Interview with Malcolm Campbell, Campbells Wines, Rutherglen, North East Victoria

An insight into one of Australia's oldest family wine producers

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Wine Tasting at Rutherglen in Victoria's High Country

Wine Tasting at Rutherglen in Victoria's High Country [©Visions of Victoria]

Malcolm Campbell from Campbells Winery at Rutherglen
Rutherglen in Victoria's High Country produces an outstanding range of fortified wines
Many of the great winemaking houses of Rutherglen, Victoria, are still owned and run by members of the original family
Wine Tasting at Rutherglen in Victoria's High Country

Campbells Wines, North East Victoria [©VisitVineyards.com]

 

Campbells are one of the oldest family owned wineries in Victoria now. My great grandfather started the place back in 1870, as far as we know that was his first harvest, so he selected the land a few years before that under the Crown Lands Act at the time, and we’ve been here father and son ever since.

The next couple of generations are following along, so with a bit of luck they’ll stay here too. We’ve planted vines and we’ve made wine every year since, so yes, I think we are the second oldest one in Victoria now on its original site.

We produce a full range of wines except for sparkling wines and sherries. We don’t do those, but we do everything from riesling right through to the liqueur muscats and the rare muscats, tokays, very dry whites and dry reds ... a full range of wines really.

Since the school holiday system changed here from three terms to four terms the school holidays are nowhere near as significant to our tourist trade as they used to be. It’s a much more evenly spread and steady across the year now.

We’ve tried many times to see if we’ve got an age profile of visitors and that sort of thing, but there doesn’t seem to be any real pattern. We are getting quite a few retirees obviously nowadays, just as Australian population ages. But we still get a lot of family groups coming through too.

It’s been good fun, a lot of hard work. We have our good times and our bad times the same as I suppose every business has but as long as the good times are a bit better than the bad times, it makes it enjoyable, and we enjoy it.

I suppose people sometimes ask me what would you do if you didn’t do that? Well I don’t know, because I’ve never done anything else, I’ve never had to think about doing anything else, and I have got no intention of doing anything else! People say when will you retire? And I say I’ve got no intention of retiring, (but) I suppose one day, yes. Well we are already doing that, my brother and I, we’re handing it over to other people now, other staff, and hopefully yes, in another 3 or 4 years we can go and do a few of those things which you never did before.

We run sheep as well. We used to run cattle, but we don’t do that anymore, but we run quite a few sheep, and we grow some wheat, and I regard them as my escape, or relaxation more than anything, although I don’t physically do it myself anymore.  I enjoy the mix of them, of the three basic rural enterprises.

Wine is a curious product. No two wines are the same, no two vintages of the same wine are really the same.

Certainly we have generic brands which are blended to pretty consistent characteristics, but generally speaking wines are different, and therefore there’s curiosity, there’s interest, and there’s a difference, and therefore people travel as part of their holiday activities, or relaxation activities, whatever, just looking for something that little bit different.

And most wineries have wines available at cellar door, which are not available elsewhere, and that’s what they come looking for.

They wouldn’t come here if they didn’t have a good time, or weren’t looking for a good time, and I think it’s fair to say, particularly in Rutherglen there’s not much you can’t get, and they have a pretty good time here.

We pride ourselves of being a working winery, it’s not a bottle shop. Part of the winery is the facility which we call a shop where the wines are sold, but it's part of the winery, and it works all the time, right through to bottling of course .... and people are free to go and observe that, as far as we can, (but subject to your OH&S issues obviously), but apart from that, we work within that, people can go and see it.

There’s an atmosphere and some of the barrels in there, yes, go back probably over 100 years of age, and they know some of them do. And they are still in perfect order and still used. You don’t get that in many wineries.

Regions

  • North East Victoria (VIC)
  • Rutherglen (VIC)

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