It is three years since the Calabria Family Wine Group acquired McWilliam’s Wines, an iconic Australian winery, which had faced hard times having been placed into voluntary administration before the Calabria acquisition.

At the time both families talked about how important McWilliam’s Wines is in the history of wine in Australia, and the hopes for the future being part of the Calabria Family Wine Group.

Calabria Family Wines General Manager Michael Calabria said: “It is a great honour for our family to become the proud custodians of Australian winemaking history with the purchase of McWilliam’s Wines. Despite recent challenges, we know the McWilliam’s name carries a long and prestigious reputation as one of Australia’s oldest wine producers.”

Third-generation Sales & Marketing Manager Andrew Calabria, told The Shout in 2021, it was very exciting for the Calabria family to bring the McWilliams wines into its portfolio.

“McWilliam’s is not only significant for the whole Australian wine industry, but for us being a Riverina-based business, the importance of McWilliam’s in the Riverina… I think people have said they don’t realise how symbolic it is, but there is no wine industry in the Riverina without them.

“The last five to 10 years has been a really great journey for our family business. We’ve reverted to our original name of Calabria Family Wine and we re-worked our branding and sales have grown and it has been exciting. But when you look at the brand equity of McWilliam’s and what it really stands for, it’s a name that has stood for innovation, it’s stood for quality and of course that was a big part of us having interest in the business.”

That commitment to quality has remained strong over the last three years and is reflected in wine show success, with notable accolades coming in from the 2023 Royal Melbourne Wine Show with a quadruple trophy win, including ‘Best Shiraz of Competition’ for the McWilliam’s Single Vineyard 2022 Shiraz and ‘Best Fortified Wine’ for the Hanwood Estate 20-Year-Old Rare Tawny.

Mel McWilliam and her cousin Scott McWilliam both remain active in the family business. Mel recently graduated with a Bachelor of Wine Science in 2023 and has balanced study and full-time work at McWilliam’s since 2018, while Scott’s passion for the industry and the brand plays an integral role in his role as ambassador for the domestic and international portfolio.

Mel highlighted the family’s ongoing commitment to quality, saying: “McWilliam’s long-standing legacy of winemaking excellence carries on, with a continued commitment to maintaining style and quality across all of our ranges.”

When the Calabria family bought McWilliam’s in 2021, Andrew told The Shout that the diversity of the McWilliam’s portfolio was an attraction, as it extended the Calabria range in categories where they weren’t strong.

“The winemaking and production side of McWilliam’s is very important to our business, but as we look at the trade-side and the brands we have a great opportunity to amalgamate the portfolios and the sales team to create a really diverse portfolio. McWilliam’s play heavily in the cool climate regions and the commercial and fortified end, which Calabria doesn’t have strong foothold in, so this adds to that,” he said.

Andrew said that one of the major priorities over the past three years has been to “reinvigorate the fortified ranges,” and the family has shown that commitment with a $300,000 investment in enhanced premium packaging redevelopment and a major three-year national consumer advertising campaign, to bring the fortified brand back to life.

“The new selection of specifically aged releases is a marked evolution of the winery’s past while demonstrating McWilliam’s position at the forefront of the fortified industry,” McWilliam’s Wines Brand Manager Carrah Lymer said. “These fortified wines are sensational, and it’s so exciting to see McWilliam’s back sharing the story of its amazing wines through national campaigns.”

The investment has paid off as the McWilliam’s brand remains at the forefront of the Australian landscape with sales up 11% on +$15 brands. In addition, McWilliam’s strong brand power was reinforced in the 2023 IWSR Brand Health Tracker report, ranking #13 in the Australian market for brand awareness.

In August 2023, after a three-year hiatus, the Calabria family reopened the doors of the newly refreshed Hanwood Cellar Door located in Griffith NSW. As one of an exclusive few oversized tourist landmarks around Australia, McWilliam’s expansive barrel-shaped cellar door was first opened in 1973, celebrating over 50 years of welcoming visitors to the site.

Today the cellar door is a warm and modern tasting room, offering elevated customer experiences.

“This reopening feels like a new era for us and a great opportunity to reconnect with friends and visitors with some incredible new wine experiences,” said Elizabeth Calabria, Head of Marketing.

Looking forward the Calabria’s said there are exciting developments are on the horizon for the next three years with the McWilliam’s brand including the release of exclusive aged brandy in the works from our collection at Hanwood Estate.

There will also be continued enhancements to the Hanwood Estate Cellar Door and Lakeside areas with development around the site taking place to host more visitor experiences and events. Then there is the milestone anniversary in 2027, which will be honouring and celebrating 150 years of McWilliam’s Wine’s history.

The Calabria Family Wine Group said that it extends its gratitude to the McWilliam family and the community for their support, and remains dedicated to the ongoing success and legacy of McWilliam’s Wines.

Andy Young

Andy joined Intermedia as Editor of The Shout in 2015, writing news on a daily basis and also writing features for National Liquor News. Now Managing Editor of both The Shout and Bars and Clubs.

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