We chat to Mitchell Taylor, managing director of Taylors, and learn about how his passion for wine has grown over a successful career in the industry.
There was never any guarantee that Mitchell Taylor would join the family business, originally launched by his grandfather, Bill Taylor Snr, in 1969. In fact, the same goes for all the Taylors, each required to earn the opportunity by going out into the world and starting their own career elsewhere.
Mitchell went down a financial path, studying commerce and working overseas before returning to the fold in 1988, more as a favour than anything else. Of course, it didn’t take long for him to fall in love with the romance of the industry, and he’s been a key part of Taylors Wines ever since. He stepped into the role of managing director in 2000, combining his passion for the business with an in-depth and technical knowledge of wine craft.
Vintage Cellars: What did you want to be when you grew up?
Mitchell Taylor: I dreamed of playing for the Australian cricket team. I had many great innings in my dreams, but runs on the field were a little harder to find – so I turned my attention to business.
VC: What was your first job in the wine trade?
MT: At around seven, I was able to work on the bottling line for the SA wine distributors in Petersham. It was a terrific job, helping put the caps on flagons of sweet sherry. The official language of the crew on the line was Italian, and it made for some fascinating language development in my early years. I was paid 40 cents a day and I remember sharing half my first pay packet with my mother. They were long, fun days, learning hard work from the grassroots.
VC: Did you always plan to join the family business?
MT: My start in the wine industry came as a bit of a surprise. While I always admired what my father and grandfather did to establish the winery growing up, I wanted to make my own career in the business world, which involved stockbroking and finance in London and Sydney.
Then, one day in the late-80s, a box arrived at Taylors’ head office in Sydney. Inside was a large computer and nobody knew what to do with it, so I got a phone call from Dad asking me to come in, set up the computer and train staff on how to use it. What was initially a three-month assignment turned into my lifelong career as I discovered how interesting and exciting all the different parts of the business were – from operations and sales to winemaking and viticulture – and what I could do in my own way to contribute to its growth.
VC: What is your favourite time of year in the vineyard?
MT: I’ve always loved springtime. You’re immersed in a sea of green, with so much anticipation and promise for the upcoming vintage. There’s a great buzz of excitement when flowering and fruit rolls in, as all the preparation work in planning, planting and pruning have set the stage for harvest, which is just around the corner.
VC: You’re also a director of Wine Australia. Do you ever need some time off from wine?
MT: Break time for me comes in the form of travel and sport. If I’m not spending time up the coast with my wife and kids, we usually enjoy an afternoon on the tennis court. I’m no Federer, but concentrating on that small yellow ball is a sure way to clear my mind.
VC: Where is your favourite place in the world, outside Australia?
MT: Of all the places I’ve been lucky to travel, Italy is top of the list. I love the beautiful countryside, the rich history and the theatre of the locals. The Italian attitude to life is first class and the Mediterranean climate makes it easy to relax. There’s always an abundance of great food and wine to appreciate with family and friends when we visit.
VC: What do you consider the biggest issues facing the wine industry today?
MT: Sustainability, while continuing to grow the business and industry is one of the biggest issues. Climate change will constantly pressure us to think innovatively and sustainably so that we can keep the business profitable for generations to come.
VC: How do you see the repercussions of the pandemic playing out over the next year?
MT: I feel cautiously optimistic about the future of the industry as we navigate the post-COVID-19 climate. On a positive note, Australians will gain a whole new appreciation for discovering what’s in their own backyard through regional tourism, which will be a big help to our cellar doors.
I also think the pandemic has challenged the wine industry to think on its feet and react in innovative ways, with things like live tasting events on social media and direct-to-consumer digital interactions. It will take more time for international exports to recover, particularly with countries like the USA and UK. However, the common appreciation across the world for quality, premium wines will shine through and get us back on our feet as things open up again.
VC: You’re at the pub and you don’t fancy a glass of wine. What do you order?
MT: I love a good Australian beer, especially after a wine tasting. I usually go for a Coopers Pale Ale made by another great South Australian family business.
Medium-bodied with flavours of ripe cherry and light red berry fruits along with savoury toast and sweet spice. The palate is soft and silky. Subtle oak characters of cinnamon and cedar add to the overall complexity.
A luscious wine with flavours of dark berry fruit, ripe cherries and plum along with attractive oak characters of roasted coffee beans and spice. Well balanced with well-integrated tannins providing the palate with firm structure.
Rich and complex with layers of flavour. Dark berry fruits combine with coffee, chocolate and spice from high-quality oak. This is a very generous wine with textural complexity and long, persistent flavours.