A Conversation with our founder, Mary Anne Kennedy
Please allow me to introduce myself…
Welcome! I’m so delighted you’re here taking interest in Taste of South Australia and all that we’re about. I’m Mary Anne, and it’s my genuine pleasure to connect with fellow wine enthusiasts and travellers. My experience and passion are based on a lifetime of living and working in the hospitality, food, and wine industries, and what can I say… it really never gets old. In fact, like good wine, it only gets better with time.
On creating Taste of South Australia…
As a fellow seasoned traveller, I understand what it’s like when you arrive in a new city, not knowing a single soul. You want a memorable and personal experience but you have a limited amount of time in which to do it. I’d personally experienced this time and again, and eventually, it became the idea that birthed the Taste of South Australia. Along with my lifelong experience, I knew I had something incredibly special to offer, at a level of service and care that’s not often found.
And now it’s with great joy I offer travellers the world over this wonderful service. Taste of South Australia excels at pairing our premier wine tours, with everything our rich region has to offer, as it most calls to you—with a level of luxury, personalization, and expertise that goes above and beyond.
On growing up with food & wine…
I had the privilege of learning about wine initially through my father in our family hotel in country South Australia. For some time, I worked there cooking, and learning about the world of wine and food, and I took readily to both. Ingredients were basic in standard Australian country cuisine, and I learned how be creative and make the most of them.
I’d also love meeting with wine industry representatives, like the now renowned Sir James Hardy. Sitting down and talking wine with him, among others, definitely contributed to my growing passion for wine and pairings.
It must have been in the family DNA… because food and wine became an integral part of my siblings’ lives, as well. My brother went on to open the first Australian bar in Paris, panamebrewingcompany. And one of my sisters opened the first Australian restaurant in Paris, called Woolloomooloo, and is currently educating Australians about French wines online through her website frenchwineschool.com.au. We still kick around ideas for a family business again… we’ll have to keep you posted on that.
On the resume…
After working as the manager at the family hotel for a while, I realized it was time to broaden my horizons. Even though I would venture into sales and marketing, wine, food, and hospitality were always in the picture.
- My early career away from home started in the ‘80s, in sales and marketing at The Intercontinental and the Chateau Commodore hotels all around Australia. A highlight of this period was working through the opening of the Intercontinental Hotel in Sydney. It was an exciting time where I made many great tourism contacts. I also had the opportunity to create food and wine menus, matching wines with events, something I loved doing (and still do!).
- Later, with Best Cellars Wines I discovered European wines. Here I was able to learn a great deal at our high-end wine cellar in the Rocks in Sydney. I managed the party and events area of the company and, once again, I had the chance to do wine matching for all sorts of events.
- I also worked with Wine Master, Don Perry. This is when my fascination with learning all about the sensory evaluation of wine truly began.
With my interest in wine piqued, I decided it was time to return to South Australia’s great wine culture and offerings, and put down roots in a region I truly loved.
- I attended Roseworthy Agricultural College where the majority of today’s most respected winemakers in Australia trained. I studied Wine Marketing covering Winemaking, Viticulture, Sensory Evaluation, Economics and Marketing. During that time I met many students who went on to be famous wine industry personalities.
- During my study I had hands-on experience at Wirra Wirra winery in McLaren Vale, working in all aspects of the business.
- The winemaker Ben Riggs was an inspiring mentor during that time. My sensory evaluation of the wines and winemaking skills were honed to a new level.
- I worked also for the McLaren Vale Winemakers Association. My expertise developed further, judging amateur wine shows, assisting with sales and marketing, and serving on committees to plan food and wine events.
- My work with the South Australian Tourism Commission and the Wine and Brandy Corporation (now Wine Australia), further enriched my experience. I hosted journalists and food and wine writers, among many other events and made invaluable connections.
On a continuing love affair with wine…
“Wine is such a personal experience there is always more to learn.”
With so many avenues unfolding in my life, I eventually had to make a choice! I decided to concentrate on my own business, conducting wine tours and sharing my love of wine with others.
I have been lucky enough to be able to turn my passion for food and wine into a successful career. I owe thanks to the many wine personalities whom I have worked with over the years and who are now my friends. They continue to teach me a great deal on all aspects of winemaking and viticulture that I am now able to share with my many guests.
My journey continues as I travel overseas regularly to the wine regions of the world visiting Italy, France, Chile, Argentina and American wine regions, with a visit to Spain coming up shortly. My most recent work-around-the world tour included USA, London, Paris, Germany, China, and Bali. I was able to venture to wineries off the beaten path – it was incredible!
On the food and wine of South Australia….
Australian wine like our food has no rules, basically. We still respect and tip your hat to the fine food and wine cultures from France and Italy, but it’s now about incorporating all the rich multicultural influences that have come to Australia, and also all that we experience when we travel. It seems Australians love to travel—or maybe just the people I tend to gravitate toward!
When it comes to South Australia’s wine, our Shiraz of the Barossa region is world-renowned, as it’s the most adaptable and resilient. When I first started delving into the world of wine, we would just talk of main grape varieties planted: Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Grenache in reds, and lots of Chardonnay, and some Riesling and sauvignon blanc. Now we’re seeing more grape varieties like Tempranillo, Montepulciano, Nero d’Avola and Sangiovese in reds, and white varieties like Vermentino, Fiano and Marsanne from around the world that are proving to work in warm regions like SA. It’s been exciting to explore the new flavors and be creative with the fusions and pairings. There is a wonderful blend here of our rich wine traditions and heritage, but also the element of change, modernizing, and the fresh and new.
Off the resume…
My life is so interwoven with the work I do, it can be hard to separate the two. But I think cooking for friends and family counts as a favorite pastime of mine. They never turn it down, so I guess I have a knack!
When the Covid pandemic hit our area my first response was to cook for those in need, and it was a full-time job in the beginning. I’m still cooking up a storm, but I do “dabble” in other interests too, such as, music and writing, and enjoying time outside, biking and hiking.
And there always seems to be more to learn when it comes to wine. I recently studied level 3 of the WSET qualification system (an internationally recognized wine and spirt education program). An added perk is meeting the other class members, like winemakers from Chile and Portugal—which makes it even more interesting.
What else? It’s hard to stay off work-related passions, so how about a few little-known, fun facts. I usually reserve these for conversation over a glass of wine, but here goes…
I’ve jumped out of planes in New Zealand, dined with Mr. Bean in Perth, worked on a Russian Icebreaker in the North Pole, South Pole, and the Amazon…. As far as any special secret skills go, there’s probably nothing worth mentioning. I’ve dabbled in lots of things but skilled at them is another story.
I am an avid traveller (does that count?). It’s a big plus that I’m able to regularly do work-related travel. Although there are so many more places I plan to explore, I really do love spending time here in South Australia. I feel so truly blessed to be surrounded by the gifts and people of this region. And on that note…
I’d love to personally extend an invitation to join us here for a Taste of South Australia!
Planning the unforgettable tour is really about the synergy that naturally seems to happen in our process, and it begins the moment we connect. No two tours (or clients) are alike, and that’s what makes it all so endlessly interesting. I look forward to meeting you and connecting with you more, and together, creating your ideal wine itinerary.
PS If you’ve read this far, I’m delighted. It may be a connection! Continue the journey HERE