In 1969, Bill Taylor Senior and his sons Bill and John were wine merchants in Sydney, but their passion for their trade spurred them on to find somewhere they could make their own wine. Bill's initial vision has remained at the core of the Wakefield style: wines inspired by old-world finesse (Bill was greatly influenced by a trip he made to Bordeaux in the 1960s) but with a proudly Australian character.
Their first vintage was in 1973, and it won gold medals in every competition in which it was entered, so it isn't surprising to learn that since then Wakefield wines have won over 4000 awards. Today their estate is part of Australia's First Families of Wine, and is run by Bill Junior and his three sons: Mitchell, who has been winemaker and managing director since 2000, Justin, who runs marketing and export, and Clinton, who manages operations in the winery. Mitchell is assisted in the winery by Adam Eggins.
The estate is named after its position by the Wakefield River, and is located in Auburn, a sub region of the Clare Valley wine region, around 137km north of Adelaide. At 350 metres above sea level, Clare Valley is cooler than the surrounding regions, meaning grapes can remain ripening on the vines for two to four weeks longer than other South Australian wine regions. The Mediterranean climate here consists of warm days to help the grapes to ripen and cool nights to allow them to rest.
Wakefield's 500 hectares of vines are planted with 12 different grape varieties. Cabernet sauvignon and shiraz make up the majority of plantings, but there is also chardonnay, merlot, riesling, semillon, pinot noir, gewürztraminer, pinot gris, viognier and - more recently - tempranillo and carmènere. These are all planted on carefully selected sites: the aromatic whites, for instance, are on eastern slopes to catch the morning sun, whereas the shiraz is found on more gentle, west-facing slopes. The cabernet sauvignon is planted on red-brown loam soil in the sheltered warmth of the river flat, yielding small bunches of tiny berries.
Wakefield produces wines at many levels - St Andrew's wines are made from the oldest vineyards and best plots, the Estate range highlights the variety of wine produced and uses only estate grown grapes. The 'Promised Land' wine range highlights the easy fruit driven appeal of South Australian wines, made impeccably with great character, but at 'everyday' prices.
The new winery opened in 2009, and includes modern equipment like the Pera press, which uses gentler methods to extract purer grape juice. They estate has excellent green credentials, including ISO certification, and its Eighty Acres wine range became the first to be declared carbon neutral. It also took the decision to convert to 100% screwcap closures in 2004.