Meet Charles Smedley from Mandala Wines
We catch up with Charles Smedley – Yarra Valley winemaker, Pinot-fan and the owner and winemaker of Mandala Wines.
Can you recall the first wine you tried?
I can’t recall the first wine I tasted (one of the side effects, I suppose), but I do remember the first significant wine I tasted where I had a ‘wow’ moment – it was a 1987 Mount Langi Ghiran Shiraz – an absolute game changer.
When did you fall in love with wine?
I really fell in love with wine when I was about 19 or 20 years old; I was working in Clochmerel Cellars in Albert Park and studying at William Angliss.
Do you remember that moment? What happened?
Well, it was around that time that I started to spend money on wine to see if there was a noticeable difference. My mate Richard and I spent some $25 (1991) as to the normal $5 on a bottle and went for an Indian dinner…it was that night that we said: ‘THIS is why you spend money on wine’, and really understood the potential a good quality wine can have on an occasion, experience or meal.
Do you have an all-time favourite wine? Why is it this wine?
I don’t have an all-time favourite, but what makes me tick is when a bottle of wine exceeds all expectations and sharing that experience with family or friends.
What is your all-time favourite wine memory (other than a wine itself)?
I’d have to say my first trip travelling through Burgundy and just soaking up the history and technique of the region’s winemaking (it’s still the same for every trip there since); the barrel tastings were just superb. I also have fond memories of blending time at the winery!
Other than your own wine, what is the wine that you like to drink at home?
Timo Mayer Pinot Noir
What is your ultimate food and wine match.
Any type of game and Pinot Noir. Pinot Noir is, and has always been my passion, it brought me to the Yarra Valley years ago. The versatility of the grape means it can work with pretty much any meal but game, namely duck cassoulet and Pinot Noir (Gevrey Chambertin), would be the winner in my eyes.
Can you cook? If so, what is your ‘signature dish’?
I come from a family of cooks and chefs, so I started working in restaurant kitchens from when I was about 12 years old. Suckling pig is my signature dish.
What do you think is special about your wine region?
The Yarra Valley region is a viticultural marvel in itself; it’s a haven for a huge range of different varietals thanks to its diverse topography (saying this I chose the Yarra Valley due to its complete harmony with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir), soil profiles and micro-climates. In 1999 I planted a Pinot Noir vineyard in the Upper Yarra, Yarra Junction, and the higher rainfall and volcanic soils provide the best conditions for nourishing our vines. We opened the second (and main) site in Dixons Creek 10 years ago, down on the ‘floor’ of the valley, and now have a range of varietals which enjoy the warmer weather and soils there. Not to mention the sheer beauty of the region – I believe it’s in the top three most picturesque wine regions in the world.
What do you do to relax away from the winery?
I love to travel, whether it’s activity-based or just to the beach I’m happy – especially if the family is with me too. I also love to read, and of course, enjoy a great bottle of wine.
Do you have a favourite holiday destination/memory?
It would have to be in Italy along the Amalfi Coast – the views, the food, the weather…stunning. I’ve been three times now and have very happy memories. Each time I’ve been there it felt like a wave of relaxation swept over me.
What is your favourite…
Book – Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts – thought-provoking, thrilling and an eye-opener all in one.
Movie – Harold and Maude – it shows how love comes in all forms, it has the best movie soundtrack and it's very funny.
TV show Breaking Bad – it’s all about how events can change life’s decisions and I found it to be a really good watch! The main character is very funny and always manages to (comically) get himself out of trouble.
Restaurant – France-Soir in Melbourne – great atmosphere.
Breakfast – A classic English breakfast.
Lunch – Oysters and sashimi.
Dinner – Chilli mud crab.
Time of day/night Night – everything moves slower and this is the time of I can relax and enjoy the peace of the countryside.
Sporting Team? Sydney Swans for AFL, Melbourne Storm NRL and Aussie cricket of course.
Beer – Ceske Budvar