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Why Jamie Durie & Tamburlaine are making wine together

Tamburlaine Organic Wines has collaborated with Jamie Durie to create a small batch of wines called ‘True Earth Collective’ to support National Tree Day. Drinks Digest sat down with Chief Winemaker Mark Davidson to learn more about the partnership and the rise of organic wine in Australia.

Durie is dedicated to supporting environmental causes and loves drinking organic wine, so when he wanted to combine the two passions, he knew exactly where to turn: Hunter Valley and Orange-based winery Tamburlaine.

Tamburlaine was established in 1966 and in 1985 the winery was purchased by a small group of friends and relatives led by Davidson. Davidson has built his long-term winemaking philosophy around contemporary organic practices in the vineyard and the winery. The result is a wide range of award-winning organic, vegan-friendly, low sulphur and no added sulphur wines.

Durie called Davidson last year and proposed they work together on the True Earth Collective project. He visited the winery during the blending period, toured the vineyard and was heavily involved in the design of the label. The result is three limited edition wines that come with extra benefits. For every bottle of True Earth purchased, consumers are also donating $2 to Planet Ark’s National Tree Day,  supporting efforts to plant over one million new trees, shrubs and grasses each year. 

“We’re thrilled to be partnering with Jamie and Planet Ark on a project that is so synergistic with our values,” said Davidson.

Durie added:  “I am passionate about the need to honour and heal our land. This collaboration with Tamburlaine was born through the mutual respect for land and how it’s managed. We are tremendously excited to see this project from conception through to completion. I’ve been an ambassador for National Tree Day since 1999 and worked with Planet Ark on environmental initiatives for over 27 years.”

Durie has worked in the environmental sector for over 28 years and was selected to train with Al Gore and to be a part of the Climate Reality Group. An ambassador for Planet Ark’s National Tree day for over 21 years, Durie has worked on multiple environmental campaigns with the United Nations in New York, Greening Australia, Landcare Australia, the Australian Conservation Foundation and multiple other organisations. In honour of his work over the last two decades, Jamie was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in 2013 for services to the environment & design. 

In addition to its National Tree Day affiliation, the project also integrates two exciting new Australian-born technologies. Each bottle is uniquely  ‘fingerprinted’ with Laava Smart Fingerprint technology and after scanning, consumers can explore the wine  back-story and connect with Upstreet, a micro-investment platform. Customers who sign up to Upstreet will receive $4 per bottle in fractional shares of a sustainability Exchange Traded Fund (ASX:FAIR). 

There are three wines in the collection: Wild Chardonnay, Malbec Shiraz and Cabernet Shiraz, each selected from organic vineyards across Orange and Canowindra in Central West NSW. The wines are available for purchase exclusively online and through Tamburlaine Cellar Doors for as long as they last.  

Davidson (above) said he hopes the collaboration with Durie will be an enduring one and the pair are already considering how they grow the initiative.

“Jamie and I would like to see this as a project that continues and possibly even expands internationally,” Davidson said.

Triumphing during a challenging 12 months

Davidson also discussed the major social shifts that 2020 and 2021 have brought and said Tamburlaine had been well prepared for the challenges the wine industry faced.

“We have a strong history of direct sales,” he explained. “The winery’s founder Dr Lance Allen only sold out of the cellar door. His philosophy was that you made it out the back and sold it out the front.

“Our e-commerce set-up meant when we needed to close our cellar doors we were equipped to keep selling directly. That worked really well for us when people were cautious about leaving their homes, even to go to the bottle shop. We could deliver the wine straight to them.

“The knock-on effect was that our customers were recommending our products to their friends and online, which also gave sales a boost.”

Davidson noted that organic wine had previously struggled with its reputation of “not being very good”, but people have become more interested in the origins of their food and wine. As a result, they’ve been exploring what Australian organic wine has to offer and been impressed with the quality.

“So I wouldn’t say that COVID-19 accelerated our sales, but it dovetailed with trends we were already seeing in the market,” he said.

Davidson said a key factor in the company’s growth in the off-premise had been its ability to offer a broad range of wines to the consumer, rather than there only being one or two organic choices for customers.

“Being able to offer a wide range of wines really accelerated out business in the independent trade,” he noted. Price has also been a big factor. “Our mantra is that we’re big enough to get the economics of scale that people can afford to buy us every day, not just on special occasions. We make organic wine that tastes great that you don’t have to spend a lot of money to enjoy.”

While bottle shops prefer to focus on varietals, Davidson enjoys being more experimental with his offerings at the cellar door. Instead of a traditional GSM with mourvedre, he has enjoyed making one with malbec and says a shiraz pinot blend was another big success, while he mixed things up with whites recently by combining verdehlo and semillion.

He said Australians are open to new experiences, while overseas markets can be a bit more traditional and conservative. An example was the popularity of Tamburlaine’s unique and successful screw cap innovation for its sparkling wine.

There is only one wine bottle produced in Australia that is pressure rated for screw caps on sparkling wine. It looks a little like a chardonnay bottle, which Davidson said “puts some marketers off”.

“But we’re continuing to sell more and more sparkling that way,” he revealed. “Our sparkling production has quadrupled in recent years.

“It’s just so perfectly sensible. I love it, it’s much more practical. I’ve never been a fan of cork.”

Davidson said sparkling wine, pinot gris, sauvignon blanc and rose were all going “gangbusters” for Tamburlaine.

Orange region comes into its own  

Tamburlaine opened its first cellar door in Millthorpe about a year ago. Davidson said there are three cellar doors in the town, together with artisans, cafes and a one-hatted restaurant. The result is a beautiful country town experience for wine lovers seeking an escape from the city.

He believes the Orange winemaking region’s hospitality offering will go ahead in leaps and bounds as Australians continue to discover the pleasure of holidaying at home.

As for the quality of the latest Orange vintage, he said the whites were “pretty strong”, while rain mid-season lead to a great range of roses and some “powerful reds” that were picked early.

In the Hunter, while the drought years of 2017, 18 and 19 resulted in some “really good reds”, 2021 was interspersed with rain. The vintage features “medium savoury” weight wines that highly drinkable and “less ballsy” than those produced in the drought years. For the whites, the weather led to higher natural acidity, which he thinks will also lead to some great ones.

As for what Davidson drinks at the end of a busy week, he describes himself as an “eclectic” wine lover, but confesses to being particularly fond of aromatic whites.

“I like a good riesling, they’re so refreshing,” he concluded.

Watch Jamie Durie discuss True Earth Collective below:

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Categories: New releases