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DISCOVER: The Whimsical Story Behind Mollydooker Wines

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They say you shouldn't judge a book by its cover. Mollydooker Wines are an exception. At first glance, their labels explode with colour, character and magic. At first taste, the juice matches its branding.


Owner and winemaker Sarah Marquis designed all the quirky and whimsical designs seen on Mollydooker bottles herself. But before she successfully put her artistic flair to use, her and her husband Sparky scraped the bottom of the barrel. 

The Mollydooker fairy tale began when Sparky Marquis' father lined up his five kids and told them that if any of them was willing to take up winemaking or viticulture, they would inherit his award winning vineyard and winery.

Presented with a fight or flight scenario, Sparky initially flew off to Uni where he ended up meeting Sarah Watts – a fun loving, artsy and clever gal. It took him four years to convince Sarah to marry him, but when she did in 1991, all they had between them was $1000 and a barrel load of dreams. Dreams of developing their own business, succeeding in a career they were both passionate about, helping other people and most importantly of all, having fun.

That's when they remembered how much they liked drinking wine and took on the precarious art of winemaking.

Whilst working with Sarah's parents at Fox Creek and developing the commercial Marquis Philips brand, Sparky put his vineyard canopy management studies to use and developed the Marquis Vineyard Watering Programme™, which is now used by all vineyards producing grapes for Mollydooker. The focus behind the programme is nurturing strong and healthy vines with balanced canopy growth to achieve the most intense fruit flavours possible. “We ripen the vine, so that it can ripen the fruit,” explained Sparky.

Eventually the couple decided to veer away from the corporate path and stay small and hands on. 



After a few ups and downs and bumps in the road, the Sarah and Sparky decided to start totally fresh. They reasoned that if they once started with $1000, and could do it again. Their community rallied around to help. Staff offered to take a salary drop, growers offered to take late payments, suppliers offered extended terms. Both families mortgaged everything and chipped in.

In March 2006, the couple named their new brand Mollydooker (Aussie for left hander) because they're both left handed. Two weeks later, their bank account dwindled to $17, a scary predicament for a cash company whose motto has always been "if you can't pay on time, pay early." Not only did this prove to be impossible, they couldn't even afford to label the wine (but boy are we glad that they eventually did.)

Chalk it up to a miracle. Unexpectedly, a local businessman walked through the door, said he heard of their troubles and asked to hear their story. Half an hour later he walked out the door while Sparky stood with tears pouring down his cheeks, holding a cheque for enough money to allow them to continue their dream.



Three months later, The Wine Advocate chose The Boxer as the Best Value Red Wine in the World, Two Left Feet as the second, and Maitre D’ as the fourth. The Violinist was chosen the Best Value White Wine in the world. The wines sold out in nineteen days, and all their debts were paid off. In August, when the Carnival of Love and Enchanted Path were released they sold out in five days. Mollydooker was back to paying bills early and rewarding their staff and growers with bonuses.

A mere eighteen months after being down to their last few coins, Sarah and Sparky rose up from the debacle and were able to buy a beautiful property with stunning views, a winery, and 114 acres of vineyards on the magical Seaview Ridge in McLaren Vale, home of most of the iconic McLaren Vale wines.

Call it a rags to riches story, but Sparky and Sarah haven't lost their passion for wine making, attention to detail, and well, we know how they feel about ripening those vines. Perhaps once in a while it's OK to judge a book by its cover. Especially when its backed up with juice produced by a couple of left-hands.

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Check out Sarah & Sparky doing their signature Mollydooker Shake: