Meet Clare Halloran of TarraWarra Estate
With over 20 years’ experience in the wine industry, Clare Halloran is one of the most capable and dedicated female winemakers in Australia. Under her watchful eye, all of TarraWarra Estate’s wines are meticulously grown, handpicked, vinified and aged on the estate. We recently caught up with Clare to chat about the Yarra Valley, her 2016 Farm Block Chardonnay which is our September calendar Wine of the Month, plus what it is about wine that keeps her so motivated and excited.
After two decades at TarraWarra Estate, you’re now both head winemaker and general manager. What makes you so passionate about working in the wine industry?
Making wine is such a long-term project. From planting vines, getting them to bearing age, and working with them throughout the seasons, we continue to learn and understand how to get the best wines. Then there’s the actual wine evolution, from a fermenting vat through to a 15-year-old wine, there’s lessons at every stage. We continually use this accumulated knowledge to inform our decisions. It’s challenging and so rewarding. Then there’s the people in the industry, it’s a great community, and we’re united in our endeavours, but each in their own way.
What do you love about TarraWarra Estate?
Apart from being a beautiful place to work, working with such a well-established vineyard is an honour. I also have a really wonderful team to work with, we all have a common vision for TarraWarra and what we want to achieve; we want visitors to have a wonderful experience that they can’t get in the city. That may be simply walking around the property or going the full wining, dining extravaganza.
In your opinion, is the Yarra Valley the best wine region in Australia?
I’m pretty biased, but I think it is! There’s a great diversity of wine styles, producers, and experiences. Combine this with the beauty and proximity to Melbourne and it’s hard to beat.
Why should people visit the Yarra Valley region?
There’s a wonderful range of options for visitors to the Yarra Valley. We have some incredible food producers, restaurants, and the natural beauty makes it easy to forget the city you left behind. It’s a relaxing and easy escape.
What is ‘minimal intervention winemaking,’ and why are you such a strong advocate for this?
Minimal intervention is really just allowing the wines to express themselves, which is also an expression of place. By careful vineyard management you can nurture the wines through the winery without having to manipulate or add anything to make up for deficiencies. Through this you get a true sense of site and season.
If you had to pick a favourite wine at TarraWarra Estate, which one would it be and why?
Wow, that’s a tough one! I think it would have to be our 2011 Reserve Chardonnay – it was such a difficult year yet we made some amazing Chardonnay. It was a year where being brave and thoughtful and using all your knowledge really paid off.
It’s a typically beautiful Yarra Valley Chardonnay – stone fruits, citrus and a creamy texture, and it’s drinking very well right now.
We have paired it with juicy spring chicken and grapefruit. What do you enjoy pairing it with?
For spring I love asparagus with some egg and crispy pancetta, this wine is excellent with this type of dish.
It’s a great selection of wines, it takes the guesswork out of what to drink, and it’s great value.
Do you prefer drinking or making wine?
I can’t choose! I really love both aspects.
What’s your ultimate wine and food match?
Ooh, that’s a hard one too! I think I have to be really clichéd here and say duck and Pinot Noir.
What is your favourite…
Wine varietal: Pinot Noir wins, but it’s really hard to pick.
Festive occasion: Birthdays.
Book: If This is a Man/The Truce, by Primo Levi.
Animal: Native Australian birds, and cats – separately of course!
Colour: I’m from Melbourne, so black, but as that’s not an actual colour, I’ll go blue.