Wakefield Wines: taking quality and integrity to the world stage

Mitchell Taylor started the UK arm of his family’s wine business, Taylors, in the mid-1980s. 

‘Our long-term goal is to make wines that will stand the test of time and that the next generation will be proud of.’

- Mitchell Taylor, Marketing Director and third-generation winemaker, Taylors Wines

He 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.

Taylor, and Wine Australia, are positive about the Australia-UK Free Trade Agreement (FTA).

‘Anything that brings down the duty and helps open up the market will benefit us,’ he says.

He says around $400 million worth of Australian wine goes into the UK market. These wines do well at the lower price point. Taylor expects the FTA will help the industry as it grows awareness of Australia’s wine-growing regions. It will also help get Australia’s high-quality wines into the right restaurants at reasonable prices.

‘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.’

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. 

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.

Climate change, sustainability and fossilised seahorses

Climate change means the UK’s wine industry is developing in leaps and bounds to produce good-quality wines. Taylor points out that the difference for all winegrowers lies in soil, sunshine and craft. 

‘Australia’s climate and soils are unique,’ says Taylor, who is also a winemaker and oenologist. His grandfather and father were inspired by the wines of Bordeaux. They were determined to find similar soils rich in iron minerals on a limestone base – the renowned terra rossa soils. 

They bought an adjacent terra rossa-based vineyard to the family estate. This is where their multi-award-winning St. Andrews cabernet sauvignon grapes are grown. The renowned Taylors Wines logo – a seahorse – is also found in fossilised form in the limestone of the ancient inland sea that underpins the vineyards and inspires its commitment to sustainability.

Read more about the story behind the Taylors seahorse.

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