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Clare's Wine Adventurers

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Clare's earliest Wineries:
  1. Sevenhill Winery: First Vintage: 1856
    Brother John Schreiner, founding vintner. planted 1851

  2. Buring & Sobels, then Quelltaler: 1868
    Carl Sobels, vintner, then half-owner
    After a recent purchase, the Quelltaler trademark belongs to Seppeltsfield Winery.

  3. A.P. Birks, now Wendouree: 1893
    Founder: Alfred Percy Birks

  4. Stanley Winery, now Mr Mick: 1893
    In 1912 Joseph Knappstein took complete control but he died in 1919.
    (First wine delivered was from AP Birks at Wendouree)
    Read more: Clare Museum | Joseph Knappstei
    n 
                    Now part of Accolade

"Clare arrived at a turning point in its existence in 1895when wheat growing for profit was played out, so wine making and fruit growing were going to resuscitate Clare."

 

By 1898 'Stanley' wines had already achieved an excellent reputation.

 

Manager Mr. Basedow had an offer from a firm of wine merchants to buy every gallon of wine in the cellars at a rewarding price, but he preferred to keep a good stock for maturing purposes. 

He had no difficulty in selling any wine he wished to dispose of. 

Below left: Shipping wine barrels to the train on their way to London

Below: the Stanley Wine cellars converted from a jam factory

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Stanley wine cellars at Clare. These buildings are the newly remodelled premises of the ol
Stanley Wine Company
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  • Alfred Basedow whose family lived in the Barossa Valley, was engaged as Stanley's first general manager and winemaker.
     

  • The name Stanley was chosen to match the local electoral district.
     

  • The company won first and second prizes for a light red at the 1896 Adelaide Wine Show.

 

The largest export market for wine was in London, UK, where the most famous and influential early importer of Australian wines into the U.K. was P.B. Burgoyne: (illustrated below) who were the pioneers of Australian wine exports.

  • Peter Bond Burgoyne set up shop on Old Bond Street, London in 1871 and for the next 50 years strode across the Australian wine scene like a colossus being greatly feared and admired.

  • His tradition continues - (see below left)​

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When the great wine merchant's son visited the state several years ago he closed a speech at a wine-tasting ceremony at the York Hotel with the words 'plant, plant, plant.'

The demand at home was for a heavy full-bodied wine, and so the new generation of vignerons planted the better sorts; instead of Mataro they went in for Cabernet, Shiraz, and Malbec.

With these grapes Stanley succeeded in making a splendid export wine.

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Stanley Winery staff standing on the barrels being loaded onto rail trucks from horsedrawn

1903

(Above Left) Stanley Wine Company premises - horsedrawn wagons of grapes lining up in the yard. around 1900

(Above Right) Stanley Winery staff standing on the barrels being loaded from horsedrawn wagons onto rail trucks for export shipping 1910.

 
—The Seven Hills Winery.—
The Seven Hills Winery
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The Roman Catholic Church and college at Sevenhill are a striking testimony to the productiveness of the surrounding country in the early days.

The massive and substantial cellars are built to last till doomsday. 

Brother Storey, who has been at Seven Hills for 32 years, and who has only been to Adelaide once in that time, welcomed visitors.

Brother Storey, who has always a cheery smile and a kindly word for visitors, makes the wine.

A journalist asked him if Archbishop O'Reily (illustrated at left) ever visited Seven Hills.

Brother Storey said in his quaint way, "Yes, but he says we cannot make wine for sour grapes.

Will you have a glass? Wasn't that delicious?"

Of course we all had a drink, and admitted even at the risk of disagreeing with the Archbishop that it wasn't a bad wine either.

Brother John May

1904

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Above left: Vigneron Brother John May passed away on August 18th, 2021 aged 92.

Above right: Sevenhill Winery of the present day, Clare Valley's first winery, vines from Bungaree in 1851, first wines 1856

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The Seven Brothers’ label 

Sevenhill Cellars was established in the Clare Valley in 1851, and since its foundation there have only been seven winemakers among the Jesuit brothers’ community.

To create a label that commemorates an inheritance as venerable as this takes courage, patience and considerable ambition.

The starting point was to determine where the wine would sit within the Sevenhill range, and appropriately the Seven Brothers’ label was designated to the pinnacle of the portfolio.

Accordingly, the wine is sourced from the revered Schreiner block of Shiraz – prized vines that were planted more than 150 years ago, and which typically yield a small quantity for each Seven Brothers’ vintage release.

The label’s striking gold icon is of particular significance to Sevenhill as it borrows from the handcrafted typography of the Missal Romanum, produced by the renowned European art printer Henry Reiss in 1872.

The book, gifted to Sevenhill’s Jesuit community, is displayed in the Sevenhill College.

The very first Jesuit winemaker, Br. J. Schreiner, was Vigneron at Sevenhill Cellars from 1851-1884 when Brother Lenz arrived from Austria. Brother Storey came from Ireland in 1889 and stayed for 28 years.

