Robert Hill-Smith & Family
A fifth generation descendant of Samuel Smith who founded Yalumba in 1849, Robert did not need to find an industry in which to build a career. Following his forebears Samuel, Sidney and Walter “Tiger” Smith, then his father Wyndham, Robert joined Yalumba in 1970 working in the vintage cellar laboratory and the vineyards. He travelled extensively through the vineyard regions of Europe and America doing harvest work at Chateau Rahoul and Domaine Dujac before returning in 1979.
On his return he joined the sales and marketing department and in 1981 assumed responsibility for exports, mapping an international strategy for the company brands. In 1983, he was appointed Marketing Manager and immediately commenced his quest to mould a new fine wine philosophy and brand strategy for the family business.
In 1985, Robert was appointed Managing Director of Yalumba, making him one of the youngest MDs the Australian wine industry had seen. His appointment came at a time when the Australian wine industry was poised on the brink of a revolution that would see a major shift in Australian wine consumption. Four years later, in 1989, Robert and his brother Sam purchased all shares in the company not held by their family, thereby ensuring the growth and future direction of the company. The family business underwent a restructure and a change of direction that would see Yalumba emerge as one of the Australian wine industry’s success stories.
In October 2008 Robert was recognised for his contribution to the Australian wine industry with the prestigious ‘Len Evans Award’ with Gourmet Traveller WINE. “Rob Hill-Smith’s leadership qualities have driven Yalumba to the enviable position it occupies today as one of Australia’s most progressive and successful wine companies. For his perspicacity in looking at the wider industry picture and finding ways that he and Yalumba can contribute to the growth of the Australian wine industry, and for the spirit of generosity that underlies this, he is worthy recipient of the Len Evans Award 2008” Peter Forrestal, chairman of Judges.
In the month following, Robert was also recognised as an inspirational South Australian, through the SA Great South Australian of the Year Awards, receiving the ‘South Australian of the Year BUSINESS Award 2008’.
In response to receiving this prestigious award Robert shared, “As a proud South Aussie I am both shocked and thrilled to accept this award, and I do so on behalf of my Yalumba team and the many other professionals in this State who have assisted in this recognition.
“I am committed to our wine company remaining energetic, innovative, quality focussed and young at heart. This State is a great place to do business... we have talent in abundance with a fantastic work ethic - and long may that last. I truly hope with your support I can continue to provide career opportunities for talent whether it be in the Barossa, Adelaide, Auckland, London or Napa.”
Outside work and family, Robert's consuming interest is sport and is a keen thoroughbred horse breeder, enjoys cricket, golf and football and plays a fair game of tennis. An occasional wine judge he finds time to enjoy good food and great wine and is mates with most of the great chefs of Australia. Actually he seems to be very conversant with many people from all walks of life and his memory is legendary. Married to Annabel since 1986, his 3 daughters Jessica, Lucy and Georgia fill out the family album.
Board Member AWBC 1992-1996 Australian Wine & Brandy Corporation (AWBC)
Board Member AME 1993-1998 Australian Major Events (AME)
Board Member SATRA 1994-1999 South Australian-Thoroughbred-Racing Authority (SATRA)
Board Member AWEC 2000-current Australian Wine Export Council now MDAC
Board Member SACA 1999-current South Australian Cricket Association
Board Member Rabobank 2009 Advisory member, Rabobank Australia & New Zealand