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Archive for September, 2014

When you come across a family that’s as passionate as we are about creating excellent wine, you might ask – what originally ignited that fire in the first place? And who exactly are these Taylors down there in the Clare Valley? Well, like any family – we certainly have our fascinating stories that have come up through the decades. And we also have our fair share of characters! In many ways, it’s the diversity of our interests and our personalities that really makes the Taylor family tick, both as relatives and as business associates. In an undertaking such as winemaking, you can probably imagine the huge variety of projects and tasks that need doing. In this way, we tend to find that family members are drawn to (or occasionally catapulted into!) aspects of the business where their unique talents can best be utilised.

Maybe it’s cheeky to make the analogy with wine, but there are Taylors who are focused and a little flinty, some full of ripe fruit character… and other Taylors who are light and subtly sweet enough to calm the rest of us down. Together, we think we’ve got most bases pretty nicely covered.

From merchants to makers

Before Bill Taylor Snr and his sons Bill and John headed down to the Clare Valley in 1969, they were busy working in Sydney as successful wine merchants and hoteliers. In their city trade they became deeply inspired not only by the beautifully-crafted wines procured from Europe, but also by Australia’s own fledgling promise as a winemaking nation. Bill was particularly keen to test a theory. The Bordeaux region of France certainly excelled in the rich clarets that he adored – but could Australia maybe use her climatic peccadilloes to create prime cabernet sauvignon? Well, the Taylor instinct that has continued to flourish in the winemaking field was certainly on-target back in ‘69. Bill and his boys took a southern journey to SA and found the perfect landholding. Not only were they right about those cab sav grapes growing well in the Auburn area – it’s the stuff of legend that upon entering a first vintage offering in the Royal Adelaide Wine Show, the Taylors Cabernet Sauvignon walked away with the Montgomery Trophy for best red wine in show. Talk about ‘it pays to trust your gut’! It was the start of a dream run of awards and accolades across the decades, with Bill Snr and his descendants continuing to demonstrate incredible winemaking prowess. Some in the area had their nose out of joint a little. But although we were ‘mere city slickers’ in the 1960s, we were determined to show what our passion for fine wine and love of the area could produce.

Good research, courage, instinct and working hard together as a family – it’s certainly turned out to be a formidable combination. Three generations ago, the stage was set for a pretty remarkable family to get to work on some outstanding wines. And we think that every person in the Taylor family (plus our extended family of beaut employees) adds their own unique ‘something’ to the business, to the community and to the wine itself.

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Growing potential

If you take the newer generation of Taylors, in Mitchell, Justin and Clinton, it’s possible to detect both the enduring similarities and notable differences that come from a line of strong personalities. These younger Taylors each present the kind of singular determination and can-do positivity that led Bill Snr and his sons to follow that original winemaking dream. They also have in common that rare combination of respect for tradition, plus a hunger for new possibilities. How this combination plays out in each Taylor is fascinating. Mitchell for example works tirelessly as Managing Director and winemaker to maintain the heritage of his father and grandfather. Yet he also brings his exceptional technical capabilities both to the broader strategy of the business, and to the scientific aspects of crafting exceptional wines. Knowing the family principle that ‘kids don’t just walk into a job at Taylors Wines’, Mitchell tried other fields after obtaining his commerce degree. He travelled and worked through the 1980s, gaining invaluable experience in London’s heady banking and stockbroking arena. Returning in 1988, Mitchell at first just ‘helped out’ at Taylors on contract (like helping staff turn the computer on…not kidding!) at the Petersham office. Slowly but irrevocably Mitchell’s role grew, and he was drawn into the fascinating aspects of both growing grapes and creating wine and so took time out to gain his oenology degree. Now Mitchell manages to successfully combine his passion for the business with his knowledge of wine craft.

Justin Taylor has carried forward the enduring legacy of his wine trading forebears by helping take the passion of the family philosophy out into the wider market. An intrepid traveller, Justin tends to ask – like his grandfather Bill Snr – what’s possible? What can we do here? How can I grow this vision? In the role of Company Director and Asia Pacific Market Manager, Justin utilises the latest analytics and data to feel the pulse of wine lovers in the region. Joining the winery in 1996, Justin quickly earned his stripes and became National Sales Manager by 1999. He then took his sales skills and love for the product to the US in 2008, establishing our crucial American base. As well as his never-ending enthusiasm for our beautiful reds and whites, Justin adores Australia and came back to us in 2012. Like all Taylors, Justin places family front-and-centre in his life and currently combines his vision for Taylors with his cornerstone role as a family man.

