Australia’s First Families of Wine Chairman Chester Osborn explains new direction and members

June 4, 2024
By Cody Profaca

Australia’s First Families of Wine (AFFW) has welcomed in two new members, Best’s Great Western and Clonakilla, bringing the total number of member wine producers to 12. Best’s and Clonakilla are the first additions to the collective since it was established 15 years ago in 2009.

When Drinks Trade asked about the new members, D’Arenberg’s Chief Winemaker and the AFFW’s eighth Chairman Chester Osborn said “so Best’s Wines have just joined us… and Clonakilla from Canberra has just joined us as well, the Kirk family. It’s good to have someone from Canberra and, also, they’re making great wines, so it enriches our story. More fun to be had with those people!”

The AFFW has said that the two newest additions will help to strengthen the collective’s mission to celebrate and promote the excellence, heritage, and diversity of Australian wine both domestically and around the world. According to Osborn, the additions come at a time of changing direction for the group.

“I’m the chairman of Australia’s First Families of Wine now and I’ve changed the organisation a little bit,” he told Drinks Trade.

“We had some other staff working for us paid full-time and I didn’t think they were doing a good enough job, so I’ve actually pulled it all back into D’arenberg and my marketing staff are very much now involved.”

The changes implemented under Osborn’s time as Chairman hope to increase the political scope of the collective.

“We’re reorganising everything and cranking up the website a lot better. We’re also having a voice now. We never really had a political voice or approached governments for funding and things like that so we’re actually pushing hard… There’s a group of us wanting to go to Canberra, so we’ve already sent letters to them and got some good information back. They didn’t do anything in the budget so we’re now going to push for funding outside of the budget.

“Australia’s First Families of Wine: as long as we all agree then we can be a little political and start pushing.”

The Australia’s First Families of Wine collective includes strict membership criteria such as a requirement for multi-generation succession, exceptional vineyard sites and wines, strong environmental practices, and a long-term commitment to exporting to a wide variety of global markets. 

Drinks Trade recently caught up with Graeme Hogan, the National Sales Manager at Best’s Great Western, one of the AFFW’s new members, to discuss the brand’s reintroduction into China. 

“My role is National Sales Manager, but that encompasses everything from sales to marketing to domestic to international,” he said.

“I think as far as China goes, we had a meeting early today [29 May] with our Chinese distributor, and from their point of view, the market is considerably down in consumption to what it was two, three years ago, so we realised that it won’t be the silver bullet for the Australian wine industry, but we still want to be there.”

Best’s Great Western has been under the stewardship of the Thomson family for five consecutive generations since it was purchased by Frederick P Thomson in 1920. This includes Ben Thomson, Managing Director, and Hamish Thomson, fifth generation vigneron.

“We’ve got Hamish Thompson, who’s one of the Thompson family, and he goes around Australia as an ambassador,” said Hogan.

“So not only do we have a distributor who are Oatley Fine Wine Merchants, who are a great distributor, but we also back it up with one of our own people who can go around and tell the story. 

“We’re 156 years old, so our story is one of the most important things to us.”

Drinks Trade caught up with Chester Osborn and Graeme Hogan in Hong Kong at Vinexpo Asia 2024. For more coverage from the event, search Vinexpo 2024 in the search bar.

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