Meet the winemaker

Campbells: the next generation

By Halliday Promotion

15 Apr, 2020

As this iconic Australian label enters its 150th year, fifth-generation winemaker Julie Campbell talks family tradition and what’s on the horizon.

There are few Australian wineries with the heritage and family history of Campbells Wines. Scottish founder John Campbell was brought to the northeast Victorian region by the Gold Rush of the mid-1800s. Although he didn’t strike gold, he found something of equal value in the soils, planting a small area of vines just west of the Rutherglen township. By 1870, Campbells Wines was officially established with John’s first vintage – and with it, a tradition that would live on for generations to come.

Fast-forward 150 years and Campbells is one of Australia’s famous First Families of Wine and a must-visit winery. Fortified wines are synonymous with Rutherglen and Campbells alike, and the brand has received much acclaim for its muscat and topaque. The continental climate of the area also produces whites and rich reds with a unique regional character.

The Campbells philosophy begins in the vineyard and is simple: great wine begins on the vine. Colin Campbell OAM (pictured above right 1/2), was fourth-generation winemaker at the winery until his death in May last year and his immense passion and knowledge inspired his daughter Julie to become his successor. Julie, together with sister Jane, is now bringing the winery into its 150th year as the next generation.

“We are still here on the same patch of land forged by our founder, John Campbell,” Julie says. “[We have] gone through a generational change, taking over the reins and moving the winery forward with a strong Campbells team all the way.” The team consists of Julie (pictured above left 1/3) as chief winemaker, Jane (pictured 2/3) as managing director and Ian Diver (pictured above right 3/3) as the winery operations manager of more than 13 years. 
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The area is world-famous for its Rutherglen muscat, of which there are no other comparisons anywhere in the world.
“Rutherglen is the sort of spot that, once you visit, you’ll be back,” Julie says. “At Campbells, we concentrate on wine first and foremost, and our climate is ideal for growing richly textured whites, vibrant shiraz and delicious durif. The area is world-famous for its Rutherglen muscat, of which there are no other comparisons anywhere in the world.”

Rutherglen’s dry autumns allow for full fruit flavours to develop, promoting the cultivation of a range of varieties in addition to the brand’s renowned fortifieds. “Our wines have always had ripe fruit upfront, with seamless oak, good tannins and a clean finish,” Julie explains. “One that I’m excited to launch is our Limited Release Chardonnay, which is bang on for winter.” 

But of all their new releases, it’s the 2018 Sixties Block, an intriguing field blend, that has Julie most inspired. “There are so many characters in this wine that are hard to pinpoint – which is the best part. I love to enjoy it with venison and juniper berries or with some crumbly vintage cheddar and crackers.” The Sixties Block, like most of the Campbells red and white wines, is fresh and bright as a young wine but will reward careful cellaring.

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*This article was produced by Halliday Wine Companion in partnership with Campbells Wines.

Image credit: Wine Australia