This week at Artisans - 17 August 2017
I'm talking to Tim Duval about growing up in the Barossa Valley in a wine family, about life as a lawyer and about working with Dad in the family business - John Duval Wines.
You can't be anything but green with envy when Tim Duval starts talking about his introduction to wine at the Duval dinner table at a time when Dad was chief winemaker at Penfolds. (That's him in the picture above, front right next to Max Schubert.) Whilst he's quick to state Grange was not served every night ("Koonunga Hill was probably my true wine training wheels"), there's no doubt Tim Duval was developing a commanding appreciation and deep understanding of Australia's most famous wine at an age most of us were drinking Tang and Cottee's Cordial with our Wednesday night bangers and mash. But Tim's early memories of wine extend far beyond the regular privilege of enjoying Penfold's best.
"Growing up in the Barossa with dad working as a winemaker, wine was on the table every night of the week. There was a really healthy attitude to wine, it was part of a meal and central to the dinner table conversation. Wine was part of our everyday life and inevitably the network of Barossa mates I developed through my childhood each too had their own close connection to wine through a parent's involvement with a winery or a vineyard. It was only when I moved to Adelaide to study that it became apparent that not all family lives revolved around Shiraz, Grenache and Mataro, vintage, ferments, yields and vineyards.
My first hands on experience with wine came around the age of 17 working in vineyards along the western ridge training young vines to the trellis wire. A full day out in 40 degree heat gave me new found respect for the hard work that is grape growing, and equally the importance of a good piece of dirt...it also helped fund my early years studying law in Adelaide. All through my uni days, I stayed closely connected to wine working in some of Adelaide's best independent retailers. That experience opened my eyes to a much bigger wine world, and on weekends I'd head home to the Barossa with a few new discoveries to share and talk about with dad. With a year to go in my law degree, I took a break and headed to the Yarra Valley to work under Tom Carson at Yering Station. At that point, I knew working in the wine business was my ultimate destiny."
Tim and I get to the question what it's like working with your dad, and how John Duval, 26 years winemaker at Penfolds, welcomes Tim Duval, 7 years a practicing lawyer, into the family wine business.
"With 32 years age between us, there was never any doubt I'd bring a different perspective on wine to the business. I have enormous respect for what Dad has achieved in wine and in business....not only during his time at Penfolds, but for what he's done to get John Duval Wines to where it is today. I enjoy working with him, which is obviously important in a small business when it just him and I and Sally our Finance Manager in the office! He's very supportive, and his incredible knowledge of winemaking and relationships with the owners of great Barossa vineyards are the pillars upon which our family business is built. That won't change...and ultimately it will become dad's eternal legacy to John Duval Wines. Working alongside him in the business now affords me the opportunity to learn as much as I can from him....and I'm fairly sure he respects the value of having an ex lawyer around the place!
Shiraz and our family name's connection with Grange is a big part of our identity wherever we travel in the world - that's undeniable. But with each discovery of a great Barossa vineyard site comes an opportunity to write a new page in the story of John Duval Wines. Watch out for the first vintage releases of a single vineyard Mataro and Cabernet Sauvignon which will be released later this year. Of our current releases, our Annexus Grenache is the wine that excites me most. Barossa Grenache should be celebrated and promoted to the world - it's an incredible resource we have and when you discover the right site with the right clone, you can make wonderful, savoury wines with incredible depth of flavour. The 2015 vintage is almost sold out and 2016 is in bottle ready for release in December...a brilliant vintage for Barossa Valley Grenache."
Whilst John's winemaking career and Tim's childhood have been influenced by their respective experiences with Australia's most famous winery, it's clear this father/ son team is charting a future for their family business based not on the past, but on their faith in the Barossa as one of the world's great wine regions. To them, where their wine comes from and how it's made remains paramount to ensuring the standing of John Duval Wines as one of this region's most respected family winemakers.
It's rare a day goes by that Tim and/ or John is not sighted somewhere around our Artisans home in Vine Vale....so there's a very good chance you'll bump into them this week at Artisans.