When did you realise you wanted to become a winemaker?
My family has been in the wine industry for many generations, and I felt it was a natural path for me to follow suit.
Please tell us about your career so far.
[After graduating] from the University of Bordeaux, I worked as a flying winemaker for ten years, making wines in many countries: France, Italy, Spain, Ukraine, Moldova, Uruguay, Argentina, Chile and Australia. [From there I] created a company with my brother and built a business owning wineries in Chile, Argentina, Spain, Portugal and France. Then on my own, I started The Islander Estate Vineyards on Kangaroo Island [back] in 2000. Two years ago, I was appointed CEO of a family group of six Châteaux in Bordeaux.
What do you love most about being a winemaker?
I love vineyards in general, [as well as the] landscape and the chemistry of wine. I am amazed by the different possibilities to make wines. I love the technical elements related to vineyard equipment or winery equipment. I love wine; from smelling and tasting, and I have a preference for whites.
What is your favourite wine, and what food do you typically pair it with?
My favourite [wine] is Chablis and I could drink it with anything!
Is there a specific process you follow when developing a new wine?
[When developing a new wine] I follow my feelings based on my experience and knowledge, and I continually adapt this along the way.
Is there any vintage you’re particularly proud of creating? Why?
Not specifically – but in general I like the late ripening vintages because they allow [enough] time for the winemaker to pick, and the acidity remains in the grapes, making fresher wines with better ageing potential.
How does the local climate/soil affect the wine you make?
[The climate and soil] impacts a lot. I have chosen Kangaroo Island because I was looking at making wines in a European style; restrained, elegant and fresh. The climate of the island is ideal for me, with windy days and cool nights. The soil of the property is made of a mix of sea sediments – easy to penetrate for the roots with very poor organic elements. The vines have no vigour at all, bringing grapes to perfect ripeness with little yields.
Which of your own varieties do you typically indulge in?
Sémillon – I love it! In Australia it makes outstanding quality whites.
Where do you see yourself in five years? How do you think your winemaking will evolve during this time?
I started my career and worked many years being passionate about technology and new developments. Today I like making wines with the least input possible. [In five years’ time] I see myself almost retired – but I still have so many ideas in mind about new projects, so I am not sure retirement will happen as planned!
From Wineries of South Australia Issue 5. Edited by Bethany Hayes.