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Welcome to the
CommBank
Entrepreneurs
Hub.

The exclusive resource for entrepreneurs.

Episode 6:
Darren De Bortoli's
calculated risk.

The ideas of entrepreneurship and commercial risk taking go hand in hand.

Risk taker
Darren De Bortoli
is a
Risk taker
Risk taker

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Entrepreneur

James Tuckermann 

James Tuckerman is an entrepreneur, angel investor, professional speaker, and Editor-In-Chief at Anthill Magazine. He is best known for launching Anthill Magazine in 2003. In 2009, he reinvented the business model towards 100% digital production. In 2004 and 2005, he was named Best Small Publisher in Australia by ABA (now Publishers Australia). He founded the 30under30 among other programs and initiatives designed to support entrepreneurs in Australia.

Does risk taking
run in your family?
By James Tuckermann 

The ideas of entrepreneurship and commercial risk taking go hand in hand.

Darren De Bortoli agrees. And he should know a thing or two about both, managing and building a successful business in one of the riskiest games around… wine growing!

If it isn’t the weather, it’s the Australian dollar. And, when those two factors aren’t throwing up uncertainties, there’s all the other factors that come with this game of 3D chess we call business.

The interesting thing about risk, in Darren’s words, is that sometimes we don’t know that we’re taking a risk. This sentiment sits at the heart of how entrepreneurs view the world.

Apparently, entrepreneurs see risk in a different light. Every new step forward will almost invariably involve perceived risks and real risks. Entrepreneurs understand the distinction.

Here’s the difference. When a new idea is put out there, it’s only natural to first consider what could go wrong. Whereas most people will then scrap the idea, the entrepreneur will start seeking ways to overcome the risk, transforming it from a common garden variety risk into a perceived risk.

Darren De Bortoli comes from entrepreneurial stock. His great grandad, Vittorio, once had a serious decision to make, whether to remain in his home country, where the options were few, or embark on an epic adventure and start a new life in a strange new land.

Can you imagine the conversations this bold decision would have incited over the dinner table? Was he mad? Was he insane? In the eyes of Vittorio, travel was the less risky option.

What is not revealed in this short video is one of the most radical, and some might say ‘risky’, contributions that Darren has made to the brand.

While completing his studies in Agriculture, in the 1980s, he became interested in experiments being undertaken in Botrytis wine styles. If you’re not familiar with your wine chemistry, Botrytis is actually a fungus. Botrytis spores leach moisture from the berries causing the fruit to break down, concentrating the sugars and magnifying the flavours to produce a now very popular desert wine.

While still studying, De Bortoli decided to make a botrytis affected wine of his own.

At that time, there was a surplus of Semillon grapes in Victoria, a thin skinned, tight bunched varietal particularly susceptible to extensive, uniform botrytis infection.

Most growers were desperate to sell their "rotten" grapes.

But, for Darren, another grape grower’s misfortune was his opportunity.

Since its release, Darren’s Botrytis wine, Noble One, has been awarded 104 Trophies, 352 Gold medals and 113 International Awards. To service the grape needs of the brand, De Bortoli Wines expanded in the Yarra Valley, under Darren’s stewardship.

But here is the greatest outcome of Darren’s perceived risk taking.

Where once there stood “struggling, developing wine region” there now lives an industry, a vibrant agricultural base for some of the best wines in the world. While we can’t contribute its success entirely to Darren, it’s clear that the De Bortoli family played a significant role in its amazing evolution, as did other wine loving ‘risk takers’ who could see an opportunity where other people saw only trouble.

So, are entrepreneurs risk takers? The answer is, yes.

But great entrepreneurs, like Darren, also appreciate that not all risks are created equal.

What is a ‘risk’ that you have taken that, in your eyes, never seemed very risky?

James Tuckermann 

Entrepreneur

James Tuckerman is an entrepreneur, angel investor, professional speaker, and Editor-In-Chief at Anthill Magazine. He is best known for launching Anthill Magazine in 2003. In 2009, he reinvented the business model towards 100% digital production. In 2004 and 2005, he was named Best Small Publisher in Australia by ABA (now Publishers Australia). He founded the 30under30 among other programs and initiatives designed to support entrepreneurs in Australia.

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