Q & A with Andrew Spinaze of Tyrrell's Wines
The story of Tyrrell’s is almost as old as the story of Australian wine. Established in 1858 by William Tyrrell, an English emigrant with family holdings in Suffolk, the company is now overseen by fourth generation family member Bruce Tyrrell and has a longstanding reputation for producing award-winning wines.
Their Chief Winemaker, Andrew Spinaze, has played a significant role in Tyrrell’s ongoing success, having joined the company in 1980 after completing his studies at Adelaide’s Roseworthy Agricultural College. Within a year, he was tasked with taking control of the winery’s Chardonnay production, becoming Assistant Winemaker in 1985.
After travelling to France in 1987 to further hone his winemaking skills, Andrew was made Chief Winemaker in 1989, overseeing an overall crush of 4,000 tonnes. Numerous awards would follow – Winemaker of the Year (by both Winestate and Gourmet Traveller WINE), as well as the Malaysia Airlines Prize for Winemaker of the Most Outstanding Red or White Wine at the Adelaide Wine Show, and more.
During Andrew’s time with Tyrrell’s, the firm has successfully made the transition from small family winery to a major Australia wine company. We had the good fortune to talk to Andrew about wise words he received from Murray Tyrrell, the company’s legendary Vat 47 Chardonnay, and highlights from his stellar career.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given when it comes to winemaking?
When I put my first blend of wine together many years ago and Murray Tyrrell said “whatever you do don’t bugger it up” …it was good incentive. I’m not sure if I’ve had a lot of advice? I guess the best advice would have come from what has been learnt as a winemaking team from the people you work with every day. Not so much advice, but the main thing I’ve learnt is when you change a process or product or anything in the vineyard and winemaking there will be a consequence initially or in the long term.
What makes the Vat 47 Chardonnay 2013 from the Winemaker’s Selection such a standout?
Tyrrell’s Winemaker’s Selection is one of the oldest and most awarded wine styles made in Australia. It’s the pinnacle of our wines.
The range holds true to both Hunter style and our Tyrrell’s philosophy. They’re so timeless they’ve been able to transcend all the new trends and fads that have happened over the last few decades.
Vat 47 was Australia’s first commercially-released Chardonnay, back in 1971. It’s hand-picked, non-irrigated fruit, meticulