Keeping it in the family for 170 years

28 October, 2019 by Brydie Allen

One of Australia’s oldest wine distribution companies, Samuel Smith & Son (SS&S), is celebrating significant anniversaries this year for three of their South Australian wineries. In 2019, Wirra Wirra celebrates 50 years since being “re-born” and 125 years since its original establishment, Jim Barry celebrates 60 years, and Yalumba Family Winemakers celebrates an incredible 170 years.

SS&S, much like its sister company Negociants Australia, only represents 100 per cent family-owned wineries, such as the ones that are celebrating anniversaries this year. Paul Midolo, Executive Director Strategy and Trading at SS&S, said the distributor has a strong connection with its wineries.

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“Working with other family-owned businesses is a strong focus for us and has been since 1923,” Midolo said.

“We all have long-term visions and we are working together to achieve our goals, which makes celebrating these significant milestones with our partners extra special.”

One of these partners, Yalumba, is Australia’s oldest family-owned winery, now with 170 years of unbroken independence. Yalumba wines continue to be made at the home estate of its founder, under the direction of the same family.

“Over 170 years, Yalumba’s journey has been all about vision, fortitude, survival and innovation: about looking onwards and upwards,” said Robert Hill-Smith, Yalumba Chairman and great great grandson of founder Samuel Smith.

There have now been six generations in the family’s business, with Robert welcoming daughter Jessica Hill-Smith as Brand Manager this year.

The importance of family heritage and history is celebrated in a film campaign recently released by Yalumba, prompting viewers to “embrace the magnificent unknown”. Commemorating 170 years, the film celebrates the leap into the unknown that Samuel Smith first took when he planted the first Yalumba vine in the moonlight, letting nature lead the way.

The important anniversary milestone was also cause to pay homage to Samuel in a new product range, with 2019 seeing the release of Samuel’s Collection. The collection honours Samuel’s spirit of independence and conviction to invest in the land to make great wine.

Samuel’s Collection’s range of reds and whites showcases Yalumba’s long presence in the Barossa and beyond, as well as its direct lineage to some of Australia’s first vine plantings, several of which were found in Samuel’s first vineyards.

This longstanding connection to the Australian environment is something that also drives Yalumba’s constant and unwavering approach to sustainability. For generations, they have continued to strive to reduce their impact on the environment and stay involved in the local community. All wines in the portfolio have been vegan friendly as of 2011, with Yalumba being the first wine company in the world to receive the Climate Protection Award from the US Environmental Protection Agency in 2007.

Hill-Smith said this focus has been developed thanks to their long and authentic history as a family business in the Barossa.

“When you’ve been operating in a rural environment for 170 years, you learn a few things about the importance of sustainability,” he said.

“We’re convinced our efforts in protecting our natural resources reflect in the quality of wines we make. Quite simply, if we’re to focus on excellence in winemaking, it absolutely requires excellence in environmental management – the two are inseparable.”

Visitors to the cellar door can experience this excellence for themselves in a uniquely special way, with the Yalumba Wine Room offering tastings of a curated collection of museum wines to celebrate their 170th year.

For those who don’t make it to the cellar door, Yalumba is releasing 170 hand-numbered three litre bottles of The Signature Cabernet Sauvignon & Shiraz, presented in wooden boxes. Select Samuel’s Collection Magnums are also available in 170th anniversary branded gift boxes and can be ordered through SS&S.

Meanwhile, the Hill-Smith family will be celebrating themselves with a small gathering for family and friends on the Yalumba Clocktower lawn. Built on the spot where Samuel planted his first vine 61 years earlier, the Clocktower is the perfect backdrop to celebrate the family’s milestone.

This article first appeared in the October issue of National Liquor News, which you can read, in full, here.