Australia Oceania South Australia Travel

Taylors Wines, Clare Valley: Be a Winemaker for a Day

Gourmantic travelled to the Clare Valley as a guest of Taylors Wines.


Taylors Wines, Clare Valley
Taylors Vines

I am standing in the Barrel Hall, protected by a hard hat and a fluorescent yellow vest, seduced by the heady aromas of fermented grapes gently maturing in oak casks. The barrels are piled high, bearing marks such as Cabernet Premium 2008 and Made for God. I could be in heaven.

Taylors Wines, Clare Valley
Harvest at Taylors Wines

A few hours earlier, I was standing amidst a Shiraz vineyard, with parallel rows of ripe grapes as far as the eye can see, waiting to be harvested. I climb on board the harvester, an ultra-wide tractor almost 4 times my diminutive height.

This is harvest time at Taylors Wines.

Taylors Wines, Clare Valley
Inside the Harvester

The harvester moves at a speed of 3.5 kilometres per hour, its arm extended over another truck bearing a harvest bin. The shakers gently jiggle the vines and the fruit is sucked up a vent and dropped from the extend arm into the bin.

“We work 10 hour shifts,” the driver says, in between radio exchanges with the harvest bin driver. Inside the small cabin, the temperature begins to rise. “We also harvest at night”, he adds. It is the preferred time to keep white grapes fresh without refrigeration.

From my high vantage point, picture perfect lines of vineyards extend between 300 and 600 metres. Each harvest bin produces 1000 bottles of wine, usually the product of 3 to 4 rows.

The Clare Valley

Taylors Wines, Clare Valley
Taylors Shiraz Vineyard

The Clare Valley is located approximately 150 kilometres from Adelaide. The trip to Clare is an easy 2-hour drive on good roads that are well marked. The Clare, as it is commonly known, is one of Australia’s oldest wine-producing regions with winemaking history spanning for more than 150 years.

The area is made up of five sub-regions which includes Auburn, home of Taylors Wines. The climate fluctuates during the grape growing season with warm days (40 C) and cool nights (5 C), and along with the ‘terra rossa’ soil, the region is equally favourable for producing superb Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz and has its Riesling lauded as some of the best in the world.

About Taylors Wines

Taylors Wines combines three generations of family winemaking. The winery dates back to 1972 when the winery was built, the dream of wine merchants Bill Taylor Snr, and his sons, Bill and John.

Taylors Wines, Clare Valley
Taylors Wines Estate

The property occupies just under 800 hectares of land with a 600 hectare capacity of vineyards. 1982 saw the next phase of growth when the family bought land to the east, became known was the Promised Land.

Taylors Wines, Clare Valley
Taylors Winery

In 1983, Chardonnay was grown and in 1999, Taylors Wines acquired St Andrews vineyards and produced premium wines under that label.

The historic St Andrews vineyard was first planted in 1892 and was a converted sheep and wheat farm after the depression. Today it stands crumbling on the property, surrounded by old historical barns and a tiny cottage opposite.

Taylors Wines, Clare Valley
St Andrews

The first release of the St Andrews flagship range by the Taylors family came more than 100 years later in 1999. Since it was first launched, this range has become the family’s benchmark for premium quality wines.

Taylors Wines, Clare Valley
St Andrews

Winery Tour

Mere steps away from the winery’s manicured lawns, you’ll find the original winery, a time capsule of Taylors Wines beginnings. Large stainless steel upside-down bottle-shaped fermenters occupy the space but these are no longer used today.

Taylors Wines, Clare Valley
Inside the Original Winery

The new winery was built in 2005 on what was previously a Cabernet vineyard. Standing tall like an oil refinery gleaming in the sun, the mid-sized winery produces 400,000 bottles per year.

Taylors Wines, Clare Valley
The New Winery

Taylors Wines are designed with two major factors in mind, capacity and gentle handling. One of the most important decisions is when to pick the fruit as there is only a 2-day window. Care is given to minimise the contacts of solids with the juice as these can lead to phenolic characters. Parcels are kept separate for blending.  Taylors prefer to add phenolic characters when required as when these are extracted, flavour is invariably extracted as well.

Taylors Wines, Clare Valley
Winemaking Process

White wine grapes are whole-berry pressed so as not to pick up phenolic characters. Red wine grapes are de-stemmed before going into fermentation vessel. Taylors have the largest whole berry pressing facility in Australia. It takes an hour to press using machinery that was originally a champagne press.

The liquid is then transferred into large fermentation tanks holding 136kl for gas mixing. The sloped floor of interior of the tanks has a gas ring and the wine is circulated from the bottom of the tank to the top to extract flavours and colour.

The Barrel Hall

The Barrel Hall at Taylors Wines holds 6000 barrels at one time. The wine is aged primarily 60-70% in French oak and the rest is from American oak sources from two suppliers.

