As one of Australia’s largest producers of organic wines, with vineyards in the Hunter Valley and Orange regions, Tamburlaine has become a household name amongst discerning wine drinkers. This month, Your Hunter Valley Magazine has gone behind the brand to introduce you to a few of the names responsible for making Tamburlaine the wine label and cellar door experience it is today.
Tamburlaine was first established by Dr Lance Allen in 1966 on approximately 80 acres in Pokolbin. When the winery was put up for sale in 1985, Managing Director and Chief Winemaker, Mark Davidson and a small group of investors purchased the Hunter Valley based winery, and then set about on the journey of turning Tamburlaine Organic Wines into Australia’s largest producer of labelled organic wine.
With a keen interest in wine, Mark’s enthusiasm for the industry was first sparked during a stint of external studies in viticulture and wine science at Riverina College (now known as Charles Sturt University). This led to Mark developing a long term wine-making philosophy around contemporary organic practices in the vineyard and winery.
Over the years, Mark has seen the Australian organic wine movement progress from relative obscurity to being talked about and recognised worldwide. To this day, Mark continues to champion organic wine in Australia and overseas.
Mark’s wife Lou (General Manager Corporate Events and Weddings) has also been part of the Tamburlaine adventure since 1985. Involved in all aspects of the winery from the vineyard to the cellar door, Lou ultimately chose to focus her skills on ‘The Lodge’, Tamburlaine’s weddings and functions venue, where she and her team have seen many brides and grooms say ‘I do’ for the past 17 years.
Lou works alongside Crystal Allan on the weddings and functions at ‘The Lodge’, collaborating during the past 16 years to help create every dream wedding possible, from simple celebrations to more lavish affairs. Crystal also coordinates the many events Tamburlaine attends each year.
While Tamburlaine’s picturesque grounds make it a hugely popular wedding destination, the Pokolbin winery is, of course, most well-known for its award-winning range of organic wines.
Guided by the ethos of producing wines of terroir while limiting their impact on the environment, the winemaking duties are shared by a close-knit team led by Mark and Tamburlaine’s Senior Winemaker Aaron Mercer.
Born and raised in the Hunter Valley, Aaron conducted a case study on sustainable agriculture at Tamburlaine in his first year at the University of Newcastle.
After gaining experience with some of the Hunter Valley’s most illustrious producers, Aaron moved to South Australia to complete his postgraduate degree in Oenology at the University of Adelaide, where he was exposed to cutting edge winemaking technology and research.
Aaron’s career then led him to France, Canada, Germany and California, before returning as Tamburlaine’s Senior Winemaker. In 2012, Aaron was awarded the Alasdair Sutherland scholarship and went on to win the Hunter Valley Wine & Tourism Awards Rising Star of the Year award in 2018.
ate a better product for its customers, including the introduction of the preservative-free range and the removal of all animal products from their winemaking process, making Tamburlaine 100 per cent vegan.
Of course, if there’s anyone that knows Tamburlaine’s wines as well as its winemakers it would have to be Cellar Door Manager Jan Williams, who in 2019 celebrates her 25th year with the business.
The winery’s longest-serving team member outside of Mark and Lou, in 1994 Jan became the first salesperson to be employed by Tamburlaine outside of family members.
With a family business and Hunter Valley farming background on what used to be the original ‘Kirkton’ Vineyard established in the 1800's by James Busby, Jan now leads the cellar door team at Tamburlaine, creating a lively and personalised customer-centric experience.
She has firsthand knowledge of the history and evolution of Tamburlaine and can share memories with loyal customers and experiences of days past, reinforcing just how much the company has grown and flourished.
Jan is ably supported in the cellar door by a team of knowledgeable staff, including Senior Wine Consultants Rob Butcher and Glenn Myers.
Rob has a background in horticulture and was initially employed at Tamburlaine as a groundsman, however, he quickly found his way into the sales arena and has now chalked up 20 years of service at the Pokolbin winery.
Glenn is another long-standing employee, having worked for Tamburlaine for 17 years, although his background before joining the team was in finance. Glenn raised his family locally, and all of his children have at some time been employed at Tamburlaine in sales.
Wine consultants Mitchell Unger, Nick Williams and Jarod Spinks also work within the cellar door team.
Like Rob, Mitchell has a background in horticulture and greenkeeping but has been working in sales at Tamburlaine for the past four years. Responsible for creating Tamburlaine’s weekly ‘Sign of the Time’, Mitchell represents the company in many and varied events.
Nick has also been in sales with Tamburlaine for the past four years and represents Tamburlaine at various wine shows and events. With a background in teaching, he was the obvious choice to coordinate and facilitate many of the tours given around the winery and vineyards to Year 11 and 12 high school students.
With a background in hospitality management, Jarod took a more traditional path into the wine industry and has been with Tamburlaine’s
sales team for just over two years. He is the newest recruit at the Pokolbin business and is known as a positive force around the cellar door and at various industry events.
While the cellar door team, wedding and events staff and winemakers are the most public faces of Tamburlaine, the winery actually employs around 60 people across their Hunter Valley and Orange sites, who all make valuable contributions to its ongoing success and longevity.
Among those working behind the scenes are Stephen Taylor and Irma Dupuis.
Stephen is Tamburlaine’s Head of Administration and has a long history in both the wine and finance sectors. After a taste of the wine industry working in Broke, Steve led a successful career in financial institutions for 26 years. In 2018, he came out of retirement to help Tamburlaine with administration, accounting and software system upgrades and oversees the winery’s admin team.
Irma has been with Tamburlaine for the past two years and is currently the Head of Branding, Strategy and Communications.
After living in China in 2008, Irma studied and worked in France and internationally, focusing on digital marketing. In 2017 she joined Tamburlaine to research the impact of sustainability on wine consumers as part of her MSc in Wine Business. Irma stayed on to manage change and innovation, leading the marketing and sales teams and supporting the managing director.
While’s Tamburlaine’s large and diverse team come from a variety of different backgrounds, they all have one thing in common, according to Jan.
“Our team really believes in our message,” she said.
“Every week we get together to share experiences, feedback and learn together about winemaking and organics.
"Sharing that knowledge with our customers is what makes the Tamburlaine experience unique… that and the great Hunter Valley and Orange wines, of course!"
Jan said the ever-changing nature of the Tamburlaine business made working at the Hunter Valley-based winery so enjoyable.
“Being part of the growing Tamburlaine family, there is never a dull moment,” she said.
“We constantly learn from each other and share our wine experiences with one another. We work in an interesting, stimulating environment, and we all feel we play a part in the company growth.
“We live to challenge ourselves by asking how can we do it better?