When did you realise you wanted to become a winemaker?
I’m off a farm from the Monbulla plains to the southwest of Coonawarra. Even though growing up I had mates whose families worked in the wine industry, I really had no idea about wine or winemaking, and it was not a job that I had remotely considered.
After finishing school and spending a couple of years in Adelaide studying cartography, I got a vintage cellar-hand role in Wynns Coonawarra Estate – and it seemed to me that the winemakers were always having a good time! Winemaking seemed interesting and varied, so I thought I would have a crack at studying a degree.
Please tell us about your career so far.
A six-week vintage job turned into twelve years of varied winery roles at Wynns, and a wine science degree from Charles Sturt University. I’ve worked a fair bit in the irrigated regions, both in Griffith and Mildura for Lindemans. I then moved back to Coonawarra and spent a bit of time at Katnook Estate, before an opportunity came up at Majella Wines in 2008, and have been here ever since.
What do you love most about being a winemaker?
Every day is different! As much as winemaking is a process that we follow to
achieve our own style with the varieties we produce, every vintage and wine we produce has a uniqueness to it that is pretty cool.
What is your favourite wine, and what food do you typically pair it with?
I really enjoy Coonawarra shiraz – it has an elegance and expression of fruit that I think is quite special. I’m probably a bit old school with pairing it to a food and just enjoy a really good piece of eye fillet, cooked just right with a few spuds and some greens.
Is there a specific process you follow when developing a new wine?
Yes, but also no. I think that it is important that when we’re trying something different, it is still made to our style. For a wine, while it is important to innovate, you still need to be respectful of your heritage.
Is there any vintage you’re particularly proud of creating? Why?
Each vintage is different, and I think that’s what makes winemaking an interesting job – even the more challenging vintages are fun! You get to the end and think – well, we got through that one! I’ve enjoyed working with a lot of different people over a lot of different vintages, and it’s amazing what can make you laugh while working nightshift, at three o’clock on a freezing late April morning in Coonawarra.
How does the local climate/soil affect the wine you make?
I think we are pretty lucky in Coonawarra, we have some wonderful soil and a pretty even climate without a lot of extremes. As a winemaker it is a lot easier receiving fruit that hasn’t been compromised by any vagaries of the weather.
Which of your own varieties do you typically indulge in?
Being from Coonawarra, clearly I have to love our reds – either our shiraz, or our premium GPL68 Cabernet.
Where do you see yourself in five years? How do you think your winemaking will evolve during this time?
[In five years’ time] I see myself still at Majella … I think in terms of evolving winemaking it will be more of ‘do what we do, but better’, with new techniques and technologies, rather than altering our style.
From Wineries of South Australia Issue 5. Edited by Bethany Hayes.