Taylors Wines, Clare Valley
The Barrel Hall

French oak has a tighter grain, made from trees that are a minimum of 100 years old while American oak is coarser, with more open grain, with trees ages between 50 and 75 years. French oak imparts subtle and elegant flavours while American oak injects more robust characters.

Taylors Wines, Clare Valley
Open Barrels

St. Andrews Shiraz is made from open barrel ferment. The benefits of open barrel fermentation are twofold. It adds stability of colours and tannins and there is more integration of oak with fruit flavours. When oak is introduced into wine early, stability and seamlessness are the results. The fruit can also be picked riper.

Taylors Wines, Clare Valley
Tasting St. Andrews Shiraz 2013 from the Barrel

Cellar Door

Taylors Wines, Clare Valley
Cellar Door

A visit to Taylors Wines is not complete without a stop at Cellar Door which is well equipped to handle visitors. Tastings are complimentary and the shop offers a range of wines on sale.

Taylors Wines, Clare Valley
Taylors Cellar Door

Taylors produce the Promised Land range, an easy drinking, fruit-driven and approachable range crafted from grapes in the Clare Valley estate as well as other premium South Australian regions including Coonawarra, Padthaway and the Barossa.

Eighty Acres was the world’s first range of 100% carbon neutral wine range – awarded following a full Life Cycle Assessment from vineyard to glass. First released in 2007, the Eighty Acres range is crafted to reflect the growing trend towards lighter, fresher styles and interesting varietals and blends.

Taylors Wines, Clare Valley
Inside Cellar Door

The Estate wines are the Taylors family’s founding range and remain core to their philosophy. Often some of the best performers in their category, Estate is an incredibly popular and highly awarded range.

The Jaraman range is a blend exceptional parcels of fruit from two wine regions in Australia: Chardonnay (Clare Valley, Margaret River), Riesling (Clare Valley, Eden Valley), Cabernet Sauvignon (Clare Valley, Coonawarra) and Shiraz (Clare Valley, McLaren Vale). The wines reflect the nuances of both terroirs.

Taylors Wines, Clare Valley
Winemaker Alex Carr Taylor

St Andrews range has become a benchmark for premium quality wines and The Visionary Cabernet Sauvignon is a refined style named in honour of third generation Managing Director Mitchell Taylor’s grandfather, Bill Taylor Senior.

At the Cellar Door, a Platinum Tasting Experience includes St Andrews range with a mini tasting plate of local produce ($4 per person) and includes a unique tasting cellar door experience, barrel tasting Shiraz straight from the barrel.

Winemaker for a Day: Blend Your Own Wine

Taylors Wines, Clare Valley
Blend Your Own Wine

Wine enthusiasts can book a winery tour ($25 per person) on weekends and public holidays. The tour includes a close look at the facility, insights into how wine is made, wine tasting straight from the barrel, and the highlight of the tour is becoming a winemaker for a day. Visitors can learn about the art of blending a wine and produce a personal blend which is then taken home to share with family and friends.

Taylors Wines
Taylors Wines Gourmantic Blend

Useful Information

Clare Country Club, Clare Valley
Clare Country Club

  • Getting There: Adelaide is a 90 minute direct flight from Sydney. The Clare Valley is a cruisy 2 hour drive from Adelaide. The roads are in good condition and the signage is well marked.
  • Where to Stay: Clare Country Club is located in Clare, at the heart of the Clare Valley along White Hut Rd. Two styles of accommodation are available, including spacious self-contained two bedroom apartments in the new wing.
  • Where to Eat in the Clare ValleyArtisans Table Wine Bar & Bistro, Clare Valley; Sevenhill Hotel, Sevenhill; The Rising Sun Hotel, Auburn

Photography © by Gourmantic – Copyright: All rights reserved.

Taylors Wines
Winery Road
Auburn South Australia 5451
(08) 8849 1111‎

About the author

Corinne Mossati

Corinne Mossati is a drinks writer, author of GROW YOUR OWN COCKTAIL GARDEN, SHRUBS & BOTANICAL SODAS and founder/editor of Gourmantic, Cocktails & Bars and The Gourmantic Garden. She has been writing extensively about spirits, cocktails, bars and cocktail gardening in more recent years. She is a spirits and cocktail competition judge, Icons of Whisky Australia nominee, contributor to Diageo Bar Academy, cocktail developer and is named in Australian Bartender Magazine's Top 100 Most Influential List. Her cocktail garden was featured on ABC TV’s Gardening Australia and has won several awards. She is a contributor to Real World Gardener radio program and is featured in several publications including Pip Magazine, Organic Gardener, Australian Bartender and Breathe (UK). Read the full bio here.