Clinton Taylor has always felt the call of the winery itself, replete with beautiful Clare Valley terrain, bracing breezes and frenetic activity across the various operations. The youngest Taylor brother, Clinton is devoted to ensuring that the production of our premium wine rolls out like a well-tuned orchestra. From his start in 1995, Clinton showed his passion and aptitude for operational management, taking on various project and development roles. Having gone off on other adventures outside of the Clare, Clinton then moved with his family to the main winery precinct in 2012. Like all of the Taylor family, he is committed to sustainable practices and helps to build these into our everyday business operations.
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At Taylors Wine, we are proud to be part of a truly unique group of winemakers – Australia’s First Families of Wine (AFFW). This diverse and passionate collective of multi-generational winemakers first came together in 2009, and has been working strategically together ever since to spread the message about Australia’s rich and distinguished winemaking heritage, and the exceptional quality of our wine, to the world.

Standing up for what’s right

Part of the genesis of AFFW was that, for better or worse, Australia’s reputation on the international wine stage had copped a drubbing over a number of years. Whether or not some larger wine ‘factories’ had contributed to this, the fact remained that Australia was beginning to be seen in some arenas as a big producer of mediocre wines. The 12 families of AFFW became increasingly dismayed at the reputational damage that was taking place. With each family having worked tirelessly across decades to create excellence in winemaking, it was certainly heartbreaking to be tagged with some of the more unfortunate aspects of Australia’s wine reputation. But you don’t make it across multiple generations and many years in the one industry to go down without a fight! We knew we were steeped in history, excellence, drive and dedication across all aspects of our winemaking. And so we families banded together in 2009 to create AFFW, leading the charge to reignite the world’s love and respect for premium Australian wines.

To first principles

So why ‘First Families’? Average wines can of course be grown and produced in most parts of the world, by people and corporations with varying levels of passion. However, a core belief of AFFW participants is that a family has the unique ability to nurture, create and showcase the very best of wine craft across many decades. Working diligently and cooperatively across generations to create high-quality wines, the subtle nuances of a family’s particular winemaking skill can be passed along seamlessly from parent to child. In this way, irreplaceable reservoirs of wine knowledge are carefully preserved.

And intergenerational knowledge sharing is just one of the many special benefits stemming from multi-generational family winemaking. When wine is sourced from one or a few select regions, the family develops a deep understanding of the particular climate, geography and soil features that form the fruit basis of their wine. And we also know from experience that respect for the land bequeathed to your great-grandchildren is certainly a powerful thing! Beyond the vineyard and winery, we also know from experience that core family values and ethics create a valuable template for how a wine business should be carried out within the broader community.

The AFFW – what we share, how we differ

We’re delighted to share our heritage, winemaking stories and knowledge with the other family members of AFFW. And it’s a pretty illustrious group. Together we 12 families cover four states and over 17 Australian wine regions, from the east coast to the west coast. Add up our combined years of winemaking experience across the generations and you’d be somewhere around the 1,200-year mark! Between us all, it would probably be safe to say that we know a thing or two about developing a premium Australian wine. We share a deep respect for the past, as well as for the land on which we work. As the generations move forward, this love of the soil and desire to work sustainably continues to grow. When we meet and chat together about great loves of our life (family, the land, and winemaking excellence), the AFFW members have the opportunity to showcase and discuss the ins and outs of our growing, sourcing and production practices. Being together in a room with a dozen or more of Australia’s premium wine colleagues allows all of us to learn and share, and to stay at the edge of innovative excellence in wine craft.

Yet like any extended family, each member of AFFW has their own unique way of doing things. Strong and proud in our own individual legacies, the winemaking families maintain the integrity and signature character of their own wines. In everything we do at Taylors, our dedication to respecting the fruit enables us to capture and present the extraordinary qualities of our Clare Valley region within each bottle. Whether imbibing a delicious red from our Estate range, or looking for clever blends throughout our other selections, we’re confident that our particular way of doing things here in the Clare will sing through in every glass. Look, as we said – we’re close with our AFFW colleagues; but we’d be kidding if we didn’t admit that there’s sometimes a little whiff of competitiveness in the room at the group’s get-togethers! And we reckon that this friendly rivalry is just fine – it helps us all to keep our edge, once we’re back at the winery.

AFFW launch in Sydney 2009

 

Stories for the grandkids

It’s not just Taylors and the other 11 families who feel drawn to preserve the rich and varied history of Australia’s wine culture. In watching the First Families come together in 2009, others in the community noticed and celebrated our commitment to Australian wine. Graeme Lofts for example penned the fascinating Heart and Soul in 2010, a well-researched book of tales following the lives and journeys of AFFW families. For each of the families, you can see the hard work and sometimes the heartache that can go into the creation of premium quality wines. And we believe life is all about unique stories – stories of people, challenges, places and celebrations. We’re certain that bringing together tales and expertise of Australia’s First Families of Wine allows the world to better understand and become inspired by Australia’s outstanding wine heritage.

We think that in sharing our stories, our dreams and our techniques with our family, with the broader AFFW community (and of course with you!) we’re doing our bit to foster excellence in Australian winemaking for generations to come. And we’re looking forward to sharing more as we go along.

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