Brother John May

ABC interview: Brother John May is something of an institution at Seven Hill cellars. Now 80 years old (in 2002) he's lived there for more than half his life.

"I've been here for about 46 years and 32 years of those was wine maker manager and now I try to be useful."

And a number of the wine makers were buried here as well, weren't they?

"Yes, there's Brother Story and Florian and Brother John Hanlon up here, my predecessor."
When Brother John stood down from his role as chief wine maker in 2003 he was the last of the Jesuit wine makers at Seven Hill.  

"I think I had my first glass of wine with Jim and Nancy Barry at their table. I realised that no way in the world could I stay in this job and not drink—I felt a hypocrite tasting and spitting it out, which you had to do in any case. I thought well, this is being hypocritical.

Jim was at Clarevale Co-op then.

 

What was Sevenhill producing when you came here, and for what purpose?

"For the most part it was producing altar wine. Mainly sweet sherry. That would have been a combination of Grenache, Frontignac, Verdelho, Tokay. Anything you like. It was all that.

Downey was making reds, and when John Hanlon came along he decided to follow on making reds as well.

Brother Downey, winemaker before John Hanlon, he was making some Claret that he used to sell I believe to the Myer family in Melbourne. 8 Used to go across in little ten gallon kegs

About 1968 we made our first dry white, which was made from Crouchen.

Tokay and Crouchen were made in bulk—that was in the 60’s—and John Hanlon sold those to Romalo.

Demand has dictated Seven Hill manufacture three different types of altar wine.

By far the most popular is the traditional Sweet Red. But some clergy complained it stained their white church linen so a sweet white wine was made.

And to cater for the diabetic members of the congregation there's a dry wine with less sugar.

It's sold to all denominations of the Christian church in Australia as well as overseas. The profits from this and the sale of commercial wines are ploughed back into the Jesuits' charitable and teaching works.

While all the staff are qualified and are paid as such and the winery owns all the vineyards that supply the grapes, this is a not for profit organisation.

That hasn't stopped the company from trying some novel ways though of improving its bottom line in this most difficult of times in the wine industry (see left panel).

Brother John May
Seven Brothers Shiraz
Wine Exports to England
Wine Exports to England

South Australian wine exports were valued at $1.3 billion in the year ending April 2023 according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, making up 64 per cent of the total value of Australian wine exports.

In the year ending April 2023, wine exports to the

United Kingdom ($231 million), United States of America ($178.1 million) and

Hong Kong ($161.2 million) had a combined value of $570.3 million and represented 43 per cent of South Australia’s total wine export value.

  
The 11th International Masters of Wine Symposium will run from 12-15 November 2026 in SA.

29 October 1904:The Northern Argus states that last week the Stanley Wine Co., Clare sent away 30,000 gallons of wine from their cellars, consigned to London. The wines were chiefly of the Burgundy type, and to supply orders received.

 

At about the end of next month Mr. J. H. Knappstein, the manager of the company, intends to take another trip to Great Britain and the Continent for the purpose of keeping the Stanley wines before the trade.

CLARE. March 1905

It is understood that Mr. Knappstein is meeting with success in England, he has cabled for (another) 20,000 gallons of wine, 150 puncheons to go to London, and 50 puncheons to Liverpool.

{A puncheon is a wine cask, larger than a standard barrel, now used more for Rum than for wine. The size varies, but is usually about 100 gallons}.

(Below: English wine cask sizes)

From Middle English tunnetonne (“cask, barrel”), from Old English tunne (“tun, cask, barrel”)

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Since Mr. Knappstein took 30,000 gallons with him, it is evident that the Stanley Wine Company are meeting with the success they rightly deserve.

Mr. Basedow, the manager, who has been ill for some months, is not well enough to undertake the vintage.

Adelaide Wine Show 1907:

Mr. Thomas Hardy, sen., who is one of the pioneers of the industry in this State, thinks that the public taste still needs a lot of training in the matter of wine drinking.

 

Thomas Hardy said that people should drink the light dry and white wines more, instead of the fortified sweet wines, and so should follow the example of the other big wine-growing countries of the world.

Thomas Hardy (14 January 1830 – 10 January 1912, illustrated at left) ) was a winemaker in the McLaren Vale, South Australia. He has been called the "Father of the South Australian Wine Industry".

Around 1893, Thomas Hardy and Sons were South Australia's largest wine producers.

Spring Vale Wines - Watervale
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1907

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Spring Vale Wines - Watervale

 

Founded by Francis Trelour in 1853, Treloar established the Springvale wine cellars in 1868:

  • sections of these stone cellars, dug into the hillside (as was typical of cellars at that time) survive.

  • He advertised wine for auction in the Northern Argus 1 Oct. 1869.

  • In 1868 Carl Sobels moved to Spring Vale as winemaker and manager of 35 acres planted with vines.

 

In 1890 Mr T.G.H. Buring and Mr Sobels joined forces and purchased the Spring Vale vineyard (illustrated left, in 1975) and plant and since that time the name of Buring & Sobels was one of the best known in the wine trade.

 

At the 1909 Adelaide Wine Show they won awards for their export dry red wine, port, and white wines.

How wine was sold at Buring & Sobel's Quelltaler House, Adelaide in the 1930's

Originally built in 1867 and then known as Gilbert Buildings, by 1935 the building was purchased by H. Buring and Sobels to be used as a cellar and warehouse for their Quelltaler Wines label from their Clare Valley wines.

("Spring Vale" (water source/well + valley) = "Quelltaler" )

Buring and Sobels were apparently the first Clare winery to bottle all their wine for local sales.  And under the influence of Leo Buring, became the first Clare winery to refrigerate their fermentation of white wine (Quelltaler Hock).

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Stanley Success
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Stanley Success

 

Both at the 1917 and the 1918 Adelaide Show Stanley Wine Co. won the 'best export dry red wine, as a perfect sample of an export wine.'

However Buring and Sobels won more prizes than Stanley.

At the 1919 Adelaide Show Stanley Wine Co. gained second prize for the 'best export dry red wine' and third prize for their brandy. Buring and Sobels won four prizes.

The Knappstein Story

At Clare in June 1924, Mr. P. H. Knappstein received the Wine Week party at the cellars of the Stanley Wine Company.

The Stanley Wine Company was established in 1899, and conducted its first vintage a year later.

 

It originally consisted of Messrs. J.H. Knappstein, John Christison, Magnus Badger, A. Basedow, and Dr. O. Wien Smith.

At a later period Messrs. Knappstein and Christian acquired the interests of the other partners, and at a still later date Mr. Knappatein took over the complete control.

He worked up the business to the present position through hard work, when the wine trade was in a bad way in 1903.

 

With cellars full and no outlet he went away to England in the hope of finding a market for the surplus stock first in 1903, and again three years later.

On the second occasion he took his family with him, and remained in the centre of the Empire for three years, after having accomplished what then appeared to he an impossible task. The outlet for the surplus wine in the cellars was found.

Then onward until 1922 the company's export trade had its ups and downs, and the present manager (Mr. P. H. Knappstein) in that, year went to England with the idea of further enhancing the business.

He was successful, and this to the advantage of the increased areas of vines planted in the district

Mr. D. A. Lyall (Auburn) said he bad staked everything in the wine industry, and he had every faith in it.

The district was proud of having given three notable products —

  1. Quellthaler Hock,

  2. Stanley brandy, and

  3. (Federal Health Minister) Senator Wilson. (Applause.)

When Joseph Knappstein died at 60 in 1919 leaving a young family, Elders Trustee and Executors Co. took over managing the company, with a steady decline. From 1919 to 1938, no dividend was paid. 

The family fought the threat of Elders' winding up the business to pay Joseph's wife her annuity. Bernie Knappstein became the acting manager, although Elders appointed their own winery manager, paid a hefty £15 a week.

In 1935, the family took cuttings from the (barely productive) best vines and planted another 14 acres of Rhine riesling in 1936-37.

This saved the company that fully returned to family hands in 1938 and was again paying a dividend within four years. Stanley plantings grew with land at Watervale and riesling, shiraz, mataro and grenache planted.

In 1954 the wine industry experienced a slump, but the Stanley Wine Company purchased another piece of land at Leasingham, planting almost all 50 acres with Riesling.

In 1954 Stanley also became involved with supplying wine to Lindemanns.

After Bernie’s death Alec became winery manager, with Otto still chairman of the board.

Stanley had taken advantage of the new white wine making technology developed by Gramps and adopted refrigeration, controlled and closed fermentation techniques, which aimed to get wine from the vine to the bottle as quickly as possible. As a result the quality of the wine improved markedly.

Mick Knappstein

Legendary Mick Knappstein took over as managing director In 1962. During this time he encouraged Clare growers to plant more suitable varieties and increased our own planting.

Production increased enormously.

In 1967 Tim Knappstein joined the staff at Stanley as winemaker. He proved to be a very good winemaker and still is.

Stanley eventually sold to H.J. Heinz in 1971, Tim Knappstein was kept on as winemaker and Mick was retained as manager/managing director in an amicable outcome. Though Mick retired in 1976 he was asked to stay on as consultant until the mid 1980’s. 

Mick Knappstein, born Karl Hubert Knappstein but affectionately called Mr Mick by his employees, was one of South Australian wines’ great innovators in the Clare Valley.

He was a son of Joseph Herman Knappstein, an 1894 founder of Stanley Wine Company in Clare that became Stanley Leasingham and then Leasingham.

Mick Knappstein’s vision and passion as a vine grower led to premium reisling being propagated in the 1960s, as part of his uncanny ability to read wine trends.

In the late 1960s, he was making rosé from grenache while others were using it for fortifieds. His  passion for rosé was fulfilled in the late 1960s when his nephew Tim Knappstein, just qualified from university at Roseworthy, produced the first barrels under his watchful eye.

 

The managing director of the family company from 1962, Mick Knappstein was determined to remove the elitism from wine and was famed for hosting public educational tastings and dinners to demystify wine making, with the simple: “Flavorsome styles at very good prices”.

He also was a leading force within many wine industry organisations. He was made a life membership of the Wine and Brandy Producers Association and awarded the Order of Australia in 1987 for services to the wine industry.

An inaugural inductee into the Clare Valley Winemakers Hall of Fame, the annual Mick Knappstein Trophy was started for the best current vintage Riesling.

From 1975, Knappstein, a keen maker of blends, nurtured future winemaker Tim Adams, giving him financial help to do a bachelor of applied science (wine science) by correspondence at Charles Sturt University.

The Knappstein Story
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Mick Knappstein
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From Casks to Bottles

 

Before World War 1, all exports of Australian wine were in wooden casks. Glass bottles were a luxury used for the best French wine.

After World War 1 better wines began to be bottled, but this increased the weight of exported wine, and so raised the price.

Most Hotels and Vintners bought large casks (e.g. Taylors in Sydney), and transferred the wine to smaller casks for counter sales.

Below: French Soldiers Hauling Wine for the troops During The Early Days Of WWI

From Casks to Bottles
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Fortified Wines

 

James Halliday explains that in the 1890s fortified wines were produced, since these wines could travel much further without spoilage than the unfortified wines we drink today.

Every winemaker had a distillery to fortify their wines.

So South Australia exported wines with above 26% alcohol, not so high as port or whisky, but with enough alcohol to be antibacterial.

This preserves the wines, and prevents the spoilage of the wine.

Today winemakers use sulfites for the same purpose, with only 11% to 15% alcohol by volume.

e.g. The shiraz manufactured today was not exported a century ago, in barrels, lest it spoil.

The Times newspaper of London, reported in 1895 the sales of 

  • Australian Hock Riesling had a strength of 21.4% alcohol,

  • Extra quality hock had 26.4% alcohol

  • Burgundy was offered in three strengths, with extra quality at 21.9%, and some at 22.7%.

  • All sold well.

Fortified Wines
Wendouree cellars in the early days when Tony and Lita took over. Tony_5c.jpg
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1918

Barrels are an important part of wine making. Used judiciously, they can add complexity, longevity and power. Used less wisely, they can overpower a wine, masking elegance and subtlety.

Oak Barrels add aromas and tannins but also help the wine along its evolution, encouraging a slow and controlled oxygenation of the wine as air seeps in through porous oak.

This allows the highly reactive tannins from the wine and the oak to combine, creating larger tannin molecules that seem less abrasive on the palate.

 

Left: Labelling champagne at Auldana Vineyards Magill S.A. 1910

Below: Minchinbury Cellars NSW showing the new bottling plant in 1918:

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Glass is a relatively heavy packing material and wine bottles use quite thick glass, so the tare weight of a full wine bottle is a relatively high proportion of its gross weight.

The average weight of an empty 750 mL wine bottle is 500 g (and can range from 300 to 900 g), which makes the glass 40% of the total weight of the full bottle.

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Buring & Sobels

 Chronicle (Adelaide, SA), Saturday 13 July 1907, page 10

After passing through the hands of the late Captain Hughes and his successor, Mr. James Richman, Spring Vale was many years ago purchased by Messrs. H. Buring and C. A. Sobels, and from that day onward has made consistent and steady progress, until now it ranks as one of the leading vineyards in the State.

 

With so much German sponsorship it is but natural that a specialty should have been made of a wine akin to the great Rhine wine of the fatherland.

 

If this, under the happily-named Quellthaler (German, for Spring/well Valley), dispensed in a characteristic long-necked bottle, can appeal very fondly to brother patriots, it can also evoke much enthusiasm from others of a more cosmopolitan order,

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First wine bottlers in the Clare Valley
21 June 1924 Visit to Springvale Cellars
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Prior to the formation of the Annie’s Lane brand, the sale site was known as Quelltaler Estate with a history in the Clare Valley dating back to 1851.

It was noted in the 1900s for fortified wine and Brandy production, as well as “Rhine rieslings” and “Hock” under the ownership of H. Buring & Sobels.

It was also owned for a period by French company Remy Martin in the 1980s, before being sold to Wolf Blass in 1987, eventually merging into Southcorp, Foster’s and now TWE.

Sale of Annie's Lane

Luke Griffiths The Advertiser October 19, 2017 

 

Seppeltsfield Wines has acquired the historic Quelltaler Estate winery in the Clare Valley from Treasury Wine Estates for an undisclosed sum.

As part of the deal, Seppeltsfield will also acquire around 900 acres of vineyard assets in Watervale and Polish Hill, and the existing (Watervale) Quelltaler 1000 tonne winery.

 

The cellar door site in Watervale will be closed for the time being while strategic planning continues for its future usage.

The original Quelltaler trademark is also included in the deal, while Treasury Wine Estates will retain ownership of the Annie’s Lane brand, which will continue to be made and promoted within the group’s portfolio.

A.P. Birks, now Wendouree
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Tony Brady basket pressing during the 1996 Vintage at Wendouree 

A.P. Birks, now Wendouree

 

In the Clare Valley, we also admire the quiet but excellent production at A.P. Birks, now Wendouree, south-east of Clare: 

Clare Museum | 2. The Boom in Wine

Clare Museum | 3. Wine between the Wars

 

In 1893 the Birks Brothers made 1000 gallons, and sold both that and their surplus grapes to the Stanley Wine Company.

Up to 1914 their maximum production was only 4,000 gallons.

For those 20 years, Stanley remained their only customer.

 

In 1917, A.P. Birks handed over responsibility to his son Roly Birks, who lasted 65 vintages.

Roly expanded Wendouree's vineyards, purchasing the Eastern vineyard and planted it in 1919 and 1920, and those root-stocks remain today.

 

Wendouree started selling wine direct, not in bottles but in casks, kegs, quarter casks, octavos, tenths, and fives (gallons), never in bottles. Most of the wine sold to hotels was port,  (sherry came later).

 

Before World War II, output was half full-bodied dry red, and half was fortified wine.

Bottled wine was only sold at the cellar door, by the case, and always to private customers. The highest annual output was 250 dozen.

Below: 1975 A.P. Birks Wendouree Cellars, Clare - Vat 21 Shiraz and Mataro Rhinecastle Special Bin, (6 bottles). Est: $600 AUD - $800 AUD (2023)

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Clare's famous eary Wines
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29 Aug 1924 Remarkably Fine Exhibits RAH
Clarevale Cooperative, Clare - 1930

 

The 1920s were prosperous for the wine industry. Halliday reports that by 1928-1929 sales and profits were good.

NOT for Stanley Wine Company. From the figures below left:
"1932 Wine Export Bounty" a very low bounty, £817/5/3 was claimed by Stanley compared to newer Clarevale
Co-op: £3400/18/2.

A vast surplus of grapes had accumulated on growers' farms, so the Clarevale Cooperative was formed to make more wine.

The Clarevale Cooperative was founded in 1930, with a loan of 8,000 pounds from the State Government, but started crushing wine in 1929 as Clarevale Growers' Winery, which had money troubles, and was liquidated.​

  • The building Known as Hill & Co's stables (on Lennon Street) was purchased, and with alterations and additions, was turned into up-to-date wine cellars.

  • This Winery is centrally and conveniently located in the large building near the Mid-North Electricity Co's Power House (opposite Clare Vale Cottage B&B, Lennon St. Clare).

 

The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA) Wed 26 Jun 1935 Page 9

STEPS IN CLARE'S GREAT PROGRESS

"The Clarevale Co-operative Winery, which is managed by Mr. M. Vogt had its first vintage in 1928 and has already a large list of wine show awards to its credit, especially for burgundy and muscat."

  • "Mr. Vogt said that the cellars were finding a ready sale for its products and its Clarevale brands had become well known.

  • The cellars had not that atmosphere which only age can give, but they form a fine example of the modern cellars.

  • Mr. Vogt said that, like other winemakers  he was finding a great demand for sherry, the increasing sale of which in Australia has been of considerable help to the wine industry in the last few years."

Fortified wine constituted 90% of consumption, and took less skill and machinery to make than did table wine, and so the farmers grew grenache, pedro, palomine and mataro.

Clarevale Cooperative
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Clare's famous early Wines

  • Stanley Winery: export Claret, a dry Red

  • Stanley Winery: Full bodied dry Red (Stanley Burgundy)

  • Buring & Sobels: Claret - Red wine of a light character

  • Buring & Sobels: White wine of a light character, Quelltaler hock type
    all sold in barrels, not bottles

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At the end of 1947 Halliday notes that Jim Barry arrived at Clarevale fresh from graduating from Roseworthy College.

  • The years 1948-1952 were good times for Clarevale as the wines sold while there was a beer drought (prohibition, 6pm closing).

  • In 1947 Clarevale processed 600 tons of grapes, which quickly increased to 2000 tons, since Clarevale took all the grapes on offer.

 

Bill Quirke recalls that in 1953 Clarevale found itself owing money to grape growers, with not enough income to meet their debts, due to the collapse of the fortified wine market after WW2.

  • Bill Quirke and Jim Barry travelled to Sydney in 1953 to sort out the bad debt of a bankrupt wine merchant.

  • In 1956 Clarevale took over the wine merchant's licence and premises, in Little Riley Street in East Sydney.

  • Clarevale also sold bulk wine to the Taylor Hotels in Sydney: port, dry sherry and some riesling.

  • From 1960 Clarevale started selling bottled wine under their own label due to the work of Olive Baldwin, their Sydney manager.

  • Clarevale also started bottling 'cleanskins' for the Taylor's hotels.

  • The Taylor family partnered with the Clare Valley Co-operative to bottle and distribute their own wines under the Chateau Clare label.

