2019 is a special year for Taylors, officially marking fifty years of this family owned Clare Valley winery producing some of Australia’s most awarded wines. After many years of perseverance and tenacity, third-generation Managing Director and winemaker Mitchell Taylor reminisces on some of the defining moments for Taylors, and how a bold idea has developed into the fine Taylors wines we enjoy today.
IT ALL STARTED WITH A VISION
Originally hoteliers from Sydney in the 1950s, Bill Taylor Snr and his two wons embarked on a journey to source great wines for his venues and their guests. The family was in awe of the great Chateaus in France and the style of wines from the Bordeaux region, so they set out with a vision to craft wines from Australia that would rival the world’s best. This eventually led to the Taylor family establishing their renowned Clare Valley winery in 1969, based on a road trip that Bill originally undertook with fellow Clare Valley stalwart, Jim Barry on the 20th of July.
Thanks to the combination of successful elements such as having the right variety planted in the right place (the Clare Valley is ideal for growing premium Cabernet Sauvignon) the first vintage of Cabernet Sauvignon was a huge success, garnering a gold medal at every national wine show entered. It’s a story the family fondly share and served to set them on the path to success. Looking back now, Mitchell Taylor recalls how his grandfather’s original vision was one that garnered disbelief from many people at the time.
“Fifty years ago, we did something many people thought was crazy or brave, or both! … we got out of the pub business and jumped, boots and all, into making premium wines.”
FROM LITTLE THINGS BIG THINGS GROW
They say the proof is in the pudding; in the late 70s, less than a decade into their new venture, Taylors became regarded as the go to drop by a devoted following of Australian wine drinkers. However, the family’s journey was not without challenge.
Though Australians consumers eventually came to embrace red table wines, in the early days, sales were slow in comparison to fortified wines – which was the more popular tipple. Then in the 80s the medical establishment declared red wines to be unhealthy (can you believe it!) The Taylor family found themselves at a crossroads and to remain in business, they needed to entertheburgeoning white wine market Mitchell tells the story of seeing his father, Bill Taylor, weeping openly as large sections of the vineyard planted to Cabernet Sauvignon were grafted over to Riesling. Nevertheless, he remained committed to his original vision and Taylors’ continued to craft red wines, alongside the white to national and international acclaim, with their first international Gold Medal win at the Bristol Wine Show in London in 1980.
The 90s heralded an era of rapid growth for Taylors. The vineyards expanded significantly with the purchase of the property adjacent to the original vineyard (a vineyard that came to be known as the “Promised land”, and if you think it sounds familiar, you’d be right) Most significantly, the family purchased the neighbouring historic St Andrews vineyard in 1995 and set about immediately to the task of recreating history with the plan to launch a Taylors St Andrews wine.
PASSING THE BATON
It was the late 90s when Bill Taylor decided to pass the baton to his sons – Mitchell, Justin and Clinton Taylor, who all have key roles in the organisation and who not only have nurtured, but expanded their grandfather’s original vision.
After many years of planning and winemaking trials, to celebrate this special anniversary the family have released a wine that boldly embodies their founding purpose – The Legacy 2014 – a tribute to the family’s past, a treasure for the future, and one that establishes a new benchmark for the next generation in the family business.
“When we talk about the wines that inspired the founding of Taylors in 1969, this is a special reminder of the powerful elegance that my father and grandfather aimed to achieve all those years ago,” Mitchell says. “It really is a joy to see just how far our family business has come in creating a style that internationally can stand up against some of the best.”
While the 50th is a celebration of the past, Mitchell admits that the brothers’ eyes remain firmly fixed on the future; “We are merely generational custodians of the business heritage. We have been honoured to stand on the shoulders of the visionaries and pioneers before us.”
So here’s to celebrating Bill Taylor Snr’s tenacious spirit, for without it, a bold idea and a winemaking family’s legacy may have remained in the realm of imagination.