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Ben Thoman

Ben Thoman



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When did you realise you wanted to become a winemaker?

Winemaking wasn’t my first career move, after a decade working as an engineer and project manager, I simultaneously developed my interest in wine and amassed a small wine cellar. Upon realising I was spending more time reading and learning about wine than my actual day job, I took a leap of faith and returned to student life to study winemaking at the University of Adelaide in 2007.

Please tell us about your career so far.

After graduating in winemaking, I worked in small scale and research winemaking and overseas vintages, before taking on a role with a major winemaker in the Barossa Valley. Here I was able to develop my skills making many styles of wine from aromatics and full bodies whites, through sparkling wines as well as classic big bold reds, and even fortified wines. I’ve been lucky enough to source fruit and make wines from right across South Australia, as well as interstate. My roles have always been diverse and tightly coupled with other business functions, especially marketing and promotions, which has allowed me to travel across Australia and interstate to promote my wines.

What do you love most about being a winemaker?

The fusion of art and science. Without a sound scientific approach, you cannot guarantee you’ll produce quality wines year after year. Conversely without trusting your gut and your experience developed over many years, you can’t let your personality guide the wines you produce. For me it’s the best of both worlds, using both sides of your brain!

What is your favourite wine, and what food do you typically pair it with?

Like being asked which if your favourite movie, this is really hard to answer! I love riesling when it’s pure and pristine – its ability to express a vineyard and a vintage in the glass without being muddied by a winemaker’s fingerprints. But I also love the crime scene of a chardonnay, where all of the winemaker’s tricks and experience are centre stage. I’m not wedded to any particular wine pairing; my only rule is to pay the wine some respect and not overpower it.

Is there a specific process you follow when developing a new wine?

Knowing who the wine is for, who are the consumers, what style of wines do they like drinking is very important. Equally so is, what type of wine is the site suited to.

How does the local climate/soil affect the wine you make?

A colleague once told me “The dirt always wins”, and it’s so true, as winemakers we need to let the vineyard guide us as much as we guide the fruit. This philosophy extends to everything about the site – the climate, the vineyard layout, the soil. Getting to know the site and what it’s capable of is paramount.

Which of your own varieties do you typically indulge in?

Adelaide Hills Shiraz is a versatile wine, great for all kinds of food, but also just enjoying on its own. I’m loving the 2021 Petaluma Yellow Label Shiraz (with just a hint of Viognier).

Where do you see yourself in five years? How do you think your winemaking will evolve during this time?

I didn’t leave the office and an engineering career to do anything other than follow my passion, and that’s making wine in the great state of South Australia. Continuing to get to know each of the vineyards in which I work will evolve my wines and hopefully make me a better winemaker!


From Wineries of South Australia Issue 6. Edited by Emily Axford.