Nov 6th 2015

Australia's First Famillies of Wine featured on Drinks Trade

In 2009, 12 of Australia's leading family owned Australian wineries came together to form Australia's First Families of Wine (AFFW). Together, the 12 represent generations of winemaking, which have not only upheld the Australian wine industry, but have driven it to where it is today.

The group formed to celebrate and share their story. Spanning 16 of Australia's infamous wine regions and four states, here, and in coming issues, drinks trade helps these families' stories to be heard, speaking of their heritage, history, the custodians of their lands and the future of these family businesses - the next generation.


Back in the mid-nineteenth century, thousands flocked to thenorth east of Victoria in pursuit of the region's gold.

People travelled across the globe in hope of changing fortunes,but the majority that came, left empty handed. For those that stayedhowever, the local land and agriculture became their way of life.

One such man was John Campbell, a Scottish immigrant, who, uponnoticing the success winegrowers were having with the soil and climate of Rutherglen, also turned his hand to winemaking.

Named after a nearby goldmine John had worked on, in 1870 the first vineyard, Bobbie Burns was planted - sowing the foundations for Campbells Rutherglen Wines.

The future looked prosperous, and in 1885 John finished the construction of the cellar. Soon after John had finished the build however, phylloxera hit the region and devastated vineyards.

Nevertheless, following his father's pioneering spirit, John's son David successfully began replanting in the west of Rutherglen by grafting European wine grape varieties onto phylloxera resistant American rootstocks. David's son, Allen, was next to join the business and took over the reins with his wife, Isabel, in 1933, and in the 1960s, their two sons, Malcolm and Colin also joined the business.

Pictured above is the Campbells family.

Malcolm took over the management of the pastoral and vineyard side of the property, while Colin, having completed his Diploma of Oenology at Roseworthy, took over as fourth generation winemaker. Malcolm and Colin have undertaken extensive vineyard replanting and development in the winery, and as a result have received numerous awards

Colin and Malcolm among the vines for their wines, while Campbells Rutherglen Wines has evolved into one of Australia's most successful family-owned wineries.

Malcolm went on to marry his wife Jenny and had three children- Andrew, Donna and Roger. Colin also married to Prue and had three children - Jane, Susie and Julie.

A first in the Campbells' history, all of Colin and Prue's girls also joined the family business, today Campbells of Rutherglen -Jane as Campbells' Cellar Door and Events Manager, Susie as Marketing Manager and Julie "Jules" the fifth generation winemaker.

As the youngest of the three, Jules remembers following her father around the vineyards and winery, interested in how the wines were made. Likening it to "magic", Jules would watch Colin in the laboratory, mesmerised by all the bubbles, samples and tanks.

It was here that Jules says her desire to do something similar was triggered and in between school and university, she spent a student exchange year in France and assisted with vintage in St. Emilion.

Jules completed a Bachelor of Agricultural Science with a major in Oenology at Adelaide University and graduated with honours. She then went on to complete several vintages around the world prior to returning home.

Currently, after a near 45 yearsof winemaking, Colin is gradually handing over to Jules, and soon she will become custodian of Campbells' style.

Core to Colin's winemaking philosophy is the quality of fruit Jules says; something that will remain imperative to hers. "Dad has always been a believer that the fruit in wine is much more important than any secondary thing like oak or lees contact. It's a criteria Dad set around 20 years ago and it's a style that works, and one that I wish to uphold." As for the next generation, of their three sons, Jules and her husband Cameron Ashmead of Elderton Wines hope at least one will choose to follow in similar footsteps.


Pictured above is the De Bortoli family.

In the early 1920s, in the aftermath of the First World War in Europe, childhood sweethearts Vittorio and Giuseppina De Bortoli left their home in Northern Italy to establish new roots in the south of New South Wales, in Bilbul, Riverina.

By 1928, Vittorio had saved up enough money to purchase a local 55-acre mixed 'fruit salad' farm. Vittorio worked hard to redevelop the land, and soon new vines had been planted and De Bortoli Wines was ready for business. While Giuseppina managed the books, Vittorio concentrated on production, and within only a few years, 25,000 gallons of commercial wine were being made at De Bortoli Wines.

Soon, Vittorio and Giuseppina had six additional hands to help at the winery - their three children Florrie, Eola and Deen, who joined the business at the age of 15.

With a love of technology and machinery, and a vision to make wine for a large commercial market, Deen began to look at ways to further expansion.

In 1959, after only seven years of Deen's involvement, the winery's production had significantly risen to a capacity of 795,000 gallons. Deen married Emeri in 1958 and together they have 4 children; Darren, Leanne, Kevin and Victor. Deen lived to celebrate De Bortoli Wines' 75th anniversary in 2003, but sadly passed away shortly afterwards.

Today, De Bortoli Wines is overseen by the third and current generation, with Leanne believing that it was always Deen's wish for the business to be passed onto and managed by his four children. Darren is Managing Director, while Leanne, with her husband and renowned winemaker Steve Webber, manage the Yarra Valley estate.

Kevin is the Company Viticulturist and Victor is Export Manager. Growing up on the winery, Leanne says it was a natural step for her and her brothers to join the family business.

Spending school holidays working across different areas of the winery, Leanne soon found her feet in the cellar door. Helping out with casual duties, Leanne remembers how much she enjoyed meeting with customers and introducing them to her family's wine.

At the time Leanne and her three brothers began to establish their roles, the business was undergoing an exciting period of growth and De Bortoli Wines' flagship Noble One was changing the way consumers were thinking about premium sweet wines.

Inspired by the interest the new style of wine had created and in search of other ideas, Leanne went off to Roseworthy College to study Wine Marketing.

At the family's Yarra Valley Estate, Leanne and Steve continue to develop and push the boundaries with new varietals and the opportunities for growth in the premium arm of the business.

Primarily Steve manages the vineyard and winery, whilst Leanne oversees the Cellar Door and restaurant activities.

They both have constant interaction with the many visitors through the Estate including hosting tastings and lunches with customers, retailers, wine writers and restaurateurs.

Today there are 13 children in the next generation, of which the eldest is Leanne's daughter Kate. Leanne, Darren, Kevin and Victor are therefore currently working on succession plans to ensure the business' future remains within family hands.

The third generation would like to see the next genners achieve the right qualifications and experience before entering the business; hopefully gaining a degree in something that interests them and working outside of the company for a time before coming back into the family fold.

Leanne says she can't wait to see the next generation succeed and hopes that they endure the wonders of being part of a family business just as she has.

Surrounded by people who are supportive and willing to give things a go, is what Leanne says being part of such a business is all about. "We're making decisions which are for the longer-term", Leanne says. "Even with some of the varieties we plant, we're choosing those that we feel are right for the region, rather than those that are strictly commercial." "Semper ad Majora", Leanne adds, "it's our family motto". Meaning "to strive for better", this is the legacy Leanne says underpins the family business in everything that they do and one that she will hold onto for future generations to come.

Article originally sourced Drinks Trade, National, General News, page 58