One of the most respected wine groups in Australia is known as the First Families of Wine. It corresponds to the European Primum Familiae Vini and the New Zealand Family of Twelve.
This year, the Chairman of the AFFW is Mitchell Taylor, whose forebears formerly wine merchants in Sydney bought land on the Wakefield River in the Clare Valley in South Australia in 1969. His grandfather Bill Taylor Snr and sons Bill and John were passionate about the great First Growth clarets of France and decided to have their shot at producing comparable cabernets Downunder.
In this charming district with a 150-year history of viticulture, their efforts were soon rewarded.
The choice of site with red loam over limestone (terra rossa), the Valley’s elevation with its warm days and cool nights and their dedication to their chosen grape paid off.
The first vintage from 1973 won the Montgomery Trophy at the Royal Adelaide Wine Show and went on the win Gold Medals in every show in which it was entered.
Success ensured growth and their area under grapes today is 400 hectares.
In 1995 they purchased the historic St Andrews vineyard and winery built in 1892.
In the course of this expansion workman digging a dam uncovered fossilized seahorses indicating the area was once beneath an ocean. Taylors adopted three entwined seahorses as their family symbol, one for each generation.
Their wines are now enthusiastically savoured around the world. In the UK the wines are marketed under the Wakefield label, as their name is reserved for another famous wine family, the Taylors of Portugal.
Last year saw the launch of the pinnacle of their homage to ‘claret’.
Mitchell says: “This is a very special wine for us. It truly sums up that original vision of an estate grown and bottled cabernet. Nearly fifty years ago no one in this country had committed so much to one variety. It displays what Clare does so well for us. Lovely blackberry and blackcurrant with that silky integrated layering.”
The wine is described by English wine writer Matthew Jukes as: “A remarkable wine. The resonance and lift of fruit on the palate in this glorious cabernet are captivating.”
Knowing they had succeeded with a rare and outstanding wine the family also decided to release just ten Imperials. These are six litre bottles each presented in a bespoke cabinet crafted from a single piece of Tasmanian blackwood. Fittings are rhodium plated and each bottle comes with a hand-sewn booklet detailed the making of the wine and a series of specially commissioned photographs of its journey. A small separate case contains the key to the main cabinet. All is designed to protect the contents safely into the second half of this century when the wine should be drinking well. As Mitchell Taylor says: “There is not another table wine packaged to this level of sophistication and luxury anywhere in the world.” The Imperials are on display at the winery and at exclusive retailers in China and London.
Each is priced at $5000. Five have been sold.