During his two stinst with Liverpool FC, during a time when they were juggernauts of Europe, Welsh Striker Ian Rush played close to 500 professional games, scoring over 200 goals. During his career he won the European Cup twice, the First Division (as it was then called) on five occasions, lifted the FA Cup three times.
But as we talk, he’s got a bottle of 2013 Clare Valley Shiraz in his hand and it’s got his name on it. And he seems quietly chuffed.
“I think there’s a great Liverpool fan base here in Australia,” he begins. “We first came out here a few years ago to Melbourne an played in front of 98,000 fans, and 95,000 of them were were Liverpool supporters. I think Claymore looked at that as well and saw the potential of going into a partnership with Liverpool. It’s not something where the club will partner with just anyone. We see ourselves as a family club and when we looked at Claymore and found similar values. From my point of view, now with my own wine in the signature series, it’s great to be involved.”
Diplomatic. There’s a quiet charm to Rush as he’s no doubt just sat through a host of media questions from people based half a world away and it’s only just 10.30am. Adelaide must seem an unlikely place to find himself but considering he finished his professional playing career at Sydney Olympic in 99/00 it appears not too much phases one of the greatest icons in world football.
For Claymore owner Anura Nitchingham, it’s a dream come true to share this partnership. After boarding in the UK, he grew up listening to Rush’s exploits on the radio. His passion for the club started to creep into the wines at Claymore when they first released a 2004 GSM called ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’. After securing the rights to the image of Bill Shankly from the photographer during the 90s, it was the first tribute Anura decided to pay tribute to one of his great passions. His other passion, music, was already represented, from the humble beginnings of Claymore, but it wasn’t until the release of the ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’ that a light bulb clicked; if you want to share something personal, wine might be a great industry.
But it took some time for the partnership to develop. In fact, it wasn’t until the 2015 pre-season tour to Adelaide was announced that Claymore made their proper move to contact the club, with the help of Adelaide Liverpool Supporters Club Matt Selby, who made the introductions with the board. General Manager Carissa Major recalls the initial call to the board.
“For our first conversation I’m standing in our Riesling yard at about 9pm during vintage and I’ve got two massive grape harvesters in front of me, and I’m juggling the phone and the harvest. You could hear the silence from Liverpool’s end, ‘are you on the vineyard?’ came the question, When we met them 4 months later the sales guys we had a laugh because you’re in the middle or harvest in this idyllic setting and on the phone making a commercial deal. Yeah, that’s the way we role. We met Ollie when he came out to look at the Adelaide Oval site and he said he’d love to make it happen. They loved the wine, and there was a natural emotional connection.
That natural connection was natural, and it speaks highly of Claymore Wines that being welcomed into the Liverpool family is such a natural fit. “The Liverpool supporter base is a family; you sign up to become a member and you become family,” says Carissa. “Bill Shankly’s idea, that we’re not here for us as the club or as players, but here for the fans. It’s a wonderful flip on the modern idea of sports and the money. But it’s about aligning ourselves with a brand we have a strong emotional connection with but also represents all of the quality parameters that we see at Claymore. The inspiration, the capacity to endure; longevity which we aspire to for Claymore as well and the underlying passion for great reds. You can’t make great wine without emotion; you can’t force it or fake it. It has to be a natural affinity, authentic in its intent and integrity. That’s about us putting the best we can in the bottle.
The Ian Rush signature series is limited to release just 1000 bottles, because much like the man himself, it’s a rare gem. From a hot, dry year came a Shiraz that’s not heavy (surprisingly) with a tannin on the front of palate but a long, complex finish of cherries, plums, a hint of smokeyness and chocolate. What makes this limited edition Signature Series Shiraz so unique is the skins on the grapes are fermented for 25 days rather than the standard 10.
Quite rightly, Claymore took the opportunity last week to celebrate with Rush at a gala dinner last week, where the man spoke of his career highlights and his excitement in working with Claymore. Passion for the club has brought this partnership to be much more than business; it’s a celebration of a fine product and successful experiences. “We are Anfield, that’s the 50,000 who turn up each week, but we have to take that Liverpool to the supporters around the world,” explained Rush. “We don’t just want to get in and get out either, we want to leave a lasting legacy and that’s what we’re looking to do now in Australia. Hopefully we can keep coming back to do that.”
This is only the beginning for the winery, with the signature series the first of a series developed with these aspirational ideas in mind. With many more collaborations to come in future keep your eyes peeled. The Ian Rush Signature Series Shiraz is available for purchase on their website.