Thursday, October 28, 2010

Australia’s First Families of Wine (AFFW)

The Families of this venture are (in alphabetical order): Brown Brothers, Campbells, d’Arenberg, De Bortoli, Henschke, Howard Park, Jim Barry, McWilliam’s, Tahbilk, Taylors, Tyrrell’s and Yalumba. Together, the Families represent 17 wine growing regions across Australia and have more than 1200 years of experience in winemaking and 48 generations of winemakers.

The aim of AFFW is to showcase a representative and diverse range of the best of Australian wines, working to engage consumers, retailers, restaurateurs and the wine industry across the globe. Most importantly, it aims to highlight the real character and personality of top quality Australian wine, and about the unique characters and personalities behind it.

Membership is not restricted to the existing 12 wineries, and other wineries with similar aims and histories would be welcome to join provided they satisfy various criteria. These are: being family controlled (in a legal sense); having history of at least two (preferably three) generations involved in the business; the ability to offer a tasting of at least 20 vintages of one or more iconic brands; ownership of established vineyards more than 50 years old and/or distinguished sites that exemplify the best of terroir; a commitment to environmental best practice in vineyards, wineries and packaging; and long-term commitment to export markets. There are one or two other requirements as well.

In Melbourne last night AFFW had a dinner on the 89th Level of Eureka Tower to celebrate its first birthday, preceded by the launch of Heart & Soul, a brilliantly researched, written and produced book telling the stories of each of the 12 Families. The author is Graeme Lofts who, contrary to my expectation, was not commissioned by the AFFW to write the book; rather, he conceived the idea of it after attending the inaugural event at the Opera House in Sydney a year ago. Published by John Wiley & Sons Australia, Ltd, its 343 pages are printed in full colour on high-quality paper stock, making the RRP of $39.95 thoroughly justified. The photographs, both contemporary and ancient, constantly enliven the book, which is compelling reading once you open the cover. It is full of anecdotes, insights, tragedies and triumphs, and doesn’t gloss over the occasional period of unhappiness in one or other of the Families. The underlying theme is the ability of these families to pick themselves up off the floor no matter how hard the elements try to defeat them, or financial crises beset them.

By virtue of my long friendship with almost all of the members, attending many wine events organised by them over the past 40 years, reading books previously published about them, and some research I undertook for various books I have written, I found some of the incidents quite fascinating, especially those which I had no idea of.

So today I ask questions which are answered in the book, the answers to be posted tomorrow.

Why did the Smith family that founded Yalumba change its name to Hill Smith?
What was Yalumba’s Brandivino?
How many consecutive vintages did Dan Tyrrell make?
Am I related to the Tyrrell family?
Eric Purbrick of Tahbilk came to Australia with qualifications as an accountant, and as a barrister, having been admitted to the Inner Temple in London to practise as a barrister, with an additional Master of Arts Degree. When he enlisted in the Australian Army in 1939, what rank was he given?
Vittorio De Bortoli arrived in Australia in 1924 to start a new life with only a few coins in his pocket. How long was it before his fiancée Giuseppina saved enough money to be able to join Vittorio in Australia?
What was the most notable feature of Vittorio?

I could go on and on, but tomorrow’s answers will hopefully pique your interest.

The book is available through good bookstores.


Anonymous said...
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Chris said...

This is a very interesting idea. I hope it will give these producers, as well as other smaller wineries, the chance to show what they can do! I am afraid that they are not taken seriously and are being tainted with the same image as the corporate bulk wine producers. I hope it works as there is some fantastic quality wine being made by these wineries!

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