Using the expertise o
of six generations to create award-winning wines
owadays, Australia is known to be one of the world’s largest exporters of wine. There are more than 60 designated wine regions across every state, with most of the 160,000 hectares in the southern regions which benefit from a cooler climate. In 1857, when Samuel McWilliam arrived in Melbourne from Northern Ireland, wine making was still very new in Australia. It was 20 years later when he planted his first vines on land by the banks of the Murray River in Corowa, New South Wales. His vision to build a winery was in full swing when he retired in 1891, and later Sunnyside Vineyard was passed on to his children, John James, Thomas and Eliza Jane. Over the last 139 years the winery has spanned through generations of the family as it created vineyards in Junee and the Griffith region. From those humble beginnings, the family winery has grown from strength to strength, with each generation passing down traditions and expert knowledge to the next. As the winery has expanded, McWilliam’s vineyards in premium wine regions across New South Wales, including the Riverina, Hilltops, Tumbarumba, Canberra and Orange. The family has always wanted to be true to Samuel McWilliam’s faith in the value of the New South Wales land and climate. In this vein, it continues to lead and increase the growth of the local wine industry. The McWilliam family appreciates that the quality of the fruit is an element not to be compromised. Using the finest fruit possible has allowed the brand to develop a distinct an award-winning taste that has become one of the most favoured in Australia.
RECENT HISTORY Until the 1970s, Australian wine production consisted largely of sweet and fortified wines. As tastes changed, McWilliams adapted its approach to focus not only on specialty wines but premium table wines. Back then, pioneering wineries such as McWilliam’s prospered thanks to a huge influx of European immigrants who helped to change Australia’s attitude towards alcohol from mainly liquors and spirits to incorporate quality wines. McWilliam’s has remained a family operation and under the leadership of family members like Glen McWilliam continued to thrive throughout the second half of the 20th century. Glen was responsible for the introduction and trial of varietals previously unknown to the Griffith region. He also led the way in developing the technology that would make the harvesting and production of table wines in a hot climate, such as the Riverina, possible. The Riverina is now synonymous with botrytis style wine, but the first was McWilliam’s 1958 Pedro Sauternes. They were pioneers of the region. By 1987, Australia was exporting 5,500,000 gallons of wine around the world. The increasingly heightened demand for McWilliam’s wines has meant there has been an increased need for diversity in sourcing fruit. The company has now expanded to other wine growing regions across South-East Australia.
THE MCWILLIAM’S FOOTPRINT One of the unique factors that makes McWilliam’s such an iconic brand is its wide range of wines which caters for all kinds of tastes and occasions. The brand’s New South Wales vineyards embody Australia’s varied landscape. The weather conditions, geography and soil are some of the key factors that inevitably leave their footprint across each bottle of wine. McWilliam’s other brands are Evans & Tate and Mount Pleasant, and its winemaking philosophy remains the same. “The McWilliam’s winemaking philosophy centres on the quality of fruit and this means that there must be an intimate understanding across all regions of the complex relationship that exists between the land, the climate and the winemaker,” says McWilliam’s. The brand produces grapes in five different vineyard regions: Riverina, Hilltops, Orange, Tumbarumba and Canberra. Riverina’s tropical climate produces a range of quality mainstream varietals like Shiraz and Chardonnay as well as quality dessert wines. Hilltops’ cool climate makes premium wines, while Orange is best known for a world-class Sauvignon Blanc. Tumbarumba’s unique alpine location produces premium sparkling wines, as well as cool-climate Pinot Noir and Chardonnay table wines, and Canberra is one of the most promising emerging wine regions of NSW, producing world class Shiraz and Chardonnay.
MCWILLIAM’S FUTURE After undergoing a period of restructuring the brand’s portfolio, McWilliam’s took the step of appointing Jeff McWilliam as CEO in May this year. It was around that time that McWilliam’s received confirmation of government funding to help bring their bottling operation to Griffith, with nearly 100 jobs binge created in the process. The 8,000 pallet warehouse and installation of a bottling line and centralised distribution facility in Griffith began earlier this year. McWilliam’s is one of 12 brands that are part of the Australia’s First Families of Wine initiative, which
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represents the16 Australian regions internationally. The families came together to tell the world about the heritage of Australia’s premium wines and to share the stories behind them, and wine exports continue to perform well in US and UK markets in particular. For McWilliam’s, it has always been about making wine. It’s about having a deep love for the land, says Chief Winemaker Scott McWilliam. “We believe that the role of the winemaker is to nurture and protect the vines for the best quality grapes and the best product,” he says. It is that philosophy which McWilliam’s is set upon, and why it looks set to do so for generations to come.
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