A green future for Mike Davies

Mike Davies with partner Kim McKee. (Photo: Greenskin Wines)

Mike Davies has got his life sorted. He’s on an ocean-going catamaran in Darwin or somewhere wet and hot up north, and is ringing up to check what I thought of his new wines. He likes to spend six months on the boat if he can swing it, and thanks to modern communications he can conduct his business on the run (that’s a sailing expression: Ed).

Mike has just launched his latest brainwave on the wine world: Greenskin.

Mike has just launched his latest brainwave on the wine world: Greenskin. It’s wine in a plastic pouch, which I suspect is very handy when you’re spending half your life on a yacht. Bottles are heavy, they break easily and that can be a catastrophe on a boat, where there’s often a lot of exposed flesh. The pouches are also very easy to stow because of the flexibility of their soft packaging. And they chill more quickly than glass bottles. If you’re sailing south, say in the Roaring Forties, you could probably chill them by towing them on a rope behind the boat.

The Greenskins are all Western Australian wines, mostly Margaret River, so it’s obvious that Mike is pitching them at the quality market. They’re not really a substitute for the 4-litre cask. They cost a lot more: they range from AUD $22.50 to AUD $33* each. I query Mike on this and he replies that the packaging is expensive to produce. Everything is designed and manufactured from a standing start. Each pouch has a cute little spout on top with a cute little plastic cap on it. They look a bit like some of those kids’ drinks you see in supermarkets.

The Greenskin wines in a pouch. (Photo: Greenskin Wines)

When you hold one in your hand it seems impossible that it contains 750ml. The pouch measures about 17cm x 9cm x 6cm. Not much bigger than a lantern battery.

There are six varieties: rosé, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc semillon, cabernet merlot, and syrah—all Margaret River—and a pinot noir from the Great Southern. The cab merlot is a 2018, so it’s not ridiculously young. The syrah is a 2019 and the others are 2020.

Another reason for the high production cost is that each pack (you buy them in boxes of six, straight or mixed) comes with a green plastic bag so that you can put your six empties in it and send it back to Mike for recycling. Postage paid. Neat idea.

Mike is a little apologetic that he has become a traitor to the business that made him a very comfortable living, which was a portable wine-bottling business called Portavin.

Portavin owns trucks with big trailers, and on the trailers is an entire bottling line. They drive it up to your winery, plug the power in, attach hoses, and away they go. Needless to say, Portavin is all about getting wine into glass bottles, while Greenskinwine is all about environmentally friendly alternative packaging—alternative to glass.

The list of benefits is lengthy. Lightweight, unbreakable, compact, resealable, quick to chill, takes less than 20% of the energy to produce compared to a glass bottle, creates less emissions when transported, and is 100% recyclable.

Mike Davies is not just another opportunist hovering vulture-like over the wine industry. He’s a qualified and experienced winemaker.

One extra benefit is that you can reseal the pack without letting air in. If you’re careful, very careful (otherwise you’ll get a faceful of wine), you can squeeze the air out of the pack before you replace the cap. This will lengthen the life of the wine. It will take longer to spoil—but let’s be serious, that will only be an issue for very slow drinkers.

Mike Davies is not just another opportunist hovering vulture-like over the wine industry. He’s a qualified and experienced winemaker. After studying at Roseworthy, and working in other people’s wineries, he and his then-wife Jan set up a winery called Sandstone in Margaret River. But Portavin was his moment of genius.

It expanded throughout Australia and New Zealand and is still doing a roaring business, bottling for over 800 wineries, although Mike is no longer involved. He sold the business to packaging heavyweight San Miguel Yamamura in 2017.

Mike’s partner in the Greenskin business and in life, Kim, actually studied ‘recreation’ at university, then worked in east coast tropical island resorts.

Work? It’s the curse of the sailing class.

*The reds are AUD $198 for six, the chardonnay AUD $155, rosé AUD $149 and SBS AUD $135. Some notable winemakers are involved: Brian Fletcher of Calneggia made the cab-merlot, Japo Dalli Carni at McHenry Hohnen made the syrah, Severine Logan of Calneggia the chardonnay, Bruce Dukes and Remi Guise at Domaine Naturaliste made the SBS.

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