Iconic Winemaking Families Take a Stand for Quality Australian Wines

October 6, 2009 Updated: November 27, 2010

SYDNEY—Some of Australia’s top winemaking families have taken a stand against the industrialisation of their industry with a campaign to promote quality Australian wine overseas.

The campaign, titled “Australian First Families of Wine” (AFFW), was launched Tuesday September 1 at the Sydney Opera House by Tony Burke, the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.

Mr Burke said Australian wines had developed a reputation overseas as being good quaffing wines, but this needed to expand to include top quality wines.

“This is about exporting higher value wines, rather than just a high volume of wines,” Mr Burke said.

According to the Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation, Australia has grown from being a net importer of wines in the 1980s to an exporter of 2.5 million bottles of wine daily, at a value of $2.8 billion annually.

The 12 winemaking families involved in the campaign represent Australian regions across four states – Brown Brothers (Victoria), Campbells (Victoria), d’Arenberg (South Australia), De Bortoli (NSW), Henschke (South Australia), Howard Park (Western Australia), Jim Barry (South Australia), McWilliam’s (NSW), Tahbilk (Victoria), Taylors (South Australia), Tyrrell’s (NSW) and Yalumba (South Australia).

Together, they own more than 5500 hectares of Australia’s finest vineyards and have over 1200 years of winemaking experience under their belts.

Redefining Image

Australian wine is branded cheaply in the United Kingdom and North America, says Susie Campbell from Campbells, but when quality wine is required, consumers look towards Europe.

“People buy wine at two for $10 in the UK, but when they are looking for a special occasion, they go towards French wines rather than to Australian,” she told The Epoch Times.

Campbells, situated in the famous wine making region of Rutherglen, has been making wine for 150 years and is best known for its fortified wines like muscats and Tokays.

Ms Campbell said Australia has “amazing” regional and varietal wines with unique character, but those “heritage” stories were not being told.

“We need to put a bit of personality back into Australian wines,” she said.

The campaign, which was first mooted in 2006, has been a pet project of Alister Purbrick, custodian of the 150-year-old Goulburn River winery, Tahbilk.

A fourth generation winemaker and now chairman of the AFFW, Mr Purbrick said: “The wine industry’s exports to the UK and US are declining in overall value and price per litre. Competing purely on price is not sustainable and is not a long-term competitive advantage.

“The AFFW will showcase the passion, quality and character of our wine brands that can compete against the world’s best and win!”.

James Halliday, Australia’s leading wine authority said of the new group: “The challenges for Australia are clear enough. What 'Australia’s First Families of Wine' can and will do is turn words into actions, ambitions into concrete results.”

The new AFFW logo will adorn selected bottles of each winery’s best-known wines and the group plans to launch into the European market in May 2010.