THE formula of Brown Brothers Winery’s 125-year success has been innovation, leadership and development passed down along four generations, the brothers say.
To celebrate the milestone, the winery held a weekend event featuring a booked out Valentine’s Day lunch, music festival and grape crushing ceremony.
Third generation family member Ross Brown, who runs the marketing side of the company, said its innovation could be tracked back to when his Scottish great grandfather planted the first vineyard in 1885 when Victorian wine growing was still in its infancy.
“There’s a culture of innovation that’s not just stuck in the back of a business plan,” he said.
“You can actually track back innovative things which have happened in each generation.”
Addressing an 80-plus crowd, Ross’ brother John said the early years had been difficult, with Australians preferring beer and spirits, but European immigration after War World II saw that change.
“I came along at the beginning of a wave and during my whole career of wine making, right through until today, it’s been a wonderful industry to be in,” he said.
“You look around and see a winery very different to the one my great grandfather started in the old barn.”
John said they had faced tough times, including a disease around 1915 which wiped out all of the district’s vineyards except theirs due to a resistant vine.
The family continued to use its wits to get through the 1930s recession and both a 1968 frost and a 1977 wind storm which destroyed those year’s entire crops.
Today Brown Brothes has five vineyards across Victoria, receiving more than 40 gold medals and 10 trophies for their classic wines in the past year.
But Ross Brown said it had been their growth into new varieties, led by head winemaker Wendy Cameron, which had ensured continued success.
“We’ve been the leaders in bringing new and different wines into the market,” he said.
“Many wineries just make a cabernet, shiraz or merlot, probably very well, but where’s the innovation, where’s the excitement, where’s the first step?”
Ross’ daughters, Caroline and Katherine, are now continuing the tradition, using social media to draw a young crowd to introduce to their wines.