wine families christmasLifestyle

Three winemaking families reveal their Christmas plans

When winemaking families gather for Christmas, it’s a given that some pretty spectacular tipples will be on the table. We asked the Taylor, Calabria and Burch families about how they celebrate the festive season and the traditions they cherish most.

Taylors Wines

Mitchell Taylor – third generation winemaker & managing director at the Clare Valley winery – can trace his passion for the wine industry back to when he was just seven years old, working on the bottling line at the family winery.

What does a typical Christmas look like at the winery?

It’s all hands on deck at the winery getting everything ready for the pending vintage with the winery, then closing over Christmas so the team can enjoy spending time with their families. 

Although it’s a busy time of year, it’s always been important for us to share a meal together as a team, paired with our wines of course. We usually clear some space in the barrel hall and get the long tables out for a long lunch before the year is done. 

What does a typical Christmas look like for the family?

A Taylors Christmas usually consists of the whole extended family gathered around the table in Dad’s – Bill Taylor’s – house for a seafood BBQ feast. Aside from the usual presents, carols and jokes, there is a lot of wine chat. Now that some of the fourth generation are of age, we enjoy talking shop and educating them about some of our favourite wines. 

A Christmas tradition for our family that springs to mind is we like to pop a $50 note into one or two of the younger kids’ Christmas crackers. The excitement from the kids is contagious and we all get a kick out of watching their faces light up on receiving the bright yellow note!  

What will you be eating and drinking over the festive season?  

We always opt for seafood on Christmas day and are certainly spoilt for choice in terms of wine pairings. Usually, the wine of choice is a crisp and bright Riesling – from the Clare region, of course. It makes for a great accompaniment with freshly shucked oysters. After dinner we look forward to whatever treats Dad decides to offer up from his cellar, which usually ends up being a first-growth Bordeaux or something equally special. It’s a great way to round off the day.

What is your top Christmas wine recommendation for gifting?

For something really special and utterly age-worthy, I recommend The Visionary. We created this to honour Bill Taylor Snr., whose vision was instrumental in creating the Taylors winery as it is today. It’s a pinnacle release Cabernet Sauvignon, crafted from the very finest fruit selection, and it is entirely estate grown and bottled at our Clare Valley estate.

Calabria Family Wines

Elizabeth Calabria – third generation, head of marketing at the Griffth winery – worked in the family business while growing up and during university holidays. From the bottling line, labelling up export orders, and hosting wine tastings in the cellar door, she’s done it all. Elizabeth acquired a passion for the wine industry after seeing the fulfillment it brought to her parents.  

What does a typical Christmas look like at the winery?

The winery is a very lively place to be during Christmas. There is always plenty to do as we start to prepare for the vintage season ahead, but always manage to find the time to sit back and enjoy a few glasses of wine and a meal together towards the end of the month to celebrate the team’s hard work throughout the year!

Mum (Lena Calabria) is famous for coming to the winery to cook up a feast for all the team. She’s been doing it since the early days as the winery was getting more established. Christmas is just another excuse for her to serve up homemade pizza and bowls of pasta (with her homemade passata sauce, of course). It’s a Calabria Family Wines tradition, one which my brother’s have started to take over.

What does a typical Christmas look like for the family?

Christmas is a very big family affair for us, with our family and extended family all gathering at Nonna’s house for a seafood lunch. It’s usually 50 plus people, so it’s guaranteed fun, noise, wine and indulgence. It’s such a treat to catch up with relatives from out of town.

Our Christmas traditions as a family include Christmas light sighting around the local town and decorating Christmas cookies. Home cooked Italian food also makes an appearance every year, without exception, plus some great bottles of wine. 

What will you be eating and drinking over the festive season? 

We usually kick off the festivities with a prosecco while everyone is arriving or when opening presents. We are lucky to be surrounded by so much delicious local Riverina produce, and that we have a lot of great cooks in the family.

Lunch is always a seafood feast with something crisp, white and Italian to match. When we move onto cheeses we switch over to red.

After lunch, my Dad Bill usually treats us to something special from the cellar – most likely a Durif from our Three Bridges range, which is a real crowd pleaser and we have about 20 years of vintages sitting in the cellar to choose from! 

What is your top Christmas wine recommendation for gifting?

Our Christmas hampers are perfect for gifting, entertaining and enjoying! You can’t go wrong. I recommend The Italiano Hamper featuring our Calabria Montepulciano and a selection of local Italian produce, to include Zecca pasta.

Burch Family Wines

Natalie Burch – second generation general manager & marketing director at the Margaret River winery – spent weekends worked in the cellar door of Howard Park and MadFish wines before joining the family business, Howard Park Wines, in 2005.

What does a typical Christmas look like at the winery?

For us, December consists of a lot of sparkling wine, seafood, and hosting visitors at the cellar door. The Margaret River is spectacular during the summer months, so this time of year is all about the outdoors and the beach. It’s a vibrant and action packed time to be at the winery and in the region.

We love to host events at the winery over the summer from oyster shucking, to sparkling tastings and vibrant floral displays. Given our beautiful surroundings, the events usually include nature and the outdoors in some way. 

How does your family celebrate Christmas Day?

We are a big family which makes Christmas a lot of fun. We generally spend Christmas at [founder] Jeff and Amy’s – there’s about 20 of us and a great mix of generations. We usually opt for a long Christmas lunch, which has been known to continue on well into the evening. 

Obviously wine plays a part in the majority of our family traditions. Jeff gets really excited about bringing out special wines from his cellar he’s been saving all year to see what we all think. It often leads to some fierce family debate! 

What will you be eating and drinking over the festive season?  

Turkey, ham, crayfish, prawns…they all have a place on the table. It’s very much a team effort with everyone bringing their speciality dish and a huge number of desserts as we all have different favourites, which of course must be catered to! One of our favourite wines to open at Christmas is our Leston Cabernet Sauvignon. We use this special red to raise a glass to our Grandfather, Leston Burch who the wine was named after. He is always missed especially when the family is all together at Christmas.

What is your top Christmas wine recommendation for gifting?

We are huge sparkling drinkers at Christmas, so we would highly recommend our méthode traditionnelle sparkling range: Jeté. Particularly the Grand Jeté 2015. It makes for a stunning gift as well as a great choice of bubbles to toast the new year. 

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