The Chateau Yaldara brand was a household name among Australian wine drinkers a generation ago and visits to its tasting room, European-style manor house and vast gardens was a must for day-trippers to the Barossa.
While times have changed significantly since Hermann Thumm opened the South Australian winery and chateau in 1947, Chateau Yaldara general manager Anthony Grundel says the new owners are preparing to relaunch the brand in Australia to coincide with the winery’s 70th anniversary on December 10.
“For us, the anniversary is the culmination of everything we’re building up to, so ideally by the middle of November we’ll have our heads of agreement signed for our distribution with a view to start pushing the new Yaldara products in earnest down the east coast of Australia in the first week of December,” Grundel says.
“The bigger vision for Chateau Yaldara from a cellar door, restaurant and family side of things is to revamp the old gardens and the barbecue areas to turn it back into the tourist mecca it was back in the ’70s.
“The original barbecue pits from the fauna park 40 years ago are still here and the old footbridge across the river is still here and is still safe, so there are plenty of pieces of Yaldara waiting to be brought back to life.”
The Chateau Yaldara brand began to wither in Australia following the sale of the winery by the Thumm family to Simeon Wines in the 1990s. Simeon merged with McGuigan Wines in 2002 and became Australian Vintage Limited in 2008.
During this time the 10,000-tonne winery was used as the company’s Barossa hub and mainly produced premium red wines for its Nepenthe, McGuigan and Tempus Two brands, while the Chateau Yaldara label was scaled back to European exports and fortifieds.
In 2014, the historic Chateau Yaldara winery, estate and brand was bought from Australian Vintage Ltd by 1847 Wines, owned by Arthur Wang. This included one of Australia’s largest holdings of Tawny.
The acquisition on the outskirts of the southern Barossa town of Lyndoch has enabled the company to rapidly expand its production and retail presence in China. It has also allowed it to use the historic chateau to introduce a tourism element, which last year brought 700 Chinese VIPs to South Australia and is on track to more than double that number to 1500 this year.
While maintaining its strong growth in China, the company is now shifting its attention back to the Australian consumer. The launch back into Australia will include a series of retro labels styled on the original labels used in the winery’s heyday.
“We’ve got a really strong team here now and we’re on the cusp of launching ourselves back into Australia and really drawing on the memories of those who have been here in the past, while also engaging with those new wine consumers who have surfaced in the last 15 years or so,” says Grundel, who previously served as general manager at Murray Street Vineyards in Greenock.
“The retro labels (pictured) started as a bit of fun but now it’s really become a driver for helping to tell the history of the place.
“Initially they were just designed to be a cellar door project but there’s been interest from our east coast distributors and even some of our international clients to take it to their markets so it’s kind of grown beyond our expectations, which is nice.
“We can show you examples of our old labels from the 1970s, when it was on the market, and they are almost the same so that adds excitement.”
The new range will have a starting price point of about $15 and scale up to a reserve and a flagship super-premium range that will sell for around $100 a bottle to celebrate the history of Yaldara and the Thumm family.
1847 Wines owns almost 100 hectares of vineyards in the Barossa and has about 10 long-term contract growers in the region and around South Australia.
It currently crushes about 4500 tonnes a year, the vast majority of which is sold to China under the 1847 label. However, Grundel says the goal us to have about 80 per cent of production go into 1847 and 20 per cent to Chateau Yaldara wines for sale in Australia, the United Kindom and North America.
He says goal the company wants to move Chateau Yaldara’s image away from previous sub-$10-a-bottle perceptions and re-instate it as a quality wine brand.
“We are really interested in creating the second and third sale, not just the first sale, and we really want to get people engaged and get them back here again,” Grundel says.
“Having credible product in the bottle is part of that story and delivers on the authenticity and the expectation of how we want people to think about the company – it is back to its glory days and here’s proof in the bottle that we are actually delivering on what we say we’re going to do.”
Yaldara is an Australian Aboriginal word meaning sparkling. At its peak in the 1970s and ’80s Chateau Yaldara attracted 150,000 visitors a year.
“In those days the main road through the valley used to come through here – there was no Gawler Bypass or Northern Expressway, so if you came to the Barossa you started in Lyndoch, you started at Chateau Yaldara and the numbers were phenomenal,” Grundel says.
“It’s an interesting evolvement from back where it was to where it is now and the chance to bring it back to life again is something pretty special.
“A lot of wine is sold by emotion so the ability to pull on those heart strings and emotional ties to history play a significant part in why we’re doing what we’re doing.”
Chateau Yaldara will celebrate its 70th anniversary with a family day at the winery on Hermann Thumm Drive, Lyndoch, on Sunday, December 10.
This article was first published on The Lead.
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