2012 Hunter Valley Heritage Award recipient ….
Rhiannon Stevens explores the significance of the Pokolbin Dry Red labels to the heritage of the Hunter Valley…
Each year, prominent figures and landmarks of historical importance within the Hunter Valley wine industry are honoured at the Hunter Valley Legends and Wine Industry Awards. The Heritage Award recognises longstanding distinction and significant contribution to the Hunter Valley Wine Industry and is selected by the Living Legends. Following the commemoration of the Maurice O’Shea Labels in 2011, the 2012 Heritage Award pays tribute to Tulloch’s Pokolbin Dry Red labels.
The Tulloch family’s incredible entry to the wine industry was realised by accident in 1895 with John Younie Tulloch – a successful business man with interests in grazing, farming and the Branxton General Store. After reconciling a debt with J. Hungerford, John Younie received fourty-three acres at Pokolbin, some of which was under vine. With fervour, he rehabilitated the unattended Shiraz plantings at ‘Glen Elgin’ and managed to produce his first vintage within a year. John Younie’s preeminent enthusiasm and vigour assisted Tulloch’s in becoming the largest producers in the Hunter Valley by the 1920’s, and pioneers of the Hunter Valley wine industry.
Second generation Tulloch, Hector John first released the iconic Pokolbin Dry Red and Pokolbin Dry Red Private Bin labels for Shiraz in 1952. The decision followed decades of selling their wines mainly in bulk to other prominent wine companies of the time – Hardys, Mildara, Penfolds, Lindemans, and even Maurice O’Shea. Changing Australian palates and consumer perceptions of table wines drove Hector Tulloch to establish his own label. The Pokolbin Dry Red labels depict two grape pickers carting a bunch of grapes, and are still used today and represent the status forged by the Tulloch brand. “The motif is representative of the scouts returning from the promised land bearing between them, a bunch of grapes, as referred to in the bible” says Jay Tulloch. “To the family, it symbolises our heritage and commitment to Hunter Valley wines”.
Among their now extensive range of varietals, Tulloch have a proud tradition of producing medium bodied reds sporting the conservative finesse, complexity and charm that is renowned in the Hunter Valley’s regional terroir. The Pokolbin Dry Red Private Bin style is individually refined whilst substantively true of the Hunter region. The famed 1954 Vintage Pokolbin Dry Red Private Bin won first prizes for both Claret and Burgundy but also Best Red Wine of the Royal Sydney Show in 1956. The late Len Evans recalled in 2006, “At the end of the 60’s, Grange was the same price as Tulloch’s Private Bin” setting the benchmark for prestigious Australian wine.
Today the labels persist as a reminder of the esteem generated by early Pokolbin Dry Red wines of the 1950’s and 60’s, which assisted to raise the profile of the Hunter Valley. The success of the labels can be attributed to both the consistent quality of the wines, as well as the commercial availability in the marketplace. Successful early distribution in the 1950’s and 1960’s placed the Pokolbin Dry Red on every major Sydney wine list and on the lips of the consumer.
There is market appeal for traditional labels as we seek consistency in quality and the familiar. Sometimes we are attracted to the hype of an iconic brand or to relive nostalgia through a wine. The subjectivity of wine evokes emotional connections – it could be in the flavour, the aroma, the narrative, what we ate, who we shared it with or even the label. The acknowledgment of the Pokolbin Dry Red labels through the Heritage Award highlights the value of printed works to both place making and personal interpretation of our wine experiences.
Sandstone cairns are erected to mark Heritage Award recipients, as sponsored by Fay and Brian McGuigan. The Cairn unveiling will take place in 2013. Brian McGuigan states “the Cairn project is designed to recognise the people, places or objects that have nurtured and be crucial to the development and stature of the district”.
Today, the Tulloch tradition lives on under the auspices of third generation, Jay (J.Y), who confirms “the old Pokolbin Dry Red labels were a big part of bringing the Tulloch name to fame.” The fourth generation are preserving the Tulloch legacy through Christina and Jock who manage operations in the company. The Pokolbin Dry Red Labels have contributed to the ongoing success of the Tulloch company and are an unrelenting icon of the Hunter Valley.
Have a wonderful and safe holiday period
This article was published in Breathe Magazine Summer 2012/3, Breathe Magazine – Issue 35, Summer 2012/3.