“Do families make better wines? It’s a romantic notion and one that mom-and-pop producers – many of whom like to peddle the notion that they’re in a David-and-Goliath battle with Grape Giants shilling nothing but soulless plonk – would like us to swallow. I can’t count the number of labels out there touting their “family wine estate” status. But hold on. What’s special about that? Families have always dominated the wine industry. They always will; I’ll bet my family cellar on it.”
A nice tongue-in-cheek-way to start an argument, if you ask me! Do read Beppi Crosariol’s article, Why family vineyards have always dominated the wine scene – and always will.
Some family-owned estates have formed interesting groupings. Why would that be?
Let us start with the PFV or Primum Familiae Vini consisting off important European family vineyards Antinori (Italy), Joseph Drouhin (France), Egon Müller-Scharzhof (Germany), Hugel & Fils (France), Torres (Spain), Chateau Mouton Rothschild (France), Famille Perrin (France) Vega-Sicilia (Spain), Tenuta San Guido (Italy), Symington (Portugal) and Pol Roger (France).
Australia has formed their own First Families of Wine listing Brown Brothers, Campbells Wines, d’Arenberg, De Bortoli Wines, Henschke, Howard Park Wines, Jim Barry Wines, McWilliam’s Wines, Tahbilk, Taylors Wines, Tyrrell’s Wines and Yalumba as members.
They have a different purpose: “Formed in Australia in 2009, Australia’s First Families of Wine came together to tell the world about the heritage of Australia’s premium wines and to share the stories behind them. We celebrate those things we have in common and the differences that make us unique. We hope to inspire you with our stories and warm your hearts with our pictures.”
The Family Winemakers of California again has a different goal: “Family Winemakers of California is an “organization that reflects the small producer’s point of view.” With nearly 5,300 licensed wineries in California someone needs to consistently speak for small, family wineries in the fight for more access to markets, protecting individual freedom from government over-regulation, and fostering aspirations to make the best wine.
There are of course many family-owned wineries across the world – although some may not belong to a fraternity and perhaps may be without impressive family crests and entrance gates. I do think there is something to be said for the romance of a family-enterprise, especially when it comes to a product such as wine that has so many emotive connotations. And while being a family winery as such might not necessarily be a guarantee of better quality, it can easily be an assurance of the passion and dedication that went into each vintage.