Protector of the Hardys name

Growing up, Mr William Hardy, fifth-generation family member of popular Australian wine company Hardys, had wanted to be a wheat and sheep farmer.

Never mind that his late father Thomas Hardy was managing director and chairman of the board of one of Australia's oldest wine companies. Hardys was founded in 1853.

Having spent many summers on an uncle's farm, the 63-year-old former winemaker, who has been Hardys' global brand ambassador since the mid-1990s, says: "I loved working with the sheep and driving the tractor, ploughing the field, and the idea of growing things on the land and raising animals."

He was here recently to launch William Hardy, a new range of wines that includes a chardonnay and a shiraz, named after him to commemorate the family's fifth-generation and his 40 years in the business. The wines are available at Cold Storage and Jasons supermarkets for $37 a bottle.

He went on to study agricultural science at the University of Adelaide. But it was only halfway through his degree course that he had an epiphany: Perhaps, he ought to join the family business.

He says: "I had no intention of going into the wine industry. But my friends started saying, "Are you bl***y mad? You have a family history in winemaking."

It got him thinking.

The beer drinker then started taking more of an interest in wine and soon became intrigued by its complexity.

By the time he graduated, he no longer wanted to be a farmer. He was keen on the production of wines instead.

He sheepishly approached his father, who was overjoyed at the prospect, he says. He then studied winemaking at the University of Bordeaux in the famous French wine-making region.

Hardys had been family-owned from the time of its inception to 1992, when it went public. It was later sold to Constellation Wines in the early noughties, and two years ago, a private equity firm bought the wine business and its associated brands.

The business includes vineyards in Western Australia's Swan Valley and Victoria's Yarra Valley, as well as parts of South Australia and Tasmania. The portfolio also includes wine distribution businesses in Britain and had, up until the mid-1990s, vineyards in France.

Presently, he is the only family member with the Hardy name who still works for the company. He has a niece who works in cellar door sales.

On why he decided to stay, he says: "We might not own it anymore, but my family built this business. It carries our name, and most of the vineyards and wineries were planted and built by my ancestors and I find it too hard to walk away from that."

He is married with two daughters, a lawyer, 37, and a mother-to-be, 34, both of whom are not involved in the business. He sees himself as a "protector" of the Hardy name. "I am here to make sure that no one denigrates the name."

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