 

Jim Barry (left) left Clarevale in 1969, and was replaced by Andrew Tolley (illustrated below left with Nene Tolley)  in 1972 after he had graduated from Roseworthy College.​

Jim Barry 

It was Jim Barry’s drive and community spirit that helped shape South Australia’s Clare Valley as a benchmark producer of world class Riesling and cemented its place as one of Australia’s premier wine regions.

Jim himself was the first qualified winemaker in the Clare Valley,  graduating from the famous Roseworthy Agricultural College in 1947.

Working for 22 years as winemaker at the Clarevale Co-operative, Jim Barry became a pioneer of Australian table wine.

 

Jim Barry Wines has established a second-to-none hold on Clare Valley riesling; it swept all the riesling classes at the 2018 Clare Valley Wine Show.

It also produces cabernet sauvignon from a 13.3ha block in Coonawarra purchased and planted in 1978.

Jim Barry's The Armagh Shiraz is one of the biggest reds of Clare.

In the 1970s Clarevale marketing was becoming a problem.

  • Halliday reports that Clarevale growers were waiting for their cheques while Stanley Wine was paying cash for grapes received.

 

Control of Clarevale passed to Kaiser Stuhl, who leased the buildings, plant and equipment, paid the grape growers and made the wine (especially champagne).

Jim Barry 
Jim Barry
Stanley Wine still top selling now
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Stanley Wine still top selling now...

From 1932 to 1939 Stanley exports to England dwarfed those of France.

Halliday notes (p.53) that in 1927 they had exported 4.220 million gallons of table wine to England (in wooden hogsheads).

Virtually all of Stanley Wine's production before the War was of (fortified) dry red table wine for England.

When the War came Stanley changed to sweet wine-making because of the demands of American Soldiers.

  • Stanley Wine is now sold in cardboard casks produced at the Berri Estate winery in S.A.

  • Berri Estates is the largest winery in the Southern Hemisphere 

  • It is celebrating 100 years of being one of the Riverland's largest employers 

  • The winery crushes around 30 per cent of South Australia's annual grape crush

Accolade Wines’ Berri Estate winery is the largest grape processor in the Southern Hemisphere, crushing around 220,000 tonnes of grapes annually; around a third of South Australia’s entire crush.

The facility exports over 100 million litres of wine around the world annually and over six and a half million litres of that wine is delivered to the UK every month.

 

Berri Estates employs 265 permanent staff and up to 415 individuals over the busy harvest period.

Boasting a storage capacity of over 263 million litres, with 1,500 tanks on-site and three automated production lines, Berri can produce up to 85,000 casks a day.

There was a 30 per cent drop in cask wine sales between 2004 and 2014, coinciding with an almost 40 per cent increase in bottled wine sales, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Taylors move to Watervale
Jim Barry  moves Taylors to Watervale

The Taylor family – Justin, Clinton, Bill and Mitchell. 

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Justin Taylor

Company Director and Export Manager

Justin's role covers the challenging area of developing new international partnerships & bringing the quality wines produced by the Taylor family to the world.

Clinton Taylor

Company Director and General Manager Winery Operations

Clinton's role encompasses the management of the all-important vineyard and production side of the family business operations in the beautiful Clare Valley.

Bill Taylor

Deputy Chairman

Bill's desire to create exceptional Australian wines that are in keeping with the finest from the 'old world' has formed the cornerstone of the Taylors philosophy.

Mitchell Taylor

Managing Director and Third Generation Winemaker

Following in the footsteps of his father & grandfather, Mitchell oversees all aspects of the business along with playing an important role in crafting the wines.

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In 1969, after guiding Clarevale for 22 years, Jim Barry took on the challenge of helping to establish Taylor’s new winery and vineyards at Auburn (originally known as Chateau Clare Estate).

The Taylor family were Sydney hotel owners and wine merchants when, in 1950, they partnered with the Clarevale Co-operative Winery to bottle and distribute their own wines under the Chateau Clare label.

 

Wanting to get more involved in growing and making wine, and inspired by the great chateaux of Bordeaux, the family explored the wine regions of Australia, finally deciding on the Clare Valley where in 1969 they bought land beside the Wakefield River at Auburn, in the southern part of the region.

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In the ensuing five decades, three generations have built Taylor’s wines into the biggest wine operation in Clare.

  • On July 20, 1969, the Taylor family of Sydney found a site by the Wakefield River in South Australia's Clare Valley.

  • The planting of Cabernet Sauvignon vines - gifted by the famous Wynn family of Coonawarra - commenced on the estate in 1969.

  • 178 hectares of vines were planted, 149 to cabernet, the rest to shiraz.

  • Construction of the new winery was completed just in time for the first vintage in 1973. 

 

Jim helped the Taylors prepare and plant their first cabernet sauvignon vines.

The story goes that while excavating a dam for water storage Bill Taylor senior found the fossilised remains of tiny seahorses in the limestone bedrock, a reminder that the area was once under sea – 600 million years earlier. The family adopted a trio of seahorses as its symbol.

 

A grand, white, chateau-style building, complete with battlements, was completed just in time for the inaugural 1973 vintage and named Chateau Clare Estate.

