TAYLORS WINNING RECIPE FOR SUCCESS
“We’ve always been quiet achievers,”
says managing director and third generation winemaker Mitchell Taylor.
WHATEVER you think about winemakers putting show results on their labels, it is nonetheless quite impressive to come across a wine shop shelf containing a shiraz with no less than eight gold medals on proud display, two of them either double or blue-gold, and priced at a very modest $16.
That was for a Taylors 2018 Clare Valley shiraz. So it comes as no surprise at all that Taylors 2018 Aldi Special Release Clare Valley Shiraz (RRP $16) – much the same wine with a little McLaren Vale fruit – has been given five stars by Winestate’s expert panel and rated one of this issue’s best buys.
Perhaps even more impressive for a winery whose star has always seemed to shine a little less brightly than some of its more prominent or glamourous regional stablemates, is the consistently high rating given to much more of its portfolio, with its 2018 Taylor Made Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot Malbec Cabernet Franc blend also winning five stars, along with its 2019 Clare Valley Merlot, while several of the company’s cabernet sauvignons, a malbec and an Adelaide Hills chardonnay all rated highly also.
So, do the folk at Taylors Wines feel a bit under-appreciated and have they been hiding their light under a bushel, if that’s not too complicated a procedure for a winery?
“We’ve always been quiet achievers,” says managing director and third generation winemaker Mitchell Taylor. The fact, too, that the family company is based in Sydney rather than being domiciled in the Clare Valley, perhaps adds to the reason that, unlike the Barry family, or the Henschke’s or Hill-Smith’s in the Barossa, the Taylor family hasn’t become synonymous with the wine region.
Yet like those other three family names, the Taylor family is an equally worthy member of the 12 (currently 10) Australia’s First Families of Wine: “Family wineries like us have to stand up for the quality of the Australian wine industry,” he says, “and, unlike some, take a long term view of what we stand for.”
Although in some ways it’s a relative newcomer to the Clare region, having arrived only in 1969, it has already established a great deal of heritage and family history – and an extraordinary wine portfolio that extends all the way from the entry level Promised Land, through a commercial level Hotelier range, the Estate/Aldi level that won all those stars, the Jaraman regional blend and another four ranges above culminating in the Visionary and Pioneer ranges at around $200 a bottle, and finally the pinnacle, Legacy – a single Clare Valley cabernet sauvignon limited to 1080 bottles and priced at $1000.
The fact that some of these wines haven’t been around for decades, such as Grange or Hill of Grace, has also had an impact on their lack of public recognition, though it hasn’t stopped the gongs from piling up proving that history or provenance doesn’t always guarantee what’s in the bottle.
“My grandfather (Bill Taylor Snr) had a vision to craft a great wine that could rival the famous wines of Bordeaux,” Mitchell Taylor says. “To achieve this goal, he knew he would need the perfect plot of land with the ideal climate. When he landed in the Clare Valley, he quickly discovered its potential to grow exceptional cabernet sauvignon.”
In 2018, that vision became reality as The Visionary 2014, the fifth release of the wine, was crowned World’s Best Cabernet at the Concours International des Cabernet, a major competition held in France and judged by the country’s leading sommeliers.
“It was surreal,” Taylor says. “The wine we crafted to stand up against some of the best in the world going on to take the title for World’s Best Cabernet in the place where our family journey began.”
Bill Taylor Snr was a prominent publican and wine wholesaler in Sydney with a passion for great wines, especially cabernet sauvignon. Impatient when winemakers ran out of the wine he wanted to buy, he decided to get into the business of making his own and saw the potential of the Clare region.
Local legend Jim Barry helped him find the site for his first vineyard in 1969. Expansion soon beckoned: his neighbour to the east had a beautiful patch of land with gentle rolling hills and terra rossa soils perfect for grape growing. Bill struck a deal that he’d be the one to purchase the land should the neighbour ever decide to sell it, which he did 20 years later. It would be forever known as ‘The Promised Land’.
Bill also recognised the potential of the adjacent St. Andrews property, first established in 1892, and until 1934 a major wine producer, when it was sold and ceased production. Taylor bought it in 1995, replanted the vines and the first Taylors St Andrews wines, now its flagship range, was released in 1999.
Mitchell Taylor works with his brothers Justin as export director, Clinton as general manager and father Bill as deputy chairman, as the second and third generations to run the winery, which has now won multiple environmental awards, and been named one of the ‘Top 5 Wineries in the World’ by the World Association of Wine Writers and Journalists for 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 – and in 2017 the world’s top winery based on global wine show awards.
“For us it’s all about consistency,” Mitchell says, “not just having some luck in one wine show.”
Meanwhile, those little gold stickers on their bottles keep piling up. Under-appreciated? Probably not.