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. Born at Yalumba the wine game was in his blood stream before he knew about it, and the winery was his playground much to the annoyance of the Yalumba workers!
After an extensive travelogue through Europe’s wine regions in 1978/9 he committed to join the family wine company and in 1981 was posted to the Yalumba marketing department and 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.
Then 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. 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.
Years later in October 2008 Robert was recognised for his contribution to the Australian wine industry with the prestigious ‘Len Evans Award’ by 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.
He has served the industry over the years as noted below:
- 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 – 2010 Australian Wine Export Council
- Board Member SACA 1999 – 2018 South Australian Cricket Association
- Board Member Rabobank 2009 – current Advisory Board Member, Rabobank Australia/NZ
- Board Member WFA 2008 – current Winemakers Federation of Australia [WFA]
- Foundation Member AFFW 2007 – current Australia’s First Families of Wine [AFFW]