When did you realise you wanted to become a winemaker?
[It was] in my final year at high school – quite by chance – flipping through the pages of a guidebook of university courses. The idea that you could study oenology appealed to me – it combined an element of science, a connection with the environment and a certain element of art.
Please tell us about your career so far.
I started as a trainee winemaker/cellar hand at Brown Bros in Milawa, and studied wine science through Charles Sturt University’s distance learning program. During my studies I also worked for the late and brilliant Stephen Hickinbotham at Anakie, and after I graduated from university with a Bachelor of Applied Science (Wine Science), I headed to France to study oenology at Dijon University in the heart of Burgundy!
[Following my two years there] I returned to Australia as Dux of the Diplóme National d’Oenologue course, and fluent in French. From there, I spent two years working as winemaker for Evans & Tate in Western Australia, then was appointed manager of extension and advisory services at the Australian Wine Research Institute. I completed my MBA in International Business from Monash University, before settling in the south of France, firstly as director of BRL Hardy’s Domaine de la Baume and later as director of a negociant business, specialising in high-end appellation wines from the Languedoc.
Twelve years ago, I moved to London to join E & J Gallo’s International Winemaking Group where my responsibilities exposed me to winemaking in Italy, Spain, Germany, South Africa, Argentina and New Zealand. During that time, I undertook a MW (Masters of Wine) where every day and every tasting brought new learnings and new friendships
through the incredibly diverse, cultivated and knowledgeable alumni of the institute. After working as winemaking director in California for four years with Gallo, I returned to Australia in 2019 to work as global wine director at Accolade Wines, and chief winemaker for Hardys Tintara.
What do you love most about being a winemaker?
The opportunity to be creative, artistic and scientific at the same time.
What is your favourite wine, and what food do you typically pair it with?
My favourite wine is a good wine! It’s impossible to single out just one. But if you had to push me, I’d opt for a good manzanilla sherry with anchovies, Chablis Premier Cru with Coffin Bay oysters, good Cru Beaujolais with a mild washed rind cheese, or, from within our portfolio, the Hardy’s HRB Riesling – a simply delicious blend from the Clare Valley and Tasmania.
Is there a specific process you follow when developing a new wine?
Always keep in mind what you are trying to achieve and who you are trying to please. [For us], we make wines to be consumed and enjoyed.
Is there any vintage you’re particularly proud of creating? Why?
We don’t create vintages – they force our hand! Good vintages are given to us, just as we have to make the best of the less good ones too.
How does the local climate/soil affect the wine you make?
Local climate and soils are at the heart of every wine we make. We must let that guide our style.
Which of your own varieties do you typically indulge in?
Riesling, shiraz, cabernet, pinot noir and chardonnay [to name a few].
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] physically in the same place, and spiritually more tuned in to the vineyards from which we source grapes, striving to express the best of what they offer, without interfering too much.
From Wineries of South Australia Issue 5. Edited by Bethany Hayes.