In February 2011 a motley group of wine writers who had every character in Zootopia covered went on a mini-bus tour of the Riverland. The tour manager was Ashley Ratcliff. He had buried his dad the day before but wasn’t going to miss a landmark event for a region in need of a hug.
The Qwoff boys, Andre Eikmeier and Justin Dry, were on the bus; they were the new kids on the wine scribe block, driving a blue kombi to country towns to make reasonably funny videos. During the Riverland junket, Andre mentioned it was intimidating being with big cheese Tony Love, Max Allen and The Great Man, James Halliday. We had a good time, caught yabbies, tasted good Vermentino and came home and went our separate ways. Andre and Justin played ping-pong in thongs in between tastings at a cool Hindmarsh warehouse. They smiled and did good things for the Hutt Street Centre for the homeless. Ironically, they had pressure from home to get real jobs. The crossroads. Two months after the Riverland journey, like the closing scene in Thelma & Louise, Justin and brother-in-law Andre held hands and drove off the cliff of a safe existence to the cut-throat mosh-pit of selling wine online. They called it Vinomofo. First mistake. This is the City of Churches, lads, it’ll never catch on. They hooked the future eaters, built a big database and sold more wine in one month than a bottle shop would sell in a whole year. Dan who? Barossa lad Leigh Morgan was the fifth Beatle. Some winemakers cringed at what they perceived to be brand-ruining, race-to-the-bottom discounts. Punters loved the irreverence.
Andre and Justin got rich like Trump but never combed their hair. They were so cool. In an industry with too many Ralph Malphs, Andre was Arthur Fonzarelli. In March 2012 WBM put them on the cover – their painted faces framed in iPads. Vinomofo sold out to Catch of the Day, a James Packer plaything. In July 2013 the boys did a Kerry Packer and bought it back. They built a following of 400,000 members and are on track to sell $50 million of wine a year. The boys sneezed and Adelaide caught a man flu, in a good way. Wine bars popped up. Justin wore shades like Tom Cruise in Top Gunand Andre rode a powder-blue scooter with a baguette in the basket likeUnder The Tuscan Sun. Justin hit the speaking circuit. Andre handled the 2013 Tech Conference and swore more than bloody fuck’n Wolf which is bloody fuck’n saying something. They got more media than Kardashian’s arse. This week they got $25 million to fund a global adventure; a bit like the Riverland adventure but with a full-sized bus and better hotel rooms. The boys used to give TWTW the inside running on their dealings; we’ve been mugged by the Fin Review. Justin is the same old Justin; Andre the same old Andre. Same shirt, different slogan. “Death Before Sauvignon Blanc” should please Shaw + Smith. The boys no longer do mini-buses. Or Berri. Now The Great Man finds Andre intimidating. Ashley still helps to change perceptions about his beloved region, doing his dad proud. As for the kombi, it should be in the National Motor Museum in Birdwood to celebrate one of the great Australian wine stories. Instead, it rusts away under a Hills hoist in a backyard somewhere, slowly disappearing under the blackberry bush of progress.
What’s your favourite story about the rise and rise of Vinomofo? And what do you think of their story? Email here.