Bec Hardy is the Joint Managing Director and Viticulturist at Bec Hardy Wines, a family-owned wine business based in McLaren Vale, South Australia.
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
I grew up in Adelaide, aware that winemaking was a big part of my family’s heritage – my great-great-great grandfather Thomas Hardy was known as ‘the Father of South Australian wine industry’ – but it didn’t really impact me on a day-to-day basis.
Throughout most of my school years I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to be, but a careers questionnaire I took in Year 10 suggested ‘landscape gardener’. I knew I wanted to work in something related to nature, and while I didn’t follow the landscape gardener path, a career in viticulture operates in the same space, dealing with a different kind of plant.
I studied viticulture at the University of Adelaide, and then worked for a number of wineries in South Australia, before travelling to London and then Sydney to further study and work.
I began working for my dad’s company, Wines by Geoff Hardy, in 2009 and remained there until last year, when, as part of our family’s succession planning, I officially took the reins of the largest part of the company, our Pertaringa brand, which dad co-founded in 1980.
Now Pertaringa sits under Bec Hardy Wines and I work with my co-MD Richard and our small team from our office in McLaren Vale. Day to day is overseeing all operations – from ensuring wine quality through to team management to design, marketing and sales, and the visitor experience – both at the Pertaringa cellar door and at our home.
We live nearby in Blewitt Springs, and open up our home and garden for events such as intimate dinners, to provide an up close and personal experience with a sixth-generation member of the Hardy family of wine.
2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
Alarm goes off at 6.00am and I start getting ready for the day – primarily organising our daughter, Matilda, and then dropping her at school on my way into work.
Every day at work is different. Our office is located at the Pertaringa cellar door in McLaren Vale, which we’ve recently refurbished. We’ve just finished vintage which is always a very busy time – plus summer is always active with visitors to the cellar door.
I’ll be popping out to visit growers to see how the vineyards are looking, and then back to the office to check the team is going well. At this time of year, post vintage, the vigneron duties are a little less hands-on, but I’ll still regularly go out and check the vineyard, topping up with post-vintage irrigation if it’s been particularly dry.
We are using sheep in the vineyard this winter to help keep the grass low and the sheep also do a great job of adding fertiliser to the vineyard!
As I write this – early May – we’re looking ahead to our first bottling of the 2021 vintage, the Pertaringa Scarecrow Sauvignon Blanc. Vintage is looking really promising – the growing season was mild with no long hot periods, and closer to harvest it was fairly dry with cool nights, ensuring that the fruit retained its acidity. So we’re all very excited for both the whites and reds!
Back in the office, we might have a team meeting – we’re a close-knit team and some I’ve worked with for more than 13 years, so we have a really good relationship. We’re focusing a lot on business strategy, the first year of business has been a bit atypical, with unexpected export restrictions and the travel ban, so looking ahead, we’re really considering carefully where we want to be as a business.
At the moment, I’m planning events such as cellar door functions during winter and the Mother’s Day tea we’re hosting at our private home, Tipsy Hill. We’re so lucky to live at such a beautiful property, with gardens that I care for and views across McLaren Vale. We’ve recently looked at ways we can welcome visitors in – we now host intimate dinners for guests, and recently opened the garden as part of the Open Gardens SA scheme.
I’ll then head off for school pick up and often that includes ferrying Matilda around to her various sports and dance activities, which she adores.
Richard is a superb cook and always prepares a dinner of entrée and main course, usually of seasonal produce from one of our local suppliers. In autumn it’s all about hearty meat from our local butcher, with veggies from the garden, paired with the perfect matching wine from our portfolio, of course!
After dinner we inevitably watch something relaxing and fun – we love The Hotel Inspector with Alex Polizzi and always revert to our favourite cooking shows – Rick Stein always wins – we’ve seen some of the shows dozens of times but never get bored of him!
Then straight to bed, trying to ignore our devices as much as possible – we’re getting much better at this now as we’re approaching the second year of business.
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
A lot of aspects certainly do – visiting vineyards or doing tastings obviously can’t be done virtually, but a lot of the other activity, such as overseeing marketing, design and day to day admin, I can do from home.
I still like catching up face to face with the team, but I definitely don’t advocate for a strict 9 to 5 culture chained to your desk – that’s counter-intuitive. We have one member of the team who works exclusively from home, and several that do a day or two a week.
Our cellar door is open seven days a week too so there’s occasional weekend work, but everyone has a grown-up attitude to balancing that out.
4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
The first twelve months I’ll admit there wasn’t much balance. But both Richard and I began to feel really drained – we’ve just had an amazing holiday driving up through South Australia to the Red Centre – taking in Coober Pedy, Uluru, and Alice Springs. It was really therapeutic for all of us – taking time out, appreciating nature and switching off.
I’ve recently joined the board of Nature Foundation – a not for profit organisation that my grandmother Barbara helped to set up 40 years ago. This also provides me with balance – supporting and influencing something I really believe in, but that isn’t directly related to the business. Richard has also just joined Birds SA and will be hosting walks.
As long as I get enough time out in nature, be it in the garden or further afield, and enough family time with Richard and Matilda, out of the business, I’ll feel I have achieved balance.
5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?
I’ve recently taken up dance, which I’m loving. I used to do ballroom and Latin dancing in my 20s but this dropped away after moving to London and then life got even busier.
But now that Matilda is in school and we’re feeling more settled in the business, it seemed like the perfect time to get some exercise doing what I love. It’s a chance to switch off from work and take some time for myself.
I’m also really making a conscious effort to switch off in the evenings and reduce device usage – easier said than done, but I think it’s something that benefits everyone.
6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
I love catching up on Richard Fidler’s Conversations, the ABC show. So many interesting people and stories that you would never know about otherwise. Another one I love is Pyne Time, he is very witty and has great guests on.
In terms of newsletters, my favourite is probably Nature Matters from the Nature Foundation – it’s really useful to be abreast on the latest news and issues – both on a personal level, and within my role at Nature Foundation.
7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?
I’m fairly low maintenance, I’m not one of those people who is glued to their phone 24/7 – so a Garmin watch has been quite useful as I found I was completely missing calls because I’d left my phone on silent.
My favourite app is Pinterest – I recently oversaw the refurbishment of our cellar door, and it was really useful for inspiration on the style and interiors that I wanted to use to reflect the brand.
We’re currently putting in a commercial kitchen so we can elevate our food offering from Spring, and also decorating one of the sheds so we can offer it for functions. I love that Pinterest lets me collect ideas in different boards, so I can see what aesthetic would work in each space.
8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
I’d love to hear how Jacinda Ardern copes! She’s the first Prime Minister to have a baby while in office and has overseen some huge issues in the past few years, but always seems to come across as calm, measured and in control. I’d love to hear how she does it!
9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
It’s probably not original, but I think making time for yourself is essential. I really find refuge in the garden, and ensuring I spend at least a few hours every weekend tending to my plants has such a positive impact on my mental wellbeing.
If I haven’t been out in the garden for a while, I really miss it. And spending time with my daughter, being immersed in what she’s doing – some people would have hated our long road trip up to the NT, but sitting in the back of the car colouring in with Matilda was bliss!
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