During his almost 40 years in the wine industry Mark Lloyd has been responsible for the introduction of alternative grape varieties into Australia as well as crafting top-notch shiraz.
For many wine lovers Coriole has a special place in the Australian industry. In addition to its role as a serious producer of McLaren Vale shiraz, it has worked hard to introduce a more diverse range of grape varieties into Australia as well as making a ground-breaking contribution to the Australian olive oil industries. Coriole has also integrated the arts, especially music, in to what they do and in this they have been a trailblazer for the wine industry. The moving force behind all this is Mark Lloyd.
In 1967, Hugh and Molly Lloyd went into partnership with Doug and Mary Collett to buy an old winery with shiraz vines planted in 1919, which became Coriole. The Lloyds brought out their partners and, in 1979, Mark Lloyd became its manager.
Lloyd had gained a science degree from the University of Adelaide, worked briefly as a teacher and social worker before going to England. There he worked for a year with a wine and cider company sourcing grapes from around Europe to make wine. While touring Greece, he supplemented his savings by working in olive oil factories.
On returning to McLaren Vale, he found an olive oil factory around the corner, run by Emmanuel Giakoumis who became a friend and mentor. “They were exciting times,” Lloyd explains. “We could see the shockingly poor quality of oil that generally came from Europe. We relished learning about the varieties, technologies, the chemistry of oil and tasting procedures.” After seeing that every winery in Tuscany had its own olive oil, Lloyd understood that olives were a part of wine culture there. It became part of what Coriole did from 1989.
Lloyd had been concerned for some time about the lack of diversity in the number of grape varieties available in Australia. A tasting of three vintages of Antinori’s Tignanello had piqued his interest in sangiovese and so he said to the influential group of Master of Wines that visited the country in 1985, “I’m thinking of planting an Italian variety. What would you recommend?” When they chimed “sangiovese” in unison his path was clear.
A family holiday to Tuscany followed in 1988 and Lloyd visited Antinori. An ex-pat arranged a meeting with long-time winemaker, Giacomo Tachis, who had created their most famous wines. “Although he was reticent at first, I was still there after two hours, Tachis got warmed up, and was getting winemakers to bring up wines,” he explains.
A trip to Vinitaly in 2001 to look at the wines of southern Italy led to his adopting “the wine with most personality – fiano” and influencing others in McLaren Vale to follow suit. Although not all of the varieties he’s tried have been successful; nero d’avola, barbera and the Languedoc white variety, picpoul have become part of the portfolio.
A significant part of the Coriole story has been its support of the arts, such as the annual Music Festival, the People’s Messiah and Shakespeare in the Vines. An interest in poetry comes to life in the Poets & Pizza evening and the Coriole Poet Series, featuring the work of emerging contemporary poets on the back labels of its wines.
Lloyd has always been a singer and a dancer and he has been influenced by the family tradition of the party around the piano in his childhood. “It’s great having a job that allows you to be who you are,” he says.
There was a time when people flocked to Coriole on Saturdays to enjoy John Downes’ freshly baked sourdough plucked from the wood-fired oven, Woodside cheeses, the winery platters. They come now for the restaurant and the wines.
“It’s exciting times in the vineyard,” he says, especially with two of his sons in the business – Peter in sales and marketing, and Duncan as winemaker.
Dandelion Vineyards’ Zar Brooks says that Mark Lloyd suffers from the fear of missing out, which may be what drives him. In doing what he believes needs to be done or what he wants to do, he has pointed the way for others to follow