Meet the Makers

Written by
Vintage Cellars
May 13, 2019
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Allow us to introduce you to the winemakers behind your favourite wines. They eclipse some of the best on the world's wine stage.

Read time: 15 Minutes

 Winemakers have an aura about them; a passion for quality, purity and elegance unsurpassed. We see this in their products — the vast array of complexity stored in bottles, on shelves across the country and beyond. Their wines bring people joy and create memories at all our life celebrations. Yet, we know so very little about the winemakers behind the beautiful drops we love so much. Vintage Cellars would like to recognise and pay tribute to their work and achievements. Introducing the top tier of winemaking excellence and innovation.

St Hugo - Peter Munro

St Hugo welcomed respected winemaker Peter Munro to its team in early 2019. As the brand-new chief winemaker, Peter is drawing upon his 20-plus years of winemaking experience.

Having worked across world-class wine regions such as Hawke's Bay, the Napa Valley and Tasmania, Peter Munro has landed in the home of St Hugo in the glorious Barossa Valley. The St Hugo wines represent a benchmark for the region, consistently producing wines of power, finesse and great regional expression.

The 2018 St Hugo Eden Valley Riesling is a great example of the Barossa's "high country", offering intensity of flavour and serious refreshment (try it with fresh seafood, especially seared scallops). The St Hugo Shiraz is as good as it gets; you'd be hard-pressed to find a better red for an autumn afternoon barbeque. "A good wine should be an imaginative and poetic reflection of its origin," says Peter. We couldn't agree more. It's exactly what we expect from St Hugo.

Church Road - Chris Scott

Chris Scott has overseen the production of Church Road wines since 2005. It's fair to say that during that time, the wines have soared in quality, offering great value from Hawke's Bay.

Church Road wines represent some of the best-value expressions of wines you're likely to see from Hawke's Bay on New Zealand's North Island. Hawke's Bay is the oldest wine region in New Zealand and the second largest (after Marlborough). It has long been renowned for its seriously good, if not unique, merlot, cabernet sauvignon and syrah, which produce medium- to full-bodied savoury styles with loads of spice and amazing cellar potential. Hawke's Bay shares a similar climate to that of Bordeaux.

Pinot gris and chardonnay are Hawke's Bay's white wine heroes, with pinot gris often inspired by the fragrant, intense wines of Alsace in France. Chris Scott's Church Road McDonald Series wines are extremely complex, textural and full of character.

St Hallett - Toby Barlow

One of the nicest guys in Australian wine, Sydney born and bred winemaker Toby Barlow has had his fair share of experience across the winemaking world.

After studying winemaking at Adelaide University, Toby spent time honing his craft in a number of wineries across different world wine regions, including in the USA, New Zealand and France, as well as other Australian regions such as the Hunter Valley and North-East Victoria. But Toby remains infatuated with the style and presence of the unique shiraz for which the Barossa is so well known. Good for us that he is too, because the St Hallett wines are such great classic examples of Barossa shiraz.

Where many high-volume wine producers work from the point of the "big picture", Toby's ability to focus on each parcel of grapes is legendary, and this focus enables definition, provenance and character to shine through in all of his wines, often for many, many years.

Rapaura Springs - Gus Altschwager

Gus Altschwager grew up on a family farm in Mount Gambier on South Australia's Limestone Coast where he learned about working the land and making the most of tough conditions.

Gus Altschwager's upbringing gave him "an innate understanding of farming in a harsh environment." These skills have proven handy in his winemaking career, which has seen him take on stints throughout Australia, Europe and New Zealand.

While we love Marlborough for its unique sauvignon blanc, it's important to remember this beautiful part of New Zealand's South Island is a true cool-climate region, which makes it perfect — if not a little challenging — for growing and making deliciously spicy, perfumed pinot noir.

"At Rapaura Springs we make more small batches than any large wine company in Marlborough," explains Gus. "This allows us to keep fruit from each vineyard separate until blending, and to pick the top batches for the Rapaura brand. It's an incredibly complex way to make wine, but we believe the results validate the process."

