A serendipitous story
As Tulloch Wines celebrate their 125th anniversary, we look at how they’ve built their revered reputation through tenacity, passion and a touch of good fortune.
Some of the key moments in the history of Tulloch Wines have been due to serendipity. Take how it came into existence, for a start.
In the late 1800s, when a cash poor customer at John Younie (J.Y.) Tulloch’s Hunter Valley general store couldn’t pay his debt, he offered payment in the form of a 43 acre Hunter Valley property.
This land was home to five acres of neglected Shiraz vines, which J.Y. nurtured back to health and the following year he produced his first wine. By the 1920s, J.Y. was the largest vigneron in the Hunter and his eldest child Hector, was winemaker.
“The Tulloch story is a really Australian story. That notion of accidentally falling into a business resonates with the Australian philosophy of the underdog succeeding against the odds,” today’s CEO of Tulloch Wines, Christina Tulloch, describes.
When J.Y. passed away in 1940, J.Y. Tulloch & Sons was kept in the family, with Hector taking over the reins.
However, when Hector died, things changed and in 1969, J.Y. Tulloch & Sons was sold. This began an era of ownership outside of the family that continued until 2001.
The Tulloch brand, Christina explains, “suffered enormously” during this period due to neglect and multiple ownership changes.
Pictured above: The Tulloch cellar door.
But in 2001, the pendulum swung back in the family’s favour when, Christina says, “The opportunity arose to buy the old family company from the large conglomerate, Southcorp Wines.”
The family won their name back and a new era of J.Y. Tulloch & Sons began with Hector’s son Jay, and his wife Julia, at the helm. Tulloch’s commitment to premium Hunter Valley wines was renewed and one of the Hunter’s great wine names was reestablished.
At the time, none of Jay’s children – Victoria, Justina, and twins Jock and Christina – worked for the winery, but another serendipitous event was about to change that and bring fourth generation Tullochs back into the business.
Christina was working in public relations in Sydney when she had a yearning to find something more in life. Her plan was to save some money to visit Justina, who was living in Shanghai.
She decided she’d move back to the Hunter with her parents for a couple of months to get her finances in order before setting off on her Asian adventure.
As fate would have it, the new Tulloch cellar door was about to open in Pokolbin in late December 2003. Jay suggested Christina assist in running it until he could find someone else to fill the role. With previous experience working in cellar doors throughout the Hunter, she was comfortable to stand in for a few months.
Shortly after the grand opening in January 2004, a man Christina describes as “a lovely Texan” named Alex walked in for a wine tasting.
One thing led to another and the pair are now happily married with two children Evie and William. Christina has been with Tulloch Wines ever since, working her way right up to CEO.
Another fourth generation Tulloch has also recently joined the business, Christina’s sister Justina. Her role focuses on opening up new tourism markets to come to their cellar door. And, of course, both Jay and Julia are still heavily involved, overseeing the winemaking, viticulture and promotional activity.
Pictured above: Tulloch’s Hunter Valley vineyards.
The Tulloch brand is built on a proud 125 year history, yet it doesn’t stand still.
“Tulloch is always evolving as new generations of the family take the reins,” Christina explains. “We don’t shy away from the history and tradition because that’s something we’re really proud of, but that doesn’t mean we’re not nimble enough to move with the times.”
As an example, Christina says when the new cellar door opened, it was very traditional. But today, it has evolved to incorporate a range of tasting experiences. They also have a modern philosophy of ‘wine your way’, focusing on the idea that wine should be enjoyable not intimidating.
Yet the family also takes great pride in their traditional wines. Their first vintage was Shiraz and they’re still famous for their Pokolbin Dry Red and Private Bin Pokolbin Dry Red – both recipients of the Hunter’s Heritage Award.
They’re also renowned for their Verdelho; a variety that was yet another happy accident.
“We’d always used Verdelho for blending, but one year they couldn’t get it to ferment out and it remained a bit sweet,” Christina explains. “So they thought, let’s sell it at cellar door. People loved it and that’s how it was born.”
Looking forward, wine-lovers can continue to expect big things from Tulloch Wines, an innovative family company born from lucky coincidences, passion and hard work.
Celebrate with Tulloch throughout 2020 – visit wineselectors.com.au/events