South Australia’s wine grape harvest is just finishing at the moment and, at this time of the year, I frequently find myself stuck behind one of these enormous harvesters on the road as they move from vineyard to vineyard. However, a couple of weeks ago I was thrilled to be sitting up front, in the cab of a tractor in the Clare Valley as it pulled this beast through a vineyard, picking Taylors Wines shiraz.
Taylors Wines is is a family-owned winery which began three generations ago. Back in 1969 Bill Taylor Snr and his sons Bill and John set out to find the perfect piece of land to realise their dream of crafting wines of the highest quality. The combination of warm days and cool nights in the Clare Valley and the red brown loam over limestone of the region convinced them that they had found the right spot. It didn’t take long for their decision to be confirmed when they entered their first ever vintage release in the Royal Adelaide Wine Show and it took home the coveted Montgomery Trophy for best red wine in show .
Today there are still four members of the Taylor family, Mitchell, Justin, Clinton and Bill, actively involved in the winery and they are still producing award winning wines, with the winery being awarded a coveted 5 red stars by leading Australian wine writer James Halliday. Over the years they have gradually increased their land-holding in the Clare Valley and Taylors Wines is now grown over 600 hectares of the 800 hectares they own. This includes, in part, the historic St. Andrews vineyard which was first planted in 1892.
Today Taylors Wines produces around 600,000 cases of wine annually and processes 8,000 tonnes of grapes per year in their extensive modern winery. The winery has enormous capacity giving Adam Eggins, their chief winemaker, the maximum amount of options and choices when it comes to producing their award-winning range. Adam is keen to focus on gentle handling of the grapes at every stage, adopting the best technology around to get the most from his fruit. He uses a large imported press to extract the juice from the white wine grapes rather than a crusher and employs a gas mixing technique to mix the ferment in the enormous steel tanks. The learning curve on the latter technology was not without it’s early, slightly exciting, hiccoughs as the staff at Taylors learned to regulate the pressure.
Taylors immense barrel hall holds 6,000 French and American oak barrels with over 60% of the wine being aged in the French oak. The winery has much prized access to some very exclusive French oak which is being used for their chardonnay. Adam also intends to use this a little later for their mid-range, aiming to significantly raise the profile of Clare Valley chardonnay.
Taylors range is diverse, with something for every palate, from the affordable, fun and approachable Promised Land selection, to their Eighty Acres which was the world’s first range of 100% carbon neutral wine range, on to The Estate wines which are the Taylors family’s founding range, then The Jaraman which combines parcels of fruit from two iconic wine regions in Australia. At the top of their range is St. Andrews from the historic vineyards and which has become a benchmark for premium quality wines and The Visionary – Taylors pinnacle release and most ambitious wine to date, named in honour of third generation Managing Director Mitchell Taylor’s grandfather, Bill Taylor Senior. Price does not always tell the whole story of their wines, though, and it was the affordable 2010 Promised Land Shiraz which just this last week took out the Australian Wine of the Year trophy at the China Wine and Spirits Best Value Awards.
The entire range of Taylors Wines is, of course, available at their cellar door, but for those who are completely passionate about wine and the winery experience Taylors offer a special treat. For $25 per person wine enthusiasts can book a winery tour (on weekends and public holidays). The tour includes a guided tour of the winery, an overview of how wine is made, tastings straight from the barrel with the crowning experience being the chance to be your own wine maker. They’ll walk you through the art of blending and show you how to produce your own wine, which you can then take home to share (or not!) later.
The Clare Valley is just a two hour drive from Adelaide and one of the oldest wine producing regions in this country. There are now some really splendid dining options available throughout the Valley and no shortage of fine food to go with all of that wonderful wine. If you are looking for an excuse to visit the Clare Valley, look no further – the annual Clare Valley Gourmet Weekend is coming up on the 17th & 18th of May, 2014, and promises to be extra special this year as it celebrates it’s 30th anniversary. So what are you waiting for?!
Lambs’ Ears and Honey was a guest of Taylors Wines for this visit to the Clare Valley.