“I’m proud of the success of course but I’m also proud of the fact that we have a reputation for being a down-to- earth and respected company that’s family run and family-owned.”
Emeri De Bortoli says that even at a very young age her oldest son Darren had a strong will, determination and “always an enquiring mind”. “Darren would love to listen to the older generation talk,” she says. “We’d send him off to bed but he’d always come back in and before you knew it, he was back at the table, eager to know what was going on.”
Darren De Bortoli still has an enquiring mind. Whether it’s within the winemaking industry or on his Facebook page he’s never been afraid to challenge popular wisdom. It’s a quality that’s had him labelled “maverick”, “headstrong” and “ambitious” but it’s also one that helped imagine and then produce the iconic Australian Botrytis Semillon, Noble One, a wine no-one believed could be made with any success in Australia.
Darren carried the hopes of his grandfather Vittorio that he would become a winemaker and carry on the family business. Despite a tendency to “rebel against being forced in a direction” he went to Roseworthy to study for a Bachelor of Applied Science in Oenology. But when he returned to the family winery he wasn’t interested in business as usual.
The success of Noble One (which he continues to help make every year), gave Darren the confidence for his next plan, to push De Bortoli Wines towards the premium end of the market. After a series of “robust” discussions with his father Deen, the family bought the cool climate Yarra Valley Estate and followed that with properties in the King and Hunter Valleys.
Under Darren’s direction, De Bortoli Wines has become one of the largest and most successful wine businesses in Australia, but he’s always had a talent for keeping success and growth as just one part of the equation.
In recent years Darren has become passionately involved in causes that effect farmers, such as the debate about water flows in the Murray-Darling Basin. Anyone who follows his Facebook page (his brothers and sister joke that he’s still in his “honeymoon phase” with social media) will know his firm ideas on the water issue, alongside often insightful and sometimes hilarious posts about wine, history, politics and even the perch he keeps in his dam (the ones he feeds but won’t let anyone fish for).
Darren’s always been fond of animals and they of him too. His mother recalls a mangy German Shepard stray coming into the yard when Darren was only a young boy and Darren running up to it and flinging his arms around its neck. Emeri was convinced the dog would attack but instead it licked Darren’s face. They kept the dog.
As it was with his grandfather, food is one of his passions. Darren and his wife Margot are fond of entertaining, continuing the family tradition of good wine, good food and good friends.
"For me, one of life’s simple pleasures is hot roasted chestnuts with a full flavoured red wine in the middle of a cold winter’s night."
Darren became Managing Director of De Bortoli Wines when he was just 33.