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Australia’s First Families of Wine Book Launch + WIN 1 of 2 Copies!

Submitted by on January 24, 2011 – 12:30 pm32 Comments

With an incredible combined 1200 years experience in wine making, yes you read right, 1200 years across 48 generations – Australia’s First Families of Wine launched in 2009 and was formed by a group of twelve families. They include Brown Brothers, Campbells, De Bortolli Wines, Henschke, d’Arenberg, Howard Park Wines, Jim Barry Wines, McWilliam’s and Tahbilk.

To tell the stories behind such prominent names in the industry, Author of Heart and Soul: Australia’s First Families of Wine, Graeme Lofts traveled around Australia meeting with the families in person. This is why I’m writing this post. I’m not really interested in the wine as such. I mean there are many other wine books out there that focus purely on the ‘drop’ – but what makes this book unique is that it focuses on the stories of how the wineries got to where they are now and it really comes through as genuinely heartfelt.

I was humbled to be invited to the launch party to meet a few of the amazing wine makers, held above the clouds at the towering Eureka Skydeck. Apologies for the lateness of this post (considering the event was held late last year) but I didn’t want to waste my time writing about it until after I had fully read the book and whether I actually liked it or not!


James Halliday, renowned wine writer, winemaker and wine competition judge wrote the foreward. In the book,  James writes that ‘to become a wine maker, you need an understanding of chemistry and biology and goes on to say that the families’ passion  for their ‘patches of dirt’ – their heart and soul- is passed from one generation to the next, and you can taste it in their magnificent wines.’ Heart & Soul


James Halliday


heart and soul australias first families ofwine

The Stories…

I’m no wine connoisseur by any means, very far from it in fact. I do however, enjoy a glass of bubbly and tend to take this enjoyment over to the Yarra Valley Grape Grazing Festival held annually and of course to the dinner table. Once a week I swear!  But after reading the book, you don’t need to be in order to simply appreciate the art of wine making and be inspired. Like most arts and passions (blogging!), producing bubbly is an ‘obsession.

Just reading about the challenges faced by each family over the generations which includes not only natural calamities such as floods, hail to vine disease but also personal stories of struggle and economic downturns.

Take Brown Brothers for example, whose first vineyard was planted in 1885, was faced with the phylloxera louse which destroyed acres and acres of vines. Then from the late 1930’s, there was a plague of grasshoppers that wiped out the 1938 vintage to World War II which created labour shortages due to much of the workforce being enlisted.

DSC06296 Ross Brown

What I loved reading about the De Bortoli family was their traditional long table lunches also known as La tavola lunga! They would gather the workers from the vineyards and winery to join them for a lunchtime of feasting and laughter. However, World War II also brought a few challenges- mainly due to their Italian descent.

Many farmers in the the area had their farms taken under the government’s National Security Act.  Shockingly, in 1940, Vittorio De Bortoli was fined and imprisoned for selling wine above his quota. As mentioned in the book, the reason behind this was that the fight against Hitler would be assisted by if liquor consumption was reduced.

Despite the challenges mentioned above and the other great struggles that the rest of the First Families faced, through the years of future generations who were determined to continue the family heritage, they managed to beat the odds with their passion, hard work, innovation and sheer resilience.

In fact, so inspired by their story, I gathered some friends and headed to the beautiful De Bortoli estate over the weekend to see the vineyard for myself. Did I mention that they have a cheese room!?

De Bortoli winery




Author of Heart and Soul Graeme Lofts


Here Comes the Food

Being a food blogger, of course I had to show you what was devoured! Where there is wine, there are Oysters. And rightly so.  I can’t think of anything better to go with bubbly than natural freshly shucked Bruny Island Oysters served with a lemon wedge.





The Wine

My favourite would have to be Brown Brothers, specifically their beautifully crisp Muscato and the luscious red variety, Sienna. During the summer months, these chilled bottles would be my usual accompaniments when lounging on the grass with friends at the Moonlight Cinema. Which reminds me, I have to check out their schedule this year!





The Cap Off..

Amazingly, most of these reputable wine producers were founded in the 1800’s and after listening to the astonishing stories that were told during the speeches, I felt very privileged to be there.

Heart and Soul: Australia’s First Families of Wine, written by Graeme Lofts and published by John Wiley & Sons Australia, Ltd is now available at leading bookstores.

WIN 1 of 2 Copies of the book Heart and Soul: Australia’s First Families of Wine worth $39.95RRP each!

To celebrate Australia Day, there  are 1 of 2 copies up for grabs. Just answer the following simple question by leaving a comment: What is your favourite wine?

Terms and conditions: Open to Australian residents only, competition closes January 31, 2011 11:59PM EST. You may enter as many times as you like limited to one entry per day. Winners chosen randomly and will be notified via email. Goodluck!

Food Rehab attended the book launch thanks to publishers John Wiley & Sons Australia, Ltd but paid for the visit to De Bortoli. No commissions/monies were offered to write this post. Written out of pure interest after reading the book.

Competition now closed- WINNERS ANNOUNCED!

Thank you to everyone who entered the competition and for letting me know of other amazing wine varieties out there that I now must try. LOL! Congratulations to the below winners who will be receiving a copy of Heart & Soul: Australia’s First Families of Wine each. You should receive an email soon requesting your postal address.

Tess Howard

Michael P

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