Q & A with Allan Scott

Capturing legacy: Marlbororough entreprneur Allan Scott has been reflecting on the trials and tribulations of 40 years in the wine industry.
Capturing legacy: Marlbororough entreprneur Allan Scott has been reflecting on the trials and tribulations of 40 years in the wine industry.

Winemaker Allan Scott said taking a risk on the winery was hard but has paid off, writes Josh Martin

Allan Scott Family Winemakers was among the first crop of boutique growers in Marlborough in 1990, independent from the big players Scott used to work for, like Corbans and Montana. Boutique-no-more, Allan Scott and his wife Catherine have built up a brand synonymous with the classic Marlborough sauvignon blanc and in July won a multimillion-dollar contract to export 200,000 bottles to China a year. The growing wine dynasty now has all three children heavily involved in the family-owned company.

Question - How financially savvy do you think you are?

Answer - I think I'm reasonably savvy. It's my old age and experience, I guess.

Q -What was your first paid work?

A - Mowing lawns around Hawarden in North Canterbury, where I grew up. I was paid about 10 shillings for doing a lawn, which wasn't very much at all.

Q - How did your upbringing shape your attitude to money?

A - Both of my parents were very frugal with money. They were beef, sheep and crop farmers. There wasn't a huge amount of money available, being post-war and everything. So nothing was wasted and you really appreciated what you had. Cash was short but most of my generation had that upbringing.

Q - Is that work ethic and frugal attitude still influential on you today, even if you work in an industry that promotes luxury and indulgence?

A- The work ethic is still with me and we still plan for the future just like they did. But yes, that is true but we don't regard it as luxury, we still see ourselves as regular farmers who are exposed to bad weather and market volatility just like potato farmers - OK, well we are maybe slightly more glamorous than potato farmers. I have not been to many potato tasting events or parties.

Q- What do you think is the biggest money lie that people fall for?

A - Free credit and interest-free deals are one of the biggest lies that people have always fallen for. Nothing is ever free, especially credit. If you buy into that and you aren't savvy with what the consequences are people can get caught out. They live in debt.

Q- Is that quite hard to deal with, given that many farmers live with a huge burden of debt?

A - Yeah, that's true. Farming and viticulture do share that burden, particularly us, because the land value is higher and there is greater variation in values, given the volatility of our industry. You do have to make peace with looking at your balance sheet and seeing debt. But that can motivate you not to rest on your laurels and have a plan to pay it down.

Q - If a child asked you the best way to make money, what would you say?

A - Number one: Work hard, it all comes after that. Number two: Be careful with the money that you've worked hard for.

Q - What are your best investment decisions?

A - It would have to be the winery, to be the master of our own destiny instead of relying on other people. Taking the risk was always the hardest thing and we suffered from buyer's nerves just like anyone else would have. It has paid off.

Q - And the worst?

A - Buying a sports car. It was an Aston Martin, the life's dream and we loved it to pieces. We never really used it and it was expensive to run so we eventually sold it.

Q - How would you sum up your attitude to spending?

A - I wish I was a bit more frugal in some respects, like the Aston Martin. I tend to spend first and think afterwards. I always have a reason to do it, but often I think too quickly.

Q - What do you splurge on, any vintage magnums in your cellar?

A - Quite a few electronics and equipment actually. Fun technology, computer things and gadgets much like everyone else, I guess.

Q - Are you in KiwiSaver and if so, which one?

A - Yes, I'm in the Sovereign one. Or maybe the ASB one? I actually want to change, but I have not got around to it.

Sunday Star Times