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Wine

Meet Leconfield Winemaker Paul Gordon

Paul Gordon is the Senior Winemaker at Leconfield Wines, having joined this iconic Coonawarra winery in 2001, and is the man responsible for our June Wine of the Month, the Leconfield Cabernet Merlot 2014. We catch up to talk to him about his love of wine and life beyond the vats.

Can you recall the first wine you tried?

Wine was very much a Christmas and Easter drink at our house. I have to admit to having had the odd illicit glass of 'Cold Duck' - which is showing my age - or perhaps a sparkling white. An Aunt indulged in bottles of Yalumba Galway 'Claret', which would have been my first taste of a dry red - I can't recall my reaction to it, but it could well have been the wine that sparked my interest in the industry in my teenage years. Of course, there were also the cooking 'sherries', which slowly evaporated between trifles!

What is your all-time favourite wine memory (other than a wine itself)?

There are many great memories - perhaps vintage Champagne with Chateaubriand steak in Epernay, the La Chapelle at Pic restaurant in the Rhône Valley or a Super Tuscan at one of those never-ending Italian lunches.

Other than your own wine, what is the wine that you like to drink at home?

I enjoy older Riesling or Semillon and am in search of the best Grenache from Spain or Southern France. Luckily, there is always a bottle handy of McLaren Vale Shiraz or Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon when the imported Grenache fails to live up to its promise.

What's your ultimate food + wine match?

The ultimate match for food and wine is good company! I don't have a particular 'go-to' wine, but I would say that I enjoy elegant and fine wines that invite a second or third glass, over something that is too rich. So perhaps a good start would be a fine Riesling with sashimi, Coonawarra Merlot with a steak tartare, then Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon with a rare backstrap of lamb.

What is your favourite…

Book?

It tends to be the one I'm currently reading, which is Oystercatchers by Susan Fletcher. A few from this year: Antony Beevor's Stalingrad, Victor Hugo's Les Misérables, Salman Rushdie's The Moor's Last Sigh and Ayaan Hirsi Ali's Infidel.

Movie?

If I was locked in a theatre for a week, I would insist on Krzysztof Kieslowski's ageless trilogy, Three Colours Red White and Blue, and The Double Life of Veronique.

Restaurant?

If I was to define a preferred type of restaurant, then shared plates or degustation is my style. But no steak - our local 'Meek's' butcher is so good that few restaurants can provide meat of the quality that can surpass one locally sourced and cooked at home. Locally, 'Pipers of Penola' has won so many awards for best regional restaurant in South Australia that it is a must place to dine.

Time of day/night - why?

I'm definitely a morning person. However, I do aspire one day to be able to sleep in. I'm notorious for falling asleep at dinner parties and at the theatre.

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Under pressure - Wine VS Mine
Words by Max Allen on 21 Dec 2016
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And I’m still a good shot.” Eventually, the vignerons’ well-organised protest campaigns - including a high-profile march on the NSW Parliament in 2012 - helped encourage the state government to declare the viticultural and equine industries in the Hunter off-limits to CSG mining: boundaries were drawn around these two newly-declared Critical Industry Clusters that prevented any further resource exploration. “We won,” says Andrew Margan. “But it was a hell of a fight.” “The CSG battle almost destroyed us,” admits Andrew’s wife Lisa Margan. “Having to take on such a big issue like that fractures the community, it pulls resources out of the community, it exhausts the community.” ----- The Hunter isn’t the only wine region to have tussled with unconventional gas mining in the last few years. Just before Christmas 2013, resource company Beach Energy sank its first exploratory shale gas well just south of Penola, the main town in the famous wine region of Coonawarra, in South Australia’s Limestone Coast. I visited the region during vintage 2014, a couple of months later, and witnessed that first rig being moved to a second exploratory site west of the main vineyard area. It’s only when you see one of these installations up close - or as close as security will allow - that you get a feel for how much the landscape is affected and what impact dozens or hundreds of such wells would have on the nature of a region: temporary roads carved through paddocks, the four-storey rig itself, the holding ponds dug into the earth to retain contaminated water, lights and sound running 24 hours a day, seven days a week. “I just can’t envisage co-existence with a gas well like that next to my cellar door,” said Dennis Vice of Highbank, one of Coonawarra’s leading wineries as we watched another truck loaded with drilling equipment roar by. “How can anyone argue that industrialized gas extraction can sit comfortably alongside wine - a brand that’s based on clean green production? Even if they do put a well in and I’m forced to sell, my vineyard would be worthless because of that rig. The implications for landowners are immense.” During the same visit, local vineyard manager Stuart Sharman, chair of the Limestone Coast Grape and Wine Council’s unconventional shale gas committee, detailed his deep concerns about shale gas extraction - a process that, like CSG mining, involves drilling down through the aquifer and using large amounts of local water in the process. “We don’t have a lot of confidence that the miners can give us an iron clad guarantee that well integrity will be maintained,” he said. “We know that the wells break down over time - their own documents show that. And (energy company) Santos has just been fined for contaminating the acquifer with uranium up in the Pilliga. If our vineyard irrigation water here becomes contaminated we can kiss goodbye to our sector of the economy: the Coonawarra brand and the whole district will be tarnished.” When I spoke to him again for this article, Sharman told me the pressure has eased. Not long after my visit during vintage in 2014, Beach Energy announced they had decided to concentrate on conventional gas extraction, and not in close proximity to the vineyards. The level of exploratory drilling I witnessed had “slowed right up”. But Sharman says it’s the slowdown in the energy market at the moment that’s contributed to the change of heart, not necessarily the very vocal opposition of the vignerons. “Depressed energy prices are slowing up further expectations,” he says. “It’s just not worth the miners’ while to go to the effort of unconventional gas extraction right now. But I think what we’re seeing is probably a lull, not the end. I imagine it could well ramp up again if the situation changes.” ----- It’s a similar story in the Hunter. Yes, says Andrew Margan, with the declaration of the Critical Industry Clusters, winegrowers have had a reprieve. And yes, AGL announced earlier this year that they were pulling out of CSG in NSW. But the state government hasn’t reversed its stand on CSG overall: the exploratory and mining licences haven’t been revoked. So if - when - the economic climate and the political balance shift, the pressure may build once more to start extracting precious hydrocarbons in the heart of wine country. And if that happens, says Stuart Sharman, there will always be a conflict between the short-term gain of the energy companies and the long-term sustainability of the winegrowers. “In the wine industry we’re busy spending millions of dollars redeveloping vineyards and setting ourselves up for another 50-plus years,” he says. “The mining guys are very publicly saying they’ll only be here for 20 years. But what’s it going to be like - what’s the impact not only to the physical environment but also the social environment - when they walk out in 20 years time and we’re still here.”
Two Blues Sauvignon Blanc 2014
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