When Mauricio and Ben met while studying viticulture at the University of Adelaide, their friendship grew over their shared love of all things food and wine. Since graduating, the winemaking friends have started their own label, Juguette (hoo-get-tay). We spoke to Mauricio and Ben about how they became the founders of one of the most well-known Australian wine brands in Mexico.
Names: Mauricio Ruiz Canto and Ben Caldwell
Course: Bachelor of Viticulture and Oenology, University of Adelaide
Home country: Mexico (Mauricio) and Australia (Ben)
Why did you choose to study in Adelaide?
Mauricio: I was working in a winery in Mexico and was going to go to California to study winemaking. But two of my colleagues were graduates of the University of Adelaide, and they told me the Adelaide course was the best. And because the climatic conditions between Australia and Mexico are similar, I’d be able to learn so many things that would be relevant to my work back home. I’m happy they told me about Adelaide.
Ben: I’m from regional New South Wales and had been studying chemistry in Melbourne. I chose to come to Adelaide to study winemaking because it’s world-renown for its wine industry and wine education. I applied for the course and moved here three weeks later.
Tell me how Juguette came about.
Mauricio: After we graduated, we decided to make some wine for a bit of fun. It was a small batch of Barossa Shiraz. It tasted good, and I thought we could sell it in Mexico. Both Ben and I were working in wineries and didn’t really expect it to turn into anything, maybe just a bit of extra pocket money. But when we sent the wine to Mexico, it was well received, and we’ve now grown from our first vintage of 1,400 bottles to 130,000 bottles.
These days, Juguette is probably the most well-known Australian wine brand in Mexico, and we’re Australia’s largest exporter of wine to Mexico by value. The beginning was the hardest as there was no plan to follow. But the brand is well established now, and I get a lot of satisfaction to be sitting in a restaurant watching someone drinking our wine. It’s a very sweet feeling.
What strengths do you each bring to the partnership?
Ben: In terms of winemaking, we bring similar strengths. Conceptually and philosophically we like the same things. Outside of winemaking, the strength Mauricio brings is Mexico. Without him, we wouldn’t have the brand or the market. Mauricio spends a lot of time in Mexico taking care of building the market over there, with his brother helping to manage distribution. But he’s always back for vintage when we make the wine together.
What do you like most about Adelaide?
Mauricio: Adelaide is great in the sense that it’s small enough to feel comfortable and safe, but big enough that you don’t get bored easily. Since I first arrived in 2010, it’s changed a lot, especially in the food and wine scene with lots of new wine bars and restaurants opening. I’ve been back and forth between Adelaide and Mexico since I graduated, but I’m looking forward to moving back full-time next year with my wife. She’s a chef, so I’m sure she’ll love the food and wine focus in Adelaide.
How has studying in Adelaide prepared you for your future career?
Mauricio: I often wonder what would have happened if I’d gone to California to study. I don’t think I would have had this success. Studying in Adelaide has been career-defining for me. It’s one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life.
Ben: It’s been essential to my career. Obviously for meeting Mauricio and starting Jurguette, but also because it’s the best place in Australia for wine education. Adelaide is the apex of the new wave of winemaking.
What would you say to students thinking about coming to Adelaide to study?
Mauricio: Keep your mind open. Take advantage of the access to excellent teachers and the learning opportunities you have. And have a good time. I had a lot of fun with life in Adelaide.
Ben: Embrace Adelaide. Don’t remain insular, get out there get involved. Network and build your contacts in your industry. If you’re studying winemaking, go to the cellar doors, go to the wine bars. There are so many options in Adelaide.