The 1973 Taylors Estate Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz (then labelled hermitage) were released and the cabernet promptly won the Montgomery Trophy for the best red wine at the Royal Adelaide Wine Show.

 

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s Taylors bought more land and planted more vineyards in their district, the emphasis swinging more to whites in keeping with public tastes.

The St Andrews estate was purchased in the mid-90s and the St Andrews brand of premium wines – cabernet, shiraz and riesling – was launched in 1999.

 

Taylors’ first plantings were cabernet sauvignon and it still sees itself as primarily a cabernet company.

“Cabernet was the grape variety Taylors started with, and cabernet is still the highest value wine being sold out of Australia,” says Mitchell Taylor.

“And it’s still the highest value wine in the world market. Just think of Bordeaux, Napa Valley, Sassicaia, the Penfolds special bin wines…”

Taylors Wines have done it again. They have managed to create a whirlwind of 'Best Wine in the World' headlines in newspapers and Mitchell Taylor was even interviewed by Karl Stefanovic on Channel 9. 

Taylors 2022 Heritage Label Shiraz ($22) won the International Champion award at the Vinus International Wine & Spirits Competition.

It got 100 points. I can't recall a wine so cheap earning the perfect score.

Last year Taylors won the same award with a different wine – Taylors 2020 Estate Shiraz. Mitchell says, "It's the hardest I've seen over my last three decades working in the wine industry."

Twist in the Taylors tale 

There was a twist in those early beginnings of Taylors Wines’ export business.

Hazel Murphy, a longstanding and renowned Australian wine trade adviser based in London, provided valuable advice about using the name “Taylors” in the UK market. 

‘The brand name “Taylors” was associated with a Portuguese port wine set up by an English family in 1692. Resolving any claim to our name through the courts could take up to 6 years. It would cost at least £200,000, a lot of money in those days,’ explains Taylor. 

‘We were also told that after long, fraught days at the bar, London’s high court judges would relax at the “social bar” with their favourite Taylors Port.’ 

The pragmatic Taylor was determined to export to the UK. He and his family agreed to rename their wine from Australia’s renowned Clare Valley. They would call their brand Wakefield Wines, after the Wakefield River on its estate. 

Mitchell Taylor, Marketing Director and third-generation winemaker, Taylors Wines, was a young Aussie working abroad for a large UK stockbroker. He was convinced his family’s wines would go down a treat in the ‘City’.

He now leads his family’s business, is a board member of Wine Australia, and chairs its marketing committee.

 

‘Should the market grow as we expect, we will expand our company’s export team,’ Taylor says. ‘We will also expand our state-of-the-art bottling plant and our vineyard staff, where we employ 120 people.’

Australian wine is #1 in the UK

Following that early advice, Hazel Murphy, who originally worked for Austrade, was recruited to set up the Australian Wine Bureau in the UK. ‘She was a “pocket rocket” and a pioneering force in helping all Australian wineries enter the UK market,’ Taylor says. 

Hazel organised tastings, offering the British market ‘Sunshine in a Bottle’. She also convinced a bevy of wine journalists to go to Australia on a wine flight to experience the quality and beautiful structures of Australian wine for themselves. 

This was when the image of Australian wines began to change.

 

Australian wine has gone from ‘Bazza McKenzie’s chateau plonk’ to being one of the UK’s top imports.

Australian wine exports were most recently up 23% to $472 million by value (Source: Wine Australia, Export report, 12 months to 30 June 2021).

Australia is the second largest source of wine imports into the UK by volume and fourth largest by value.

Wine as Big Business
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Wine as big Business

 

In the 1970s and 1980s, big is bold is good was perhaps the apt mantra to describe the bolshie, fruit-forward styles that emerged to capture international attention.

The table wine culture of Australia expanded to bring cheer in every glass of Australian wine.

  • While the 1970s proudly spoke of Australia’s sweet wine and cask wine convenience culture,

    • ​the 1980s held aloft the ‘sunshine in a glass’ Chardonnay styles that came in lakes from Australia’s big, smart winemaking companies.
       

The 1970’s saw rapid expansion of Clare's vineyards, and interest from foreign corporate investors.

  • Heinz acquired the Stanley Wine Company and

  • Remy Martin acquired Quelltaler.
     

International investment was short-lived.

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FRIDAY 3 NOVEMBER 2023

Our latest wine export figures are embarrassing and will only hasten any corporate mergers/manoeuvres.

Our exports are $1.79 billion – back to where we were in 2014 before we recovered on the back of China – and 2002 before that.

Yes, 21 years ago we were exporting about the same value in wine that we do today.

And hundreds of new wine producers have joined us since then.

Two years ago Dr Martin Cole became CEO of Wine Australia.

Since then we have lost $480 million in exports and the industry is a complete shambles. Martin, is it something you said?

Don't mothball vineyards, mothball pie-in-the-sky industry plans whose track records are laughable.

There is no leadership. No sign of structural change. If not now, when? We are just drifting along hoping Xi comes good. 

