When did you realise you wanted to become a winemaker?
Picking a career path as a winemaker seemed a natural and easy choice for me as I had been involved in the industry in one way or another for as long as I could remember. Growing up, I worked in our family’s small vineyard in the Barossa Valley. Then during high school, I completed a week of work experience at a small winery in the Barossa well after vintage was finished. It really cemented my desire to work in the industry, although I’m not sure I would have made the same choice if the work experience had fell during vintage!
Please tell us about your career so far.
I completed a Bachelor of Oenology and a Graduate Diploma in Viticulture both at Adelaide University. As of present, I have worked nineteen vintages with Pikes Wines in the Clare Valley, and a vintage with Grant Burge Wines in the Barossa Valley. My wife and I also purchased a small vineyard in Sevenhill in 2005, which now grows riesling, shiraz, cabernet sauvignon and mataro.
What do you love most about being a winemaker?
I like to make wines that showcase their place of origin – particularly riesling. Trying to capture what the fruit tastes like in the vineyard and bottling this with minimal winemaking intervention. [I also love]
producing great fruit by trying to achieve a balanced, healthy canopy in the vineyard through a range of techniques that are determined by site, variety and adjusting to the growing season.
What is your favourite wine, and what food do you typically pair it with?
Riesling – it is one of the great white wine varieties of the world. It is such a versatile variety that can be made into a number of styles, and it handles climatic conditions better than most other varieties. It can pair with a lot of different dishes, but I really enjoy it with King George whiting.
Is there a specific process you follow when developing a new wine?
It is through experience and experimentation that has allowed me to develop different outcomes for wine. When developing a new wine we will look at what style we are looking for, then use that knowledge to try and create that wine.
Is there any vintage you’re particularly proud of creating? Why?
That would have to be 2021, which was one of the best vintages of the last decade. As a winemaker, you are always hoping that the climatic conditions will align and that did occur in 2021, with both whites and reds being of exceptional quality.
How does the local climate/soil affect the wine you make?
The Clare Valley is a diverse region to grow grapes. With our vineyards located at Polish Hill River, the soils are moderately fertile, red brown clay loams. The subsoil of the Polish Hill River sub region is predominately slate. These ancient soils are over 650 million years old and are low-to-moderate in nutrients and rich in minerals. We are also quite elevated, which generally means that we get a little more rainfall – allowing our vines to be healthy and produce delicate rieslings and medium-bodied red wines.
Which of your own varieties do you typically indulge in?
[Of our varieties it would be] riesling, and from the Adelaide Hills it would be chardonnay and pinot noir.
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 producing riesling. My winemaking is always evolving, no vintage is the same and the industry is open to the elements. Just trying to do things a little better every year!
From Wineries of South Australia Issue 5. Edited by Bethany Hayes.