Yalumba is inextricably linked to and identified with the history of the Barossa, and indeed that of Australian wine. The oldest family-owned Winery in Australia, today into its 6th generation and over 170 years of age. Founded by Samuel Smith, who had taken his wife and four children from Dorset in the UK to Port Adelaide in South Australia and from there onto a small settlement called Angaston, a day’s trek from Adelaide. Here, in 1849, he planted his first vineyard, with son Sidney, and founded Yalumba.
Chairman of the family business today is Robert Hill-Smith, the 5th generation, direct descendant of Samuel Smith. Joined since 2 years ago by eldest daughter Jessica, Robert is reaching the sunset of a completely stellar career. Since taking over at the age of 34, Robert has transformed the business from a flailing giant, ownership split among various branches of the family, making large amounts of bulk wines, fortifides and table wines, shaping it instead into a remarkable wine group, relevant globally and among the most highly respected gems in the Australian wine industry. Robert consolidated Yalumba’s ownership to his brother Sam and himself and has relentlessly taken the emphasis on quality up and up, highlighting regionality, provenance and individuality, swimming up-stream and away from the commoditised market where the big corporate groups slog it out, whichever continent they may come from. While also successfully developing large retail brands owned by Yalumba, such as Oxford Landing, Robert has focussed the emphasis of the businesses on the family estates and vineyards, adding to those by acquiring land over the decades in strategically important cool climate areas such as Tasmania (Jansz Sparkling wine & Dalrymple Pinot Noir and Chardonnay), New Zealand (Sauvignon Blanc & Pinot Noir), creating an international business (Negociants International) for selling all the wines of the Hill-Smith family and a broad selection of other top producers from Australia & New Zealand (it is today the gold standard of premium wine exporting in Australia and New Zealand), creating the second largest vine nursery business in Australia, at Yalumba from scratch, to underpin his own plantings (and subsequently for the Australian wine industry at large), opening his own dedicated cooperage (at Yalumba), developed the most important imported wine business in Australia, alongside his two major national distribution Companies and another one in New Zealand, founding and owning the Barossa’s legendary restaurant in Angaston Vintners Bar & Grill. And so on. Rob has built a vertically integrated Winery business, from nursery to consumer, the world over. During the 1980s and 1990s Robert, along with a handful of legendary Australian producers, opened the world up to the then undiscovered premium wines of Australia. Whereas many of those names have today been swallowed-up and neutered by large global corporate wine groups, Robert has preserved and developed the family ethos of Yalumba and has successfully positioned his business among the most premium and well-reputed names in the wine world. He is also a co-founder and member of Australia’s First Families of wine; the most prestigious association of the oldest family-owned wineries in the country, with 1,400 years of winemaking between them.
Yalumba stands today as a leader in the Australian wine industry. On every level. Innovation, consistency, ethics, scale, trustworthiness and quality.
Having achieved so much in his career, Rob’s decision to relinquish the Managing Directorship of Yalumba in 2015 (to his younger Brother-in-law Nick Waterman), allowed Rob to focus on the strategic role of Chairman of Yalumba and to steer this Rolls Royce of a Winery businesses into the future, in the safest possible pair of hands in the industry. Eldest daughter (of 3) Jessica joined the family business formally 2 years ago, with a brief to focus totally on the family-owned estates and to continue to infuse all Yalumba does with the Hill-Smith family values. A gradual passing of the baton to the 6th generation, to take Yalumba to its 200th year and beyond, securely into the future.
Robert Hill-Smith is one of Radford Dale's owners and shareholders. His youngest daughter, Lucy, spent a vintage with us in 2017 making her own wine as well as helping out in the cellar and our head of viticulture and winemaking, Jacques de Klerk, has also worked a season at Yalumba.