Meet Steve Webber of De Bortoli Wines
How did you “just fall into” the wine industry?
My father was involved in wine and viticulture and it seemed like a good idea at the time.
What made you fall in love with winemaking?
A combination of growing something and making something profound from the produce.
Is Yarra Valley the best region for winemaking?
No, but it is a very good wine region and my favourite. The Yarra has many microclimates that suit a lot of varieties. The fact that the rainfall varies from 650mm to 1800mm and soil types are both sedimentary and volcanic origin across the Yarra indicates a wide diversity of microclimates. From these climates, it can produce sublime, mineral-driven Chardonnay, heady, perfumed Pinot Noir, Syrah with violets and graphite and classic dark-fruited Cabernet. It also does pretty cool Gamay, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and Rosé.
How many, and what awards have your wines won?
Each year we enter various wine shows, both domestic and international. It is nice to win awards with the top end wines (Melba Vineyard, Riorret Pinot, De Bortoli Single Vineyard, PHI Single Vineyard), but nothing gives us more satisfaction than if an affordable, more commercial wine wins a gold and trophy in a relevant wine show. La Boheme Syrah Gamay 2017 won 2 trophies last year in various shows, Villages Shiraz Grenache 2016 won several trophies and golds, Villages Tempranillo Touriga 2017 won 2 gold medals and a trophy and the Vinoque Nebbiolo Rosé 18 did well in the Alternative Varieties Wine Show. These wines all sell for under $30.
What is your favourite thing about De Bortoli Yarra Valley?
The ability to be able to make interesting styles of wine from a range of regions. The Darren De Bortoli philosophy is ‘make what you want, but you need to make sure you sell it’. We have had a few things that didn’t work, but generally the ideas all work out OK.
Making wine in a beautiful place is always a pleasure. Waking up to this every morning is fairly inspiring.
What appeals to you most about this industry?
For a lot of the 80s and 90s it was a conservative approach to making flawless, sterile wine with lots of sunshine. It is now one of the most dynamic industries to be in. Consumers love new varieties and flavours, producers are turning tradition on its head, we are making wine to go with a changing food and life style culture, most people are getting it.
If you had to pick a favourite wine at De Bortoli, which one would it be?
Estate Vineyard Pinot Noir – always perfumed and delicious, a true reflection of the vintage, generally a more generous style, but varies with season and ... I can afford it.
If an up-and-coming winemaker asked you for advice, what would you tell him/her?
Drink good wine, travel with wine widely, follow your instincts, work with people with a philosophy you like.
The La Boheme Act Two Pinot Noir Rose 2018 is our wine of the month – what makes this such a standout?
We first made this pale, dry, textural Rosé back in 2011. At the time, the sales guys didn’t think we had a chance in hell of selling pale Rosé in the shops and said ‘knock yourselves out in the cellar door’. It basically went from 6000 bottles to over 400,000 bottles in 8 years.
Always quite pale in colour, Pinot Rosé is quite creamy and varietal in aroma and flavour. We allow the wines to go through a secondary fermentation, which reduces the acidity and produces a softness without any sweetness. My go-to Rosé.
We have paired it with roasted heirloom beetroots, gorgonzola, candied walnuts and roquette salad. What do you enjoy pairing it with?
I don’t eat beetroot, but I drink this wine with wine-cured salmon. Sometimes we use Riesling and other times Pinot Rosé.
Other than your own wine, what wine do you like to drink at home?
We are loving Fiano at the moment from a few good producers in Australia and Campania. Pinot Noir from Southern Victoria and Tasmania. We drink our share of pale dry Rosé. A swagger of G wines – Grenache, Gamay and Garganaga. The odd bottle of Narello Mascalese from Sicily.
What’s your favourite varietal and why?
Probably Pinot Noir. It best reflects season and place and I’m always amazed at how quickly the bottle empties with mates.
What’s your ultimate wine and food match?
Gamay Noir and paste/gnocchi with pine mushrooms in autumn.
What is your favourite…
Victorian restaurant? France Soir
Animal? Black Labs
Travel destination? Southern France – Goult
Pastime? Cooking, eating and delicious wine