When did you realise you wanted to become a winemaker?
In my mid-twenties I developed an obsession for wine; collecting it, drinking it, and I developed a thirst for learning how to make wine.
Please tell us about your career so far.
I completed a Bachelor of Viticulture and Oenology at the University of Adelaide, before completing vintages at Rockford Wines in the Barossa Valley, and the Clare Valley’s Jim Barry. From there, I took over as head winemaker at Kies Family Wines. 2022 will be my third vintage as winemaker.
What do you love most about being a winemaker?
I love the pressure of vintage and the adrenaline that comes along with it – it’s the same feeling I used to get before a big basketball game. It is very easy to get out of bed in the morning when I am genuinely excited for my workday. I also love the fact that I can open a bottle of wine that I have created [in entirety] from grape to bottle, and then enjoy it with friends. Each bottle is like a little capsule of stories and memories, which are great to relive each time a bottle is opened.
What is your favourite wine, and what food do you typically pair it with?
My favourite wine is a super premium shiraz that we are yet to release, which is a tribute to my Grandpa Ken Kies. Though it is yet to be released, I have been ‘sampling’ the wine over the past two years. I usually pair it with a chargrilled scotch fillet steak.
Is there a specific process you follow when developing a new wine?
I follow the same protocols learnt while studying oenology and during vintage at Jim Barry – from winery hygiene, temperature control during fermentation and keeping my wines from oxidation with the use of inert gas and minimising ullage. Although each wine is made differently, these principles still remain the same for each wine.
Is there any vintage you’re particularly proud of creating? Why?
I’m very proud of the 2020 vintage – the yields were low but the fruit quality was amazing. As this was my first vintage as head winemaker, it’s a special occasion whenever I crack open a 2020 wine.
How does the local climate/soil affect the wine you make?
We have various soil types in our vineyard, and some single blocks have a mixture of different soils. I find that this can add complexity to our wines, we then have the ability to pick a block at different times, due to each soil type as the grapes ripen at different times. We are very lucky to be in the Barossa where we don’t have an issue with grapes not achieving optimum ripeness.
Which of your own varieties do you typically indulge in?
We produce an un-wooded merlot that is our quickest selling wine. It’s a great quaffer; very light and easy drinking. It’s also very versatile [and easily complements many foods].
Where do you see yourself in five years? How do you think your winemaking will evolve during this time?
I see myself in the same role I am currently in – my goal is to get better every vintage, as well as striving to put Kies on the map as a super premium family producer.
From Wineries of South Australia Issue 5. Edited by Bethany Hayes.