Following a year of significant brand acquisitions, the Calabria family has launched the Calabria Family Wine Group, which will ensure each brand continues to carry its distinct identities, portfolios, and distribution strategies.
Calabria now boasts 283 wines in its stable. In addition to acquiring the historic McWilliam’s Wines brand and Hanwood Winery, Deakin Estate, and La La Land Wines, the Griffith-based family winery has added a distribution arm, Vintners & Co. Merchants.
Vintners & Co. Merchants represents Calabria Family Wines’ international distribution partnerships and includes the Italian brands Canti and Librandi, prestigious Portugal port house Dow’s, Argentinian winery Dona Paula, and renowned French champagne producer Champagne Deutz.
It’s been amazing journey for the Calabria family since the winery was established by Francesco and Elisabetta Calabria in 1945. The couple immigrated to Australia from Italy and purchased land in Griffith for fruit farming.
“It is unbelievable to look back and see how the family business has grown,” third-generation Sales & Marketing Director Andrew Calabria told Drinks Digest. “We credit much of our success now to Francesco’s work in founding the winery 75 years ago. It was a very small scale operation back then and began as purely a means of extra income so he would never have imagined what his business would go on to achieve. I’m certain he would be blown away that his winery is now winning awards on a global scale.”
Calabria noted that his father Bill, who is youngest child of Francesco and Elisabetta, set the winery on a new course in the 90s, when he turned his attention to making premium wine, following a difficult period for Australian winemakers in the late ’80s due to a grape glut.
“Instead of making and selling wine, which wasn’t profitable at that stage, we had to make ends meet by washing bottles for larger producers,” Calabria recalled. “While it wasn’t ideal, it did help us get through to when wine exports were booming back in the 1990s.
“The quick expansion and opening of new markets like the UK allowed us not only to get back on our feet but to rethink the styles of wine we wanted to make and what we wanted to achieve. Bill was adamant that the Riverina had the potential to carry a great reputation for producing premium wines, so set about growing our capacity and releasing premium ranges like Three Bridges.
“As our ambition has grown to put the Riverina region on the map, so, too, has our business into other regions across Australia. We’re extremely proud to have gone from winning awards at the local Riverina wine show 50 years ago to winning Best in Show at the most prestigious wine show in the world, the Decanter World Wine Awards.”
Calabria said it’s been an exciting year for Calabria Family Wines, from winning at the Decanter World Wine Awards to rapidly expanding from a single producer-owned and operated wine company to a wine group housing some of Australia’s best-loved wine brands and a selection of diverse international wine distribution partnerships.
“The creation of the Group is a direct response to this growth and our mission to showcase each of these brands in the best way possible,” he said.
“This evolution is a significant step and a proud moment for us as a family. Calabria Family Wine Group now sits among the largest family-owned wine groups in Australia and made even more significant given we’ve just celebrated our 75th anniversary.
“Our offering in the international wine space provides us with more scope to work with a broad range of bespoke and boutique wine cellars, as well as the on-premise channel. We’ve been incredibly selective in these distribution partnerships, with most representing generations of family heritage behind the wines, which we feel connects strongly to our own family-owned values.”
With the new acquisitions, Calabria Family Wine Groups’ portfolio has grown from 140 SKUs to 283 SKUs in the past 10 months. The brands and products will be serviced by the Calabria Family Wine Group sales team, which has added seven new members – mainly from McWilliam’s Wines – to ensure the knowledge of these wines is carried over to the newly established Group.
“We’re thrilled to be welcoming a new group of talent to the Calabria fold, including Scott McWilliam [above right, with Andrew Calabria] as our Global Brand Ambassador,” Calabria said. “We’re confident he and the rest of the team will help us bring together the Calabria and McWilliam’s families in the best way possible, while also helping the Calabria Family Wine Group on a path to growth.”