Two Hands Winery was created in the summer of 1999 with the aim of making the best possible Shiraz-based wines from prized Shiraz growing regions throughout Australia.
According to the background of the winery that’s featured on the Terlato Wines website, the intention always has been to showcase the diversity of Australian Shiraz by highlighting regional characteristics and giving the fruit the opportunity to be the primary feature of the wines. the name “Two Hands” refers to the personable approach taken with each parcel of grapes, no matter how big or small.
Proprietor and Managing Director Michael Twelftree and his dedicated team carefully guide the process through both viticulture and winemaking stages. Michael Twelftree, who founded the winery with Richard Mintz, runs the day-to-day operation.
Premium fruit is now sourced from six of the finest Shiraz growing regions in Australia, and Two Hands work closely with their own vineyards and band of growers to ensure the full potential of each vineyard is reached. You can find more on the winery and its operation at this link.
Twelftree brought a construction background into his current role, so immersed with the quality of the wines and the growth of the brand. He told an interviewer that he was 23 when a friend said to join him at a wine shop to buy a few cases of wine. “There was a (free) tasting going on and this wonderful world unfolded right in front of my eyes,” he said.
According to his bio on the Two Hands website, his love of wine is the catalyst for a large amount of time on the road, traveling globally to taste some of the greatest wines from the most revered wine regions.
From the bio: “From day one, Michael’s role has been multifaceted being involved in the day to day running of Two Hands from vineyard management through to winemaking and production. With a flair for marketing and creativity, Michael is always injecting fresh ideas and constantly nutting out new ways to keep the brand evolving.”
Here are answers to questions that PennLive sent to Twelftree about the winery and the wines, which you can purchase through Pennsylvania’s Fine Wines & Good Spirits stores. Here’s a link to the product sold the PLCB.
Q, Michael, I saw you mention this in the description of the journey: “I really love the perfume and textures in our wines and the fact that the fruit is the hallmark and the hero.” Can you expound on that a bit? What are you doing that might be different than many other Australian producers?
A, My tastes are formed by the attributes in wine that give me the most pleasure. I have traveled to some of the world’s great estates and vineyards over the past 25 years and the styles that give me the most pleasure is what I want to show in my own wines. I am not a fan of over-oaked or heavily manipulated wines – I believe the vineyard is the hero and I very much want the winemaking to enhance the sites. Skin integrity and a ripe tannin profile matched with ripe fruits sympathetically handled in the winery is our way. I deliberately try to not focus too much on what other Australian producers are doing; I am 100% focused on what we are doing.
Q, You sell a lot of your wines through the Pennsylvania wine and spirits stories. For those who see the label at the store, what are some basics they should know about Two Hands?
A, We were the first Australian winery to highlight regionality in Australian Shiraz. We work across six distinctly different environments to make a compelling statement about the nuances in Australian wines that sometimes is lost on the world stage. Australian wine is more than just Sunshine in a Bottle and we are serious about telling that story yet ensure we have fun at the same time.
Q, You’re up to 5 lines of wines now. I’m not sure in which order they were created, but what are a couple of key differences among them?
A, Our entry level is the Picture Series. Regional celebrations of Shiraz [and Cabernet, a GSM blend and Riesling or two] that allow us to have a bit of fun in the naming of the wines – think, Gnarly Dudes, Angels’ Share, Sexy Beast. These are high-quality fruit sources that are graded in the vineyard and then when they arrive in the winery, the wines are focused on fruit purity and age barrel for on average 11 to 12 months.
The next level up is our Garden Series collection – six different Shiraz from six different regions. The best known are Lily’s Garden from McLaren Vale and Bella’s Garden from the Barossa Valley. Again, these are the same source vineyards as the Picture Series but they are made from blocks or ferments that show extra depth and character and are then aged for a further six months before bottling. Lily and Bella’s were also the first wines we produced, followed by Angel’s Share.
The Single Vineyard Series is just that – a specific single vineyard collection that aims to highlight an amazing vineyard’s individual terroir.
The Flagship collection is the best of the best, varietal wine that we produce – tiny amounts from the best barrels.
We also have a Showroom Series collection which is available only from our home and Cellar Door, as well as a tiny production of Grenache, under the Twelftree label, which is my passion project.
Q, How wide an area across Australia do you source your grapes from? Is it something that has expanded during the more than 20 years in business?
A, Our home and estate vineyards are in the Barossa Valley, South Australia, and since 2003 I have made a bottling from Heathcote in Victoria [near Melbourne], which is some 850km from the winery. Since the beginning, we have worked with grapes from McLaren Vale, Adelaide Hills, Eden Valley and Clare Valley. In 2021 we are making our first foray onto the island of Tasmania, with a small parcel of Riesling.
Our grower base has stayed very constant over the past 20 years. This really has helped us to understand the characteristics or each individual parcel over the years.
Q, You mention on your website about this push to be unique, fun and innovative. Are there one or two examples you can tell readers about?
A, Our labels have quirky names and interesting backstories that definitely grab the consumer’s attention. Back in 2000 we were the first company in Australia to bottle a red wine under screwcap; this has now become an industry standard.
Q, It looks like in a normal year you spend a great deal of it traveling. What has the last year been like for you personally?
A, [Businesswise], I have really enjoyed the last year. After 20 years of living out of a suitcase for 12 to 16 weeks a year. I have really enjoyed the break from long-haul flights and I have not missed the jetlag that comes with it.
Australia is a long way from anywhere else. We export two-thirds of our production to 65 different countries and if you want to build those international markets you need to travel, as a business must be done on a personal level and face to face so not being able to do that has been tricky.
Q, So many wineries have talked to me about the changes the pandemic had on their business model and distribution. Has it forced you to make any changes?
A, No, not really. We were very fortunate, particularly to be in Australia. All my grower relationships are very dear to my heart, so when the pandemic hit I took each of them out to lunch and recommitted to another six years no matter when our contracts were due to expire. Yes, we have reacted by using Zoom meetings for the time being but we are all itching to get our travel shoes back on, to be front and center in the marketplace.
Q, What keeps things fun for you? The interviews I’ve seen, your energy and enthusiasm certainly come through.
A, I simply love wine, and that means loving vineyards and the people in and around them, it’s a fascinating subject matter and I love the wide scoping opinions it finds.
I never really got to work, I just turn up and have so much fun every day.
Q, Last question. I look at the State of the U.S. Wine Industry report that comes out every January. This paragraph, among many, caught my eye:
In my view, the issue of greatest concern for the wine business today continues to be the lagging participation in the premium wine category by the large millennial generation. In just nine more years, the last boomer will pass age 66 and be eligible for full Social Security benefits. What will the average wine consumer look like with the boomer in full retirement?
How do you see Two Hands evolving with what I assume are some of the same concerns?
A, Yes, this is an extremely relevant point, we do need to adapt and evolve to stay relevant. I have always thought we played very well into the younger demographic. You did not have to be a brain surgeon to realize that the Penfolds 389 drinkers were one day going to die off. We need to stay front of mind by telling TRUE stories, treating people nicely and overdelivering on wine quality. If we do that, I think we should be OK.
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