I have been making wine for nearly 40 years. With that amount of practice you inevitably develop an understanding about what the process involves. I have chosen a field of specialisation, partly due to opportunity and also with the desire to create the type of wine that I like. The type of wine that inspires me to do better.
The big turning point in my winemaking journey occurred when I was able to purchase my own vineyard. Even though I had studied viticulture at uni, this was by no means a comprehensive preparation for the reality of owning a hillside of plants; a plot from which I was determined to forge a living.
Weather ceased to be a thing that played along in the background of my everyday. Living on the vineyard, I rapidly learned to read the daily variations, measuring rainfall and temperature. Carefully following forecasts. Aside from the baseline parameters imposed by the vineyard itself; soil, site, grape variety, vine age, trellis system and pruning technique, wine made from an individual site is the sum-total of the peculiarities of the weather over a yearly cycle. There’s so much that you can’t control. You rapidly learn to live with the gentle anxiety that this creates.
The only healthy solution is to ‘go with the flow’. During the growing season, various weather events will dictate the need to intervene with disease control measures. At a site such as Stone Chimney Creek, which has never needed irrigation, gaining an understanding about now the seasonal rainfall pattern relates to previous seasons becomes very important.
As of 2020, I have been looking after these Shiraz vines for 25 years. It is now very rewarding to look back and compare weather conditions, and to explore the way that the wines convey this link.
Some years have been beautiful, calm and predictable. Some years have been temperamental, complicated and difficult. Some very promising seasons have turned ugly. Some difficult seasons have miraculously resolved to produce magnificent, unexpected outcomes. Some years have been dominated by sleepless nights with bouts of worse-case-scenario paranoia. Either way, I have learned that wine has the annoying habit of making a mockery of your predictions.
Some complicated years can produce unexpectedly beautiful wines and you have to grudgingly develop a fondness for them. Some years that seemed effortless and classic have created the inexplicably dull.
Every now and then you get a year where it all falls into place. This appears to be the case with 2013. I always knew that this wine was going to be special. It continues to exceed my expectations.