Clare Wineries lead screwcapping
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Bruce Tyrrell reckons Tyrrell’s and “Maccas” (McWilliam’s) have suffered more than anyone else from cork’s poor technical performance.

He points to two bottles of new-release single vineyard Semillon on the table—an ‘03 and ‘04—and says, “One of the best things that’s ever happened to Semillon is there’s not a bloody cork in sight and now that we’re out of those dirty bastards of things we have a chance to really make this fly.

We have been hamstrung by cork for the whole of our life.

With 10-11% alcohol, primary fruit, no malo, no wood, no mucking around, the faintest bit of taint shows, whereas if it’s in a Wolf Blass Chardonnay you won’t see it.

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Clare's Wineries introduce Screwcaps

Wikipedia: A screw cap is a metal, normally aluminium, cap that screws onto threads on the neck of a wine bottle, generally with a metal skirt down the neck to resemble the traditional wine capsule ("foil").

A layer of plastic (often PVDC), corkrubber, or other soft material is used as wad to make a seal with the mouth of the bottle.

Its use as an alternative to cork for sealing wine bottles is gaining increasing support. In markets such as Australia and New Zealand screw caps on bottles have overtaken cork to become the most common means of sealing bottles.

SMH Story by Aleksandra Bliszczyk June 28, 2017

It was a small band of winemakers in South Australia's Clare Valley who decided to experiment, led by Jeffrey Grosset, they bottled a portion of their wines in screw cap.

 

"We knew [cork's issues] were a problem we had to find a solution for," says Mitchell Taylor, a third-generation winemaker at Taylors Wines, who is now managing director of the wine group.

 

Galvanised by a meeting to discuss their shared problems, such as cork taint, the group banded together to release their 2000 vintage rieslings under screwcap.

 

The winemakers worked with the Australian Wine Research Institute, which over a 24-month period conducted trials that tested nine different closure methods (including natural cork, synthetic cork, technical cork and screwcaps).

 

After nine months under screwcap, each bottle of the same wine tasted the same, and the flavour profiles were balanced, with no one flavour being too pronounced.

But the same wine under eight different cork closures all varied in taste. Most changed from being evenly balanced between all flavour characteristics, to displaying more pronounced "honey aromas" and the "struck flint aromas", and less pronounced acid and fruitiness.

 

"It took a lot of testing from our winemaking team to get [the riesling] just right," says Mr Taylor.

"Once we decided to move forward with the screwcaps, there was very mixed emotions among the group of winemakers. Some were positive and optimistic, while others were cautious and only put half of their rieslings under the screwcap closure."

"[Taylors] released all of our rieslings under screwcap, and this later proved to be the right decision because all of the screwcap wine sold out first."

 

In 2004, Taylors Wines made the "game-changing move" to bottle all their wines under screwcap, the first winery in Australia to do so.

From there, Mr Taylor says, "wine media and sommeliers really picked up on the screwcap, and from there it spread around the country. The wine regions followed suit as they experienced the same issues we did with cork."

 

Within five years, 50 per cent of Australian white wines were bottled under screwcap. By 2010, 80 per cent of Australian reds were bottled similarly.

 

Today, 98-99 per cent of Australian wines are topped with the closure, according to Peter Nixon, head of Dan Murphy's wine panel and editor of its Buyer's Guide.

Mr Nixon says that once a winery made the switch to screwcap, its business generally grew. "Sales usually double from the outset, and treble within 12 months because there's such a bias for screwcap in this country."

 

The success of the screwcap in Australia's wine industry spread the revolutionary sealing method to other countries.

"New Zealand and the UK have already followed Australia's lead by transitioning their wines from cork," says Mr Taylor. "And other countries like the US, China and winemaking countries in Europe are slowly catching up."

THE SCREWCAP INITIATIVE

24/10/2012

The McWilliam’s Maurice O’Shea Award was last night given to The Australian Screwcap Initiative, in a move hailed as hugely significant by the country’s top wine critics.

Winemaker Jeffrey Grosset accepted the award on behalf of all in the wine industry who pioneered Australia’s world-leading move to the new closure in 2000.

James Halliday said the award is further validation of Australia’s move to screwcap. He said cork is a “350-year-old technology that depends on the vagaries of a natural product” and its days are numbered.

“I believe the screwcap is the most important development in wine since Louis Pasteur unlocked the mechanisms of fermentation in wine and the impact of oxygen on wine [150 years ago],” Halliday said.

 

Grosset said that the closure issue is really quite simple.

“Screwcap works and cork doesn’t, at least not consistently,” he said.

But he said his greatest concern is that Australia is now exporting wine under cork that is available under screwcap.

“The situation with China is fairly clear cut in that it’s a lack of knowledge,” he said. “We need to explain to them [the benefits of screwcap] – why wouldn’t they be able to understand, as Australians have?”

Next: Clare's Modern Adventurers

  • Brian Croser / Petaluma / Piccadilly

  • Tim Knappstein /Enterprise

  • Tim Adams /Mr Mick

  • Jeffrey Grosset

  • Stephanie Toole / Mt Horrocks

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