When did you realise you wanted to become a winemaker?
I landed a job at Seppeltsfield in the Barossa, and it was about day three when I realised that this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my working career.
Please tell us about your career so far.
I started work with Seppelts in the 1980s, swapping between Seppeltsfield and Chateau Tanunda. I was so lucky to work with some very generous winemakers, many taking time out to teach and taste with me, and this really gave me a great start in the industry. I was then given an opportunity at Grant Burge Wines to work with Grant [himself] and some dedicated winemakers in a progressive, young, dynamic company – which was exciting and great grounding for the start of my winemaking career. I have been lucky enough to travel to numerous wine regions around the world. Every winemaker or viticulturist has something you can learn from, just be prepared to listen!
What do you love most about being a winemaker?
[I love] the diversity and working with people that are like-minded, all with a goal to create something wonderful.
What is your favourite wine, and what food do you typically pair it with?
This is a difficult choice as I do like opening bottles of wine that I have never tried before, and after thirty years of winemaking I do still find this exciting. In our own range, either the Holy Trinity GSM or Corryton Park Cabernet Sauvignon. With regards to food, it sounds a little obvious, but I do love having these wines with a great homemade pizza –
we do have a wood-oven, which helps! If I look to other countries, it’s definitely a barolo or barbaresco and they’re wonderful with a great Italian sausage ragu.
Is there a specific process you follow when developing a new wine?
I think most winemakers go about it in a different way, and it really does depend on if it’s market-led or winemaker-led. A good imagination is helpful! Winemaking with emerging varietals is exciting, particularly the research. Tasting wines both domestically and internationally is important to understand style, and on what can be achieved. If it is an established variety or style, it is more about planning and lots of trial work, until you are comfortable that you have the style and quality to the level required.
Is there any vintage you’re particularly proud of creating? Why?
We made some very good wines from the 2017 vintage. It was a very wet and cold year in the Barossa, so disease pressure was high and you had to be very vigilant in the vineyard and in the winery. I am pretty happy with this year’s vintage (2021) – it was a very, very good year and I believe we got the best out of it; Mother Nature was kind.
How does the local climate/soil affect the wine you make?
[It impacts] pretty much everything! A great year is generally climate related, like 2021. Soil and soil heath is of great interest – I think this is where some quality gains will be made. Healthy soil generally means healthy vines, and healthy vines seem to cope with our weather extremes a little easier. If I wasn’t a winemaker, I’d be a soil scientist.
Which of your own varieties do you typically indulge in?
This depends on my mood, the food and the company. Grenache & Grenache blends are close to the top of the list at the moment, closely followed by Eden Valley Riesling, and our 15 Reserve Riesling is also drinking wonderfully well at the moment.
Where do you see yourself in five years? How do you think your winemaking will evolve during this time?
I must admit, I am not one for long-term planning – probably to my detriment. Honestly, given the last few years, who bloody knows what the next five will bring! With regards to winemaking, this will always evolve. Varieties suited to the climate and region will be an important step in the right direction. To be more specific, working larger and [with] larger format oak. [I also hope for] a continued focus on the texture and mouthfeel of our wines.
From Wineries of South Australia Issue 5. Edited by Bethany Hayes.