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Wine

Passing on the Passion

Australia’s next generation of winemakers really have the goods. Producing amazing wines, from contemporary takes on much-loved favourites, to new and exciting blends and varietals, they’re taking Australian winemaking into the future. Some, like this talented bunch are blessed to have winemaking in their blood, with invaluable skills, knowledge and experience passed down from their fathers.

We asked each of them the same two questions; how do you see the future of your family winery? And what influence has your father had on you and your winemaking?

Ben Portet and Dominique Portet – Dominique Portet

“Exciting and bright. Innovation and productivity is key to our family story and we feel proud to be part of the Australian wine landscape.”

“His determination, flare, and pioneering spirit are been huge qualities that I admire greatly. I'm extremely fortunate to work with my father Dominique and share his same vision for quality.”

Rob Ellis and John Ellis – Hanging Rock

“It’s interesting, my parent’s original goal in the 1980s was to produce around 15-20,000 cases of really top quality wine from Heathcote and the Macedon Ranges, sell it all in six months and live the rest of the year in France. Over the years the model has changed and we are currently producing about double the quantity with grapes coming from all over Victoria. Slowly but surely my sister and I want to get back to the original plan – especially the France part.”

“My dad John is an amazing winemaker. One of his biggest talents is the art of blending. He was the first person in Australia to make a Cabernet Merlot. He could see that Merlot filled the natural hole in the mid palate of the Cabernet, making it a more complete wine. Our Sparkling wine ‘Macedon’ is a blend of up to 30 different components from different vintages, varieties, clones and barrels. It’s quite a challenge to fit them all together, picturing how they will taste in up to 15 years. Dad has taught me a lot in this regard. Dad and my grandfather (Murray Tyrrell) both instilled in me from an early age not to rely on numbers (baumé level) when deciding when to pick grapes – the most important part is tasting the grapes to ensure they have the right flavour. For that reason, I drive thousands of kilometres each vintage going to vineyards to taste and sample the fruit myself.”

Alex Cassegrain and John Cassegrain – Cassegrain Wines

“As Cassegrain Wines moves into the future, we’d like to continue to build upon our brand profile, increasing our foothold in the export market. We have a very good presence in Japan and would like to expand on this further.”

“My father John has had a profound influence on my career as a winemaker. As well as sharing his love and passion for wine, he has imparted a great sense of respect for terroir and the appreciation of different regions. Winemaking is in many aspects a science, but it is also an art; his philosophy of getting the most out of each parcel has been fundamental to not just my own learning, but also the individuality of our product.”

Luke Tocaciu and Pat Tocaciu – Patrick of Coonawarra

“Patrick of Coonawarra has been through some difficult times recently, with the loss of my father, Patrick, three years ago. It has also arguably been one of the toughest times in the wine industry through this period. To be able to grow and develop the business since then has been a great achievement. This gives me confidence that my father’s legacy will continue and the future is bright for Patrick of Coonawarra.”

“My father had a huge influence on both my life and my winemaking – I always wanted to follow in his footsteps and be a winemaker from an early age. To be able to work together in the family business for a few years was a huge achievement and one that he was very proud of. He had the knowledge and experience of years in the industry and I had the ‘fresh out of university’ science background. He trained me to make a lot of decisions on taste rather than what the numbers tell you. This has given me a greater appreciation for the tradition of winemaking and helped me to balance this with the modern technology that we use today.”

Chris Tyrrell and Bruce Tyrrell – Tyrrell’s Wines

“I see the future of Tyrrell’s Wines being a continuation of the last few years of repositioning our business. Gone are the days of trying to play with the big boys and wanting to be everything to everyone. I think that we now really know our strengths, in the Hunter Valley making high-end single vineyard wines as well as our vineyard in Heathcote. I also see Tyrrell’s continuing to be the beating heart of the Hunter Valley and a leader in the Australian Wine Industry. It’s an exciting time and I’m very much looking forward to the challenge.”

“My father Bruce has taught me more that I think I will ever know. We are so different, just as he and his father Murray were. We are both obsessed with making the best wine possible, and that’s one of the main things I have taken from him. If it’s not worth doing well, then don’t do it. And the vineyards are the key, without them we are nothing. Also to surround yourself with the best people you can find in areas that aren’t your strength.”

Jason Sobel and Kevin Sobel – Kevin Sobels Wines

“We’re fortunate to live in the Hunter Valley, one of the oldest and best known wine regions in Australia. Enjoying stable growing conditions which allows us to make a variety of wine styles, and being located in what is recognised as the most visited wine tourism region, I believe our business has a great future.”

“What I have learnt from my father Kevin is that winemaking is always evolving and that you have to produce wines that are different and interesting as well as the traditional styles characteristic of the region.”

Jen Pfeiffer and Chris Pfeiffer – Pfeiffer Wines

“I feel very positive about the future for Pfeiffer Wines. My parents started Pfeiffer Wines 32 years ago and over all those years they have developed a very loyal following of "pfans of Pfeiffer"! I came home and started my winemaking career in 2000. Apart from the 17 vintages I have worked in Australia, I have also worked vintages in France and in Portugal. I see the future here taking on some grape varieties from the Iberian Peninsula to add to our extensive portfolio of grape varieties and wines. That way we will work alongside the changing weather patterns and adapt our vineyards in grapes and farming practices. It is a challenge but I have always been invigorated by a challenge.”

“My dad, Chris, is one of my mentors. I don't have many but I truly value those that I have. I have learnt so much from them all but especially from Dad as we have worked together for so long. Over my 17 years making wine here at Pfeiffer Wines, my Dad has given me a free hand to experiment, take risks and make changes...be it all under a watchful eye, especially at the start. We do all our barrel tastings together and consult with each other after tasting the wines independently and making our own assessments. I really value my Dad's opinion, after all, this is his 43rd vintage!”

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