When did you realise you wanted to become a winemaker?
I realised I wanted to be a winemaker the year after I finished school. Working at Bowen Estate Coonawarra and in Margaret River confirmed my future.
Please tell us about your career so far.
I studied winemaking at Charles Sturt University. Once completed, I gained vast experience in contract winemaking facilities in both New South Wales and Victoria, before returning home. I also spent two vintages working in Burgundy, France, which was a wonderful wine and cultural experience.
What do you love most about being a winemaker?
I love that [being a winemaker] it is something from the ground up. I really enjoy the actual process of making the wine, and the growing aspects. One great enjoyment is of hearing people’s stories of enjoying wine – be it at family occasions, or just because!
What is your favourite wine, and what food do you typically pair it with?
An absolute family favourite is Cabernet Sauvignon about ten-years-old, served with Coq au Vin, especially in the winter with the fire going.
Is there a specific process you follow when developing a new wine?
We spend our time refining our vineyards, in order for our wines to be a true expression of classic Coonawarra. The process is all about enhancing Coonawarra flavour, and fine ingrained tannin structure with layered, rounded fruit characteristics. Our job in the winery is to harness this while not imparting a heavy hand on the wine.
Is there any vintage you’re particularly proud of creating? Why?
In particular, I think I would have to say the 2016 Bowen Estate Shiraz. This wine reflects our continual improvement programme in the vineyard. It includes the replanting of vineyards to our selection of Shiraz Ampelon vines. This process involved several years of taking cuttings, developing a nursery, then replanting vineyards. We started this process in 2004 and have gradually replaced our Shiraz vineyards with our select source area of Shiraz Ampelon vines. We chose this source of vines as it has always consistently produced a wine of immense concentration of fruit flavours with fine tannins. It is this that we believe reflects the style of shiraz which we have become known for.
How does the local climate/soil affect the wine you make?
The local terra rossa and climate affect everything we do – it is our terroir. We are very proud to own three blocks of terra rosa on the main road at the southern end of Coonawara. The soil’s ability to grow vines is remarkable. During spring when the soil begins to warm up and there is a little bit of rain, the vines start to jump to life. The management of the land – without the use of weedicides and only using mechanical weeding – has seen our vines look so happy and balanced. This balance is reflected in the final wines and we are thankful to the terra rosa and our climate.
Which of your own varieties do you typically indulge in?
We are true to Coonawarra’s heritage and focus on Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz 99 per cent of the time. We have one-acre of Chardonnay which we love to just have the opportunity to make white wine, the possibilities are endless with this variety!
Where do you see yourself in five years? How do you think your winemaking will evolve during this time?
In five years’ time, I will be working in the family business. We will continue our vineyard improvement program, which will further our ethos of producing fine wine. 2024 will also be a celebration of Bowen Estate’s fiftieth vintage. This will be a great milestone for all our family, our team members and everyone who has helped us along the way.
From Wineries of South Australia Issue 5. Edited by Bethany Hayes.