The First Families banner unites together 12 of the oldest and most prestigious families in Australian winemaking. Their common tie is their shared heritage, but also their independence, which they see as a valuable commodity in an age of large powerful conglomerates.
The aim of the First Families initiative is to demonstrate a side to Australian wine they feel has been hugely under-represented internationally. They want to prove Australian wine is more than just the well-known, most popular brands that often seem to dominate UK wine shelves.
They want to show us diversity, terroir and sustainability. They want to show how complex their wines can become with age. They want to show the individuality of Australian producers.
We now proudly stock wines from six of the 12 families at Majestic, with a new addition being d’Arenberg, whose wines are overseen by an 83 year old called d’Arry, and his son, Chester. d’Arry has seen through 60 consecutive vintages since inheriting the winery aged 15. He knows this land. d’Arenberg make wine with character, honesty and integrity. If you don’t believe those things can exist in a wine, you need to try some of this.
Yalumba may be better known to us at Majestic, thanks to their excellent Y Series Viognier, but they make great reds too. It is indicative of this family business that they choose not to import any barrels from France or America as nearly all else do, but have built their own cooperage on-site, crafting each barrel according to the demands of each winemaker.
These are just a few examples of what makes the First Families different. There are plenty more. In truth, the threads that bind them together are not just heritage and independence, but taking care of the little things that make big differences.
Custodian Grenache 2007, d’Arenberg, McLaren Vale New!
£12.49 or £9.99 when you buy 2 bottles*
Soft and supple but with great flavour intensity, this has a lovely feel. Notes of violets, figs and redcurrant and even a hint of something citruspeel-esque in the clean refreshing acidity that left me wanting more.
The Galvo Garage 2006, d’Arenberg, McLaren Vale New!
£15.99 or £12.79 when you buy 2 bottles*
Full body; ripe, soft tannins; and the Petit Verdot plays a more dominant role than I imagined. Soft blackcurrant and plum notes take on Bordeaux-style smoky cigar-box characters on a fascinating palate.
The Laughing Magpie Shiraz Viognier 2007, d’Arenberg, McLaren Vale New!
£15.99 or £12.79 when you buy 2 bottles*
Opaque, inky Shiraz with a silky mouthfeel, velvet-soft tannins and a long, stylish finish. Black fruits dominate the palate, with a touch of vanilla, some sweet spice and liquorice all thrown into the mix.
Wakefield Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2008, Clare Valley
£8.99£8.74 or £6.99 when you buy 2 bottles*
Cassis and eucalypt on the nose promise a true Australian Cabernet and the palate duly delivers those flavours, however it is the smoothness and softness with which the flavours are carried that is the mark of this wine.
Brown Brothers Orange Muscat and Flora 2008, Victoria, Half bottle
£6.99 or £5.59 when you buy 2 bottles*
A distinctive, delicate sweet wine with zesty orange flavours, refreshing acidity and smooth mouthfeel. Wonderful value for money.
Noble One Botrytis Semillon 2007, De Bortoli, New South Wales, Half bottle
£17.99 or £14.39 when you buy 2 bottles*
Intense, balanced and complex, with flavours of candied peel, dried apricots and marmalade to name just a few of the possible notes. The finish is immense, lingering on and on and on. And on. I love it.
Yalumba Y Series Viognier 2008/09, South Australia
£7.49 or £5.99 when you buy 2 bottles*
A rich perfumed nose of ripe peaches leads onto a full bodied palate laden with tropical fruit, lychee and lemons.
Yalumba Bush Vine Grenache 2008, Barossa Valley New!
£9.49 or £7.59 when you buy 2 bottles*
For a young wine, this has a surprisingly developed but highly pleasant nose of baked red fruit, currants, prunes and sweet spice. The palate is gentle but giving, with good lift, notes of cherries and prunes, and a pleasingly long finish.
The Lodge Hill Shiraz 2007, Jim Barry, Clare Valley New!
£9.99 or £7.99 when you buy 2 bottles*
A relatively subdued nose of mellowed black fruit – especially black cherry – gives way to a lush experience on the palate. Full, intense and beautifully soft. I always like it when I write the word voluptuous on a tasting note and I did here. For the money, this wine is a gem.