[Sponsored article by Rathbone Family Wine Group]
In the relatively short period of 200 years, the Australian wine industry has grown exponentially, from a few small plantings to a giant industry renowned throughout the world. Today, Australia is one of the biggest wine producing countries in the world.
The first vines imported from Europe date back to the 18th century, and the sector kept growing until today, making Australian wine industry a giant.
The industry is stronger than ever, employing thousands. Australia’s wine industry has become a lifestyle for many Australians and winery tours a must for tourists.
There are about 60 wine-producing regions throughout Australia. Vineyards in South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales produce most of Australia’s wine, with Tasmania, Queensland and southwest Western Australia also contributing well-recognized products.
One of the biggest wine producers in Australia is with no doubt the Rathbone Family.
Wine has always played a special part in the Rathbone family whether it at the family table or on special occasions. Although contemplating the idea of becoming wine producers it wasn’t until 1995 that they put their dream into reality with the purchase of a vegetable farm in the Yarra Valley that soon became the Laura Barnes Vineyard. With the family’s background in agriculture and manufacturing and their passion for the wine industry it wasn’t long before they expanded their interests and purchased Yering Station in 1996. This natural progression, coupled with a combination of family talents, allowed them to develop a business around quality wine. From here they were able to expand their vineyards, construct a state-of-the-art winery and create a tourist destination.
In 2002 the Rathbone family decided to expand the family business and began to look for wineries that would complement Yering Station in exceptional quality yet differ in style. Later that year they purchased Mount Langi Ghiran in the Grampians, invested in new winemaking facilities and hired a new Chief Winemaker. Mount Langi Ghiran is renowned for its exceptional and distinctive cool climate Shiraz, as well as producing excellent Cabernet, Riesling and Pinot Gris. In 2004, they purchased Parker Estate, Coonawarra, a winery with a reputation for excellent cabernet production. Having established themselves in the Yarra Valley, Western Victoria and Coonawarra, Margaret River was the next region to capture their attention. In 2005 they saw the potential in Xanadu Estate and transformed it into the award winning winery it is today.
Today the Rathbone family is committed to producing wines of quality and distinction and providing an environment that allows its passionate young teams to thrive.
The Scottish-born Ryrie brothers ventured into the Yarra Valley, acquiring 43,000 acres and naming the land ‘Yering’, its Aboriginal name. The brothers planted two grape varieties but primarily used the land for their cattle. During the early 1850s Paul de Castella took ownership of Yering Station and began developing from what remained primarily a cattle station into a landmark of winemaking in Victoria.
For years the Yering Station vineyard was one of the largest in the area, and visitors and holidaymakers to the Yarra Valley increased. Wines from this new region began to make their mark on the world, with Yering taking out awards such as the Argus Gold Cup for best Victorian Vineyard in 1861 and a Grand Prix at the Universal Exhibition in Paris in 1889, where only fourteen awards were ever presented internationally.
After changing hands several times throughout the early-to-mid 1900s, Yering Station was purchased by the Rathbone family in 1996. The Rathbone’s purchase of Yering Station was a big year for the property bringing forth the successful venture with Champagne Devaux.
Yering continues to be a family owned and operated winery dedicated to producing wines of quality and distinction. The Rathbone family is committed to providing an environment that allows its passionate young team to thrive.
In 2008 Willy Lunn joined Yering Station as the Chief Winemaker. Willy continues to be a welcome addition to the Yering Station team and his passion for the industry and commitment to encouraging a strong culture will allow Yering to thrive.
The importance of proud heritage is still a visible and prominent feature of the property, including the original avenue of elms, heritage-listed barn and early winery building (which is now home to the Yering cellar door).
The Rathbone family’s vision for the property has led to major accomplishments including winning the ‘International Winemaker of the Year’ at the highly established International Wine and Spirit Competition, London 2004; and the property being inducted into the Australian Tourism Awards ‘Hall of Fame’ in 2006.
Set against the dramatic backdrop of the Great Dividing Range in the Grampians region of Victoria, the Mount Langi Ghiran (Aboriginal for home of the yellow-tailed black cockatoo) vineyard is one of the most isolated and unique sites in Australian viticulture. The vineyard, with its towering granite cliffs and loamy red soils, encapsulates an extraordinary sense of place. Mount Langi Ghiran , or Langi, as it is fondly referred to by the staff, was originally planted in 1870. It has become the home of one of Australia’s finest cool climate wines, the Langi Shiraz.
Langi was first planted with Shiraz in 1870, but was later replanted by the Fratin brothers in 1963. The exceptionally high quality of the Fratin’s fruit quickly drew a strong following and in 1978, the brothers appointed Trevor Mast as consultant winemaker. Inspired by the potential of the vineyard and keen to develop it further, Trevor and Sandra Mast purchased the property in 1987. In late 2002 the property was sold to the Rathbone family. Trevor stayed on as head winemaker, with Dan Buckle joining the team.
When Dan took over the reins as Chief Winemaker, Kate Petering joined the team. Dan presided over the continuing evolution of winemaking at Langi, with excellent results over trying vintages. Kate became Chief Winemaker in 2012 and continued the tradition of exceptional winemaking. Now with Ben Haines at the helm from 2014, Langi looks to continue evolving and respect the legacy of Trevor Mast’s pioneering spirit.
Situated only four kilometres from the town centre of Margaret River and an equal distance from the magnificent coastline, Xanadu is a true pioneer of the region with a long history of producing wines with distinct character that embody all that is the Margaret River.
Dr John Lagan, an Irishman, who arrived in Margaret River in 1968 and was inspired by the pioneering spirit of the region, established Xanadu. At the time, the potential of Margaret River as one of the world’s finest wine-producing regions was only just being considered. So less than a decade on, Dr Lagan with his wife Eithne established one of the region’s earlier vineyards, planting his first vines in 1977.
Lovers of literature will remember Xanadu as Samuel Coleridge’s mysterious, idyllic, exotic city, home of Kubla Khan. Dr Lagan, himself a great literature enthusiast, drew parallels between Coleridge’s visions of utopia and his newly adopted home, and thus the name Xanadu was born.
True to its poetic namesake, Xanadu is in an idyllic setting where the now 65 hectares of vines on the original estate flourish in the rich, free draining gravel soils of the Margaret River region. In this unique maritime climate enjoys an abundant supply of water and is sheltered by forests of magnificent marri trees.
Success brought expansion. Over the last 40 years there has been a major investment in modern winemaking technology. Also a state of the art restaurant and cellar door has been constructed, with the extensive use of local granite and gneissic rocks, excavated during the planting of the original vineyard. This expansion eventually culminated in Xanadu being listed on the ASX in 2001.
After their success at Yering Station and Mount Langi Ghiran, the Rathbone family looked to expand into Margaret River. Recognising Margaret River as one of the great regions of Australia, and in particular Darren Rathbone’s love for Cabernet Sauvignon was the original reason for them exploring this region. The potential of Xanadu was recognized as having the combination of great viticulture, great wine making facilities and great tourism facilities. In 2005 the Rathbone family purchased Xanadu Wines.
The clear direction under Rathbone ownership was to focus on quality. Winemaker Glenn Goodall joined Xanadu in 1999 and took on the role of Senior Winemaker in early 2005. His passion and dedication for the vineyards and the wines, and a commitment to encouraging a strong team spirit, has allowed Xanadu to thrive. Glenn considers his role is often more about being the custodian of the vineyards, and what the individual sites have to offer. His philosophy is to guide the wines through to the bottle, rather than ‘beating them into submission’.
Xanadu continues to be a family owned and operated winery dedicated to producing wines of quality and distinction that reflect the true characteristics of the Margaret River region. The numerous trophies and accolades Xanadu has been awarded, including James Halliday’s Wine of the Year in 2014, have highlighted this.