Australia’s First Families of Wine

Published by Sally on October 5, 2009

For a quarter of a century, Australian wine has been the blue-eyed boy of UK consumers who loved the ‘sunshine in a bottle’ appeal of bright and fruity, though increasingly cheap-as-chips, wines.

But in recession-hit times the love affair is beginning to wear thin, so it wouldn’t necessarily seem like the best time for a group of wine producers to start a campaign focusing on posh Aussie wines from different parts of Australia, when most of what we’ve been used to is stuff from that ubiquitous catch-all location ‘South Eastern Australia’.

Australia's First Families of Wine group

Australia’s First Families of Wine group

Nonetheless, this is exactly what a dozen family-owned companies have done.  It’s true to say that Australia doesn’t just produce consistent, entry level wines for everyday drinking. Among the 7,000 or so growers there are plenty more than a handful making sometimes exquisite expressions of site and variety – though at a cost that most Brits have so far been rarely willing to pay.

This ‘bevvy’ of twelve families (twelve being the magic number in wine – one each in a case?) have come together to jointly market their wines, and show us exactly what makes them distinct from the modern-day versions of 70s fashion clinks ‘kanga rouge’ and ‘wallaby white’.

Proudly calling themselves Australia’s First Families of Wine (AFFW), these guys plan to spend at least AUD$500 million to show that Aussie wines can have real character and individuality, can express the place where they’re grown and made, and the varieties from which they’re made.

The French might have called this terroir, the Aussies call it ‘regionality’.

The aim is to create a whole new image on the global stage for the section of the Aussie wine industry for which such regionality provides a key marker in their winemaking ethos.

Together the twelve own over 5,000 hectares of Australian vineyard, which is about 3% of the country’s total vineyard area. Between them they have over 1,200 years of winemaking experience.

The UK is the initial target market for First Families’ activities, starting in 2010, and I was interviewed about the UK market as part of an ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) Radio package about the first families’ initiative.

Listen to the ABC Radio package (3 mins 45 secs):


A draft plan of action to increase awareness based on consumer sampling and education opportunities is due to be finalised in early November 2009.

The founding members of the AFFW are:
Brown Brothers (Victoria)
Campbells (Victoria)
d’Arenberg (South Australia)
De Bortoli (New South Wales)
Henschke (South Australia)
Howard Park (Western Australia)
Jim Barry (South Australia)
McWilliam’s (New South Wales)
Tahbilk (Victoria)
Taylors (South Australia) – called Wakefield in the UK, something to do with a Port company…
Tyrrell’s (New South Wales)
Yalumba (South Australia)

The Australians are not the first to create high profile joint marketing groups.  Primum Familiae Vini has been around for a number of years. More recently a group from New Zealand have joined together, as well as some key producers from Italy who make Amarone.  I’ll publish something about these other groups soon.

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