure. It’s got all these things that make it a bit edgy. So I feel like we’ve really tried hard to reflect its edginess, and classic nature, and exoticness in our package. Riesling is beautiful. Why should we dress it up in these wordy labels? Effectively, I wanted the packaging to reflect what it tastes. That’s why the label is exciting, bright, and vibrant.”
The investment into brand has already paid off for Joiy, and has played a visible hand in bringing Chris’s dream of dominating the world of wine closer to becoming a reality.
“It’s now been one year since we started making wine, and we’re national in Australia with Woolworths. No traditional wine companies have made it there in that short a space of time. We’re now in Hong Kong, and we’re in talks with Taiwan. We’ve just signed up with one of the most respected négociants in New Zealand. If I was under my premium wine label, that wouldn’t have happened. I would have just been lost under the sea of all the others.
“I actually believe we can do it. Every month we’re here, the more and more I believe it.”
Another way Chris has made headway and headlines is by focusing on the consumer. Being able to answer basic questions about the product has given Joiy and direction and momentum. For example, from day one, Chris has asked himself why we drink these wines.
“I think it’s a little bit of an escapism. It’s about the end of the day, you’ve had a bit of a tough one, and you just want to down-tool. You just want to switch off and have a bit of inner time. And thats what I see Joiy being all about. Its about that time just having a good quality drink that has all these wonderful flavours.
“I’ve made Riesling for 20 years, and I’ve had to stand in front of labels and pour this wine with my heart on the table, and then get the consumer coming back and saying, ‘Oh it’s a little sweet,’ or, ‘Oh its a little acidic.’
“We’ve made this wine so that, if the consumer finds it a little sweet or a little dry, they can actually deal with it, and put it over ice or put a wedge of lemon in it. Its sort of like a breaking rules of a traditional wine and letting the consumer be the wine maker and letting them adjust.”
Do you think the next few years are good years to be an entrepreneur in New Zealand?
I think it is. At the moment, I’ve been exposed to incredible situations with helping hands. I’m in a business incubator called Creative HQ and they’ve certainly helped my platform. We also have Lightning Labs and Ice House up in Auckland. There’s some really good stuff happening. What I really worry about is the money. At the moment entrepreneurs really need money, and that investment into them is absolutely crucial for our survival. Right now theres that smell of success in the investment market. You can feel that there is money going into ventures. But I really worry that this bubble will burst. I don’t want something to go horribly wrong which pulls everyone back again. These entrepreneurs can only exist for so long on a shoe string. They actually need to get that speed going and to build a team around them. It’s absolutely key that we start getting that investment in.