When Chris and Robyn Pfeiffer bought an old brandy distillery in Victoria’s Rutherglen region, they were securing a piece of local history. Built in 1895 by Joseph Gassies, it was one of Australia’s original distilleries and the couple was keen to embrace its past and Rutherglen’s love of fortified wines. They thus set off on a life-long road of crafting some of the world’s most admired dessert wines. The winery is situated atop an embankment of a sweeping bend in Sunday Creek, a tributary of the Murray River. One of its unique features is the restored timber bridge that’s over 100 years old and today provides a great spot for visitors to glimpse a platypus or turtle and to enjoy a picnic.
A five star award-winning, family owned winery Pfeiffer Wines make premium, handcrafted wines of elegance. Their whites are crisp, while the reds are full-bodied and the internationally extolled Muscats and Topaques are luscious and intense.
How did you get into the wine industry Jen?
When I was born in 1979 my father (Chris) was working at the old Lindemans winery in Corowa so my Rutherglen fortification started early. I’ve always remembered the intoxicating aroma of the wine maturing in the old cellar and I’ve always loved fortified wines. So it seems like fate to have returned to Rutherglen to work in the family business making fortified wines: Topagues, Muscats, Port and Apera styles.
How would describe the Rutherglen wine region?
It’s like the Old World of the New World – the history is apparent everywhere, From the historic wineries that arose out of from the fortunes of the gold rush era to the old gnarly, hand-tended vines, dusty barrels in old sheds that remained untouched for years and winemaking families who have lived through the challenges of drought, phylloxera, world wars and more. Although Rutherglen is famous as being Australia’s fortified capital, the conducive climate, rich soils and use of contemporary winemaking techniques have seen the growth of high quality white and red table wines, particularly the Rhône varieties.
Which wine style or variety do you think represent the pinnacle of winemaking?
Fortified wines represent the peak of winemaking for me. To be made successfully they need creativity and skill in blending. For a blend, you have to select the exact wine from over 100 barrels, but you also have to bear in mind that generations to follow will be drawing from the same stock, so you have to leave great choices for them too. It’s my goal to spread my passion for Rutherglen wines to as many people as possible and to remind them of the importance of its history, especially with regard to the region’s future.
Did you know...
While there are more than 600 Victorian Vignerons licences held today, Pfeiffer Wines were granted the 87th one.