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Leading in Premium Australian Wines - Cindy Oswalt

Amongst a small group of women CEOs, Cindy leads in a male-dominated industry.
Old Bastard Shiraz grape vines

When Cindy Oswalt became a part-time accountant for Epicurian Wines in 2004, little did she imagine that she would eventually own the company! Over a period of fifteen years Cindy became indispensable to Epicurean Wines, learning the business and developing relationships with wine producers in Australia. When its founder, Benjamin Hammerschlag passed away, her succession was inevitable.

“Ben built a company that reflected his vision of wines that display both power and balance,” says Sarah Hammerschlag, Ben’s sister. “The brands he imported all have strong, passionate families behind them, and the wines speak to the appellations they are from.”

Cindy joins a unique rank of women CEOs. Only 5% of women hold CEO positions, according to the Financial Times.

“Wine is still a very male-dominated industry,” Oswalt says. “It’s important to have visibility for female-owned businesses, and I’m honored to be leading the way for other women in the food and beverage world.”

As a woman CEO, Cindy contributes a market perspective focusing on communicating the unique terroirs of Australia, the stories behind the wineries, and the value that those wines bring to the market. It can’t hurt that 60% of wine consumers in the U.S. are women.

Cindy is focused on enhancing her list of producers and expanding U.S. distributorship. At this writing Epicurian Wines is in 49 states and represents 25 producers, including premium wines from every region of Australia.

Australian wines in the U.S. were extremely popular in the mid-2000s but their popularity has since been hurt by competition and by a new generation of people who were too young for that first wave of interest. This is about to change!

“I have never been more excited about selling Australian wine in the U.S. and Epicurean is the best possible vehicle to channel my enthusiasm” says Brian Klassen, Epicurian Wine’s National sales manager, and 20% owner.

“Australian wines are high-quality, well-balanced and a good value compared to other categories,” Oswalt says. “You can put an Australian Cab up against a California Cab and it will compete all day long — while costing less out of pocket.”

When consumers first became aware of Australian wines, it was with the less expensive wines. Today, Australia produces some very fine, complex wines that will delight at a much more affordable price point. These are the wines that Epicurean Wines brings to the market.

“We’re successfully building back up the company after the category had been struggling to compete for a few years,” Oswalt says. “We’re bringing wineries back to our portfolio that had left; bringing on new ones; and bringing back the Australian category.”

Oswalt is excited to lead Epicurean into the future, exposing consumers to the rich offerings of a region that may be new to them. They are also focusing on Australian craft spirits, including Applewood Distillery Gin, Økar Amaro and a Tasmanian whiskey from Hellyers Road Distillery.

This September Epicurian Wines is participating in the Far From Ordinary US Roadshow sponsored by Wine Australia. The show will travel to six U.S. cities over a span of six weeks introducing the trade to the latest collection of Australian wines.

Epicurean Wines are sold at specialty wine shops throughout the U.S. For more information, visit their website or follow them on Facebook or Twitter.

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