Robert Oatley - Larry Cherubino

Robert Oatley’s Director of Winemaking, Larry Cherubino, is widely regarded as one of Western Australia’s most illustrious and prolific winemakers.

Larry has an incredible knack for identifying great vineyards and fostering long and fruitful relationships with the growers, meaning high-quality grapes are never far away. On top of that, Larry’s winemaking skills are legendary; he crafts elegant, captivating wines that are as good to drink now as they are to put away for a couple of years.

The 2017 Robert Oatley Signature Series Cabernet Sauvignon is an exceptional example of both Larry’s aptitude for winemaking and his understanding of the Margaret River, offering excellent value and great cellaring potential. The 2017 Signature Series Chardonnay is a multi-vineyard blend sourced from Karridale, in the cooler, southern part of the Margaret River region, through to Wilyabrup in the north, resulting in a pure, balanced expression of Margaret River chardonnay.

Bosio Family Estate - Luca Bosio

Luca Bosio is the third generation of the Bosio family to work the land that was purchased by his grandparents in 1967 in the centre of the Langhe region of Italy's Piedmont.

In addition to the land, which covers more than 24 hectares of gently sloping hillsides, Luca also inherited from his parents and grandparents a “native intelligence” for farming and a talent for growing grapes. After being raised among the vines, Luca studied oenology (wine) at the University of Turin. He brought back to the winery technological innovations such as the use of native yeasts and the intention to decrease the use of chemical additives like sulphur dioxide.

Luca has developed theories on the best ways to preserve the aroma and structure in wines as diverse as moscato and barolo. Luca has just completed his Masters of Oenology. Bosio's wines have been injected with a wave of freshness and novelty, both in the technological and commercial arenas, that has led to great success for the family’s wines during the past five years.

Yabby Lake - Tom Carson

Tom Carson is Yabby Lake's Chief Winemaker and General Manager, steering this Victorian ship towards winemaking excellence and great commercial success.

The fact that Yabby Lake was the first winery to ever receive the sought-after Jimmy Watson trophy for a pinot noir is a testament to Tom Carson's ability to craft seriously good versions of this notoriously challenging grape. He's one of Victoria's most admired winemakers and a pioneer of the modern style of chardonnay, pinot gris and pinot noir wines from the Mornington Peninsula.

Tom has completed several vintages in some of Champagne and Burgundy's top domaines, providing ample inspiration for his enchanting Yabby Lake wines. The result is a suite of incredibly high-quality, modern cool-climate wines of purity and elegance, including the silky, perfumed and captivating Single Vineyard Pinot Noir, and the focused, poised and ultra-delicious Yabby Lake Chardonnay.

Empirical - Anthony Walkenhorst

Australian-born winemaker Anthony Walkenhorst kicked off his New Zealand winemaking career in 2005, and his path has been punctuated by awards bestowed upon his wines ever since.

Like many Aussie wine drinkers, Anthony brought with him a passion for shiraz and is consistently excited by the richness and different expressions people can achieve from the shiraz/syrah grape. "I want to make elegant syrah that has ripe fruit, balanced spice and good tannin structure," he says of the Empirical Syrah.

Anthony's syrah-making philosophy is evident in this wine, which draws on some of the techniques he grasped in Australia, earlier in his career, as well as what he knows about winemaking in New Zealand. As far as pinot noir goes, Anthony's thinking is simple: "The challenge lies in handling the fruit as gently as possible, and allowing it to express itself while finishing the wine with careful barrel use, which provides the extra element of completeness."

Brown Family Wine Group - Katherine Brown

Fourth-generation winemaker Katherine Brown presides over the production of Brown Brothers' sparkling, white and red wines, and she has a particular soft spot for rosé.

"Brown Brothers has always had a passion for innovation and doing things differently," says Katherine. With this philosophy in mind, Katherine maintains a firm excitement for the potential of new wines, whether it's an unheard-of grape variety or a refreshed style of an old favourite.

Katherine's currently working on a gamay rosé, as well as researching a new style of tarrango — the light red wine made famous by Brown Brothers in the ’90s that meets the demands of today's wine drinkers. In the meantime, Katherine is helping reinforce the quality of Brown Brothers' Patricia Wines; the stunning Patricia Pinot Chardonnay Brut offers everything you'd expect from a top-shelf sparkling, while the Patricia Chardonnay delivers serious complexity and refreshment.

De Bortoli - Steve Webber

Considering the breadth of wine styles in De Bortoli's range, it's hard to imagine an Australian winemaker with a level of regional and varietal experience to match that of Steve Webber.

The Yarra Valley-based vigneron is well known for his exceptional regional wines from across Victoria, but is arguably at the top of his game with (especially cool-climate) chardonnay and pinot noir; both varieties are just so well suited to Steve's winemaking style, as well as the Yarra Valley region from where he sources a lot of the fruit.

The De Bortoli Villages range is inspired by the notion of France's "villages" AOCs (Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée), blending fruit from a range of vineyards across a single region that will represent regional quality and character. The Villages Chardonnay and Pinot Noir do just that; they both offer immediate appeal with all the class you'd expect from the stunning Yarra Valley and the deft touch of winemaker Steve Webber.

Henschke - Stephen Henschke

Fifth-generation Stephen Henschke boasts a wonderful family heritage of winemaking. Stephen is proud that the Henschke name is inexorably linked with fine red Australian wines.

Is there a more iconic Australian producer than South Australia's Henschke? Sure, a few others spring to mind, but Henschke's combination of meticulous viticultural practices and minimal intervention winemaking sets them apart from other equally distinguished brands.

Stephen has always strived to replicate the processes of the generations before him to achieve supreme quality and provenance in his wines; the results speak for themselves. Mount Edelstone is one of the country's greatest shiraz wines. Made from vines planted in 1912, it is the ultimate expression of the Eden Valley. The Henschke Henry's Seven comprises shiraz, grenache, mataro and viognier in an intensely vibrant, rich and luscious blend that is unique to the Henschke stable.

Moët & Chandon - Benoît Gouez

After working vintages in Australia, California and New Zealand, Benoît Gouez arrived at Moët & Chandon in 1998 as Assistant Winemaker and, in 2005 he became Chef de Cave at 35 years old.

Benoît is the guardian of Moët & Chandon's character and spirit, a role that requires a subtle mix of expert knowledge, sound technical skills and creativity. Champagne is as much a product of nature as it is the result of the winemaker’s flair. At Moët & Chandon, making champagne is a craft passed down through generations.

A great champagne is defined as the interpretation of the grape. "I lead a team of 10 winemakers combining ancestral winemaking savoir-faire with state-of-the-art technology for a delicate and subtle elaboration of the grapes. Our strength is in the size and diversity of our vineyards, but also in the region’s most important pressing centres, where we have the most advanced technical facilities," says Benoît . "We do not force Nature; we guide her."

Chandon - Dan Buckle

As Senior Winemaker at Chandon, part of the LVMH Moët Hennessy group, Dan Buckle finds himself in a unique position, with colleagues from Moët & Chandon and Veuve Clicquot.

"At Chandon, we're trying to make wines that are vibrant and lively — and not overly weighty — which is a key focus for myself and the team," says Dan Buckle. "I'm also really interested in the emotional dimension of wine and staying true to the grapes' origins," he says, citing the distinctive pink grapefruit character found in the pinot noir he sources from Whitlands, Victoria, as an example. "I want to highlight that characteristic — it has a delicious aroma and flavour, and it's something to celebrate."

Dan has been infatuated with the production and complex styles of sparkling wine since working with Tom Carson at Yarrabank. "We focus almost exclusively on sparkling wine, which allows us to take full advantage of our two great assets: our beautiful estate vineyards and our Champenoise heritage."

Grant Burge - Craig Stansborough

Born in Gawler, in the Barossa Valley, Craig grew up with the wine industry around him. He started as a cellar hand with B Seppelt & Son in 1983 and now leads the charge at Grant Burge.

A true to life Barossan, Craig Stansborough's shiraz and cabernet-making philosophy stays equally true to the region's style: big, bold and generous. We're talking the classic flavours
of plum and raspberry, dark chocolate and liquorice, with perfectly balanced vanilla oak and the rich tannin structure that makes these wines such a great partner with red meat, such as steak or roast lamb.

However, Craig has an impeccable talent for not overdoing the style, either. As the Grant Burge winery has access to some of the Barossa's best fruit, Craig regards the significance of letting the grapes speak for themselves as equal to the importance of crafting wine in the opulent style so many Australian shiraz drinkers have come to know and love.

Ballewindi - Glen Hayley

Ballewindi Winemaker Glen Hayley's foray into the world of wine took place completely by chance, during a fortuitous gap year in Vancouver, Canada. For Glen Hayley, this gap year resulted in a change of studies to viticultural science on his return to Melbourne.

Glen has gone the distance as far as regional experience goes, with experience in Central Otago, Sonoma, the Mosel and the Loire Valley all under his belt. His winemaking philosophy is "driven by authenticity", with an aim to preserve the quality and character of both the grapes and the vineyard from which they were harvested, by way of ultracareful handling and minimal intervention.

Glen has spent many years improving the quality potential of pinot noir, pinot gris and chardonnay from Mornington Peninsula. The result is a collection of premium cool-climate wines that truly "express provenance."

Arras - Ed Carr

You've probably heard of Australia's King of Sparkling, Ed Carr. His wines are often compared to Champagne, and other acclaimed sparkling styles produced all over the globe.

While Ed Carr’s wines are routinely compared to the best in the world (including champagne), they are also uniquely Tasmanian, reflecting the site, soil and climate of House of Arras’ pristine cool-climate vineyard sites. However, the factor that sets Ed Carr’s wines apart is their element of age — all wines are aged for at least three years before release. The result is a suite of fine wines that speak of place while also offering incredible texture, complexity of flavour and a serious moreish character.

While Ed has had the opportunity to make sparkling wine from “nearly all” of Australia’s cool-climate regions, he remains particularly besotted with Tasmania’s stunning central east coast: “It’s as if the fruit quality is a direct image of the immediate environment,” he says.

Barossa Valley Wine Company - Jamie Saint

The Barossa Valley Wine Company’s Chief Winemaker, Jamie Saint, has a simple winemaking philosophy. It’s about treading the fine line between balance and power, and between tradition and progression.

“We’re committed to upholding the Barossa’s rich history and heritage, and continue to build on this legacy,” explains Jamie. “But while we respect the region’s traditions, we’re not bound by them.” The Barossa Valley Wine Company's wines are crafted from exceptional fruit sourced from vineyards in the southern part of the Barossa in South Australia, which results in fruit-driven, flavourful reds without overly heavy or drying tannins.

The 2016 Gravel Track Cabernet Sauvignon shows intense and concentrated fruit, with full yet balanced tannins, which provide a powerful, velvety wine. Jamie agrees the Farms Shiraz is a fine example of the perfect balance of elegance, power and grace he tries to achieve in every bottle.

Stonier - Mike Symons

Stonier’s team thrives under the stewardship of Mike Symons. His philosophy is twofold: achieve a natural balance in the vineyard and allow the wine's flavours to flourish with minimal intervention.

Mike Symons' winemaking philosophy has long been centred on getting the right varieties on the right vineyard sites. The Merricks district on the Mornington Peninsula provides Mike with the perfect foundation to work on this philosophy, with Stonier's grape varieties of choice: chardonnay and pinot noir.

Mike's experience in France and Italy reinforced the importance of achieving terroir in his wines — a factor that hasn't escaped him during his ten years at Stonier. Terroir has been a keen focus for Mike and his success at achieving this element in his wine has been made possible with Stonier's first vines, planted in the late ’70s and ’80s, as well as using fruit from the high-quality local growers. Mike continues to develop and maintain the Stonier style, offering brilliant wines for incredible value.