Caudo Family - Cadell | Rabobank Australia Client
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Caudo Family


Caudo Family 1 

When Western Australian mining industry business owners and keen water skiers Christine and Joe Caudo came across a small farm on the Murray River their only consideration was its perfection as a holiday house.

Christine said, at the time, they had no thought for the 1000 acres behind the house but merely for how beautiful the river was, and for the time they would spend there in the future as a family.

“Joe was an avid water skier and had always loved the Murray, after our son Zac was born we started keeping an eye out for the right property and when we saw this place we fell in love,” she said.

“While there were old plantings of apricots and olives, we didn’t even consider the agricultural potential at the time, then things change and the next thing you know we are growing grapes!”

“And here we are today, a fully-fledged wine and citrus business, we are definitely what you’d call ‘accidental farmers’.”

The journey has not been a straightforward one, after purchasing the property in 1986 Christine and Joe had a small citrus orchard as well as peaches and apricots but opportunity knocked in 1992 when they were approached to grow grapes for a large wine producer.

“We had no idea how to grow grapes but we took advice from everyone and we got the experts in to ensure our setup was fit for purpose,” ”Christine said.

“We were fortunate in that we received a lot of guidance from local producers but that we also didn’t inherit any antiquated farming techniques.”

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“We invested in infrastructure, ensuring everything was state-of-the-art, especially our drip irrigation, which we had purpose designed by Netafim.”

However, despite all the preparation the realisation of what they were embarking on only hit home to Christine when the vines started showing up.

“I was due to fly back to Perth the next day, and then the root stocks pulled up, there were six semi-trailers with thousands of vines to be planted,” Christine said.

“I looked at them all, cancelled my flight and was there for the next six months planting.”

“Zac was in the first grade at the time and he stayed with me and was home schooled, although I’m not sure how much actual schooling was done!”

It was a baptism of fire for Christine and at the end of six months they were the proud owners of 60 acres of Shiraz vines.

After gradually expanding over the next decade, the mid 2000s saw the Riverland hit tough times as the grape glut combined with water restrictions to hit producers hard.

“It was a pretty horrible time and not one that I’d want to go through again,” Christine said.

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“We had been suffering from drought for almost a decade but a snap decision made by the government stopped us from using our own water, it was pretty devastating.”

“This also overlapped with the oversupply of Chardonnay and we pulled out most of our Chardonnay vines in 2004.”

“During this time, we were fortunate that we were still in mining so had a bit of a financial buffer but for some grape and citrus producers the financial hit was crippling.”

In 2011, Caudo Vineyards began producing bulk wine, selling 1000 cases in the first year. The following year they opened the cellar door and gradually moved from producing one type of wine to now producing eight under their own label.

Caudo Vineyards today produces 20,000 cases of wine, most destined for the Chinese market.

Generation Wine

Christine acknowledges that selling wine in South Australia is a lot like selling ice to Eskimos but it is a challenge that her son Zac has taken head on.

Joining the business in 2008, Zac has been a key driver in developing new markets and opportunity for the vineyard.

With the popularity of their Murray River-based cellar door providing the inspiration, Caudo has moved toward producing wines inspired by a more Mediterranean lifestyle.

While the Caudo family still produces more traditional wines such Chardonnay, Semillon, and Shiraz, they are much lighter and brighter than was historically bottled in the region and they have also taken to producing more offbeat drinks such as RoyalTea and their very popular white and red Sangrias.

They’ve even delved into beer, with their Hogwash Lager launched in 2014 to positive reviews.

“Our wine and cellar door could best be described as fun and lifestyle orientated,” Christine said.

“We’re a laid back, river loving, sangria and wine drinking folk and we want to share that with the world.”

Agritourismo – wine and water

With the exquisitely picturesque location of their vineyard, sharing has proven popular, with events and concerts often being held at the venue and their ‘agritourismo’ venture about to take off.

“We have a purpose-built boat that will begin taking tours in November with a particular focus on Chinese wine tourists coming in to and experiencing the Murray River and all our region has to offer,” Christine said.

Christine said there is also intention to include accommodation, and construction is currently underway for a museum to host their eclectic car collection, paying homage to Joe’s passion for cars and racing.

“We have a collection that ranges from a 1916 Super 6 Hudson to Brock Commodores, an Alvis TA 21, Jupiters and Citroens,” she said.

Caudo Family 4

“We’ve raced every one of them, all over the world, the Citroen we drove in a rally taking us all the way from Panama to Alaska, we spent 31 days straight in that car!”

The multi-faceted business has evolved from the passions shared by the Caudo family members and has meant breaking the mould of the traditional wine producer.

This ‘out-of-the-bottle’ thinking led to Zac being awarded the Rabobank Emerging Leadership Award in 2015.

“I think in many ways the Rabobank award was added incentive for Zac to continue to push the boundaries of what the business could achieve,” Christine said.

“Seeing what his peers had also achieved I think inspired him to continue to pursue our wine and tourism aspirations.”

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A thriving community

Christine said that key to their business plan is seeing their community flourish along with Caudo Vineyard.

“There are so many benefits to bringing additional tourism to the Riverland region, we live in a stunning part of the world and we hope that we can provide added incentive for tourists to explore all the region has to offer,” ” she said.

The location of the vineyard has also enabled Christine, Joe, and Zac to get involved in initiatives that directly benefit the local community.

The Caudo Vineyard hosts the obstacle challenge True Grit on an annual basis, which benefits returned servicemen and their families, and the family has also become increasingly involved in Foodbank through their citrus operation with 240 tonnes of fruit distributed to local children.

“We are continuing to expand our citrus operations so with any luck we can also continue to increase our contributions to Foodbank, I think it’s an excellent program,”

As the weather begins to warm up Christine said the river is looking more inviting than ever and with their wine portfolio continue to grow there is plenty to appeal to all tastes.

“Anyone who is considering visiting South Australia should come and join us for a tasting as I think you’d be hard pressed to find a more idyllic cellar door or a more expansive list of wines to try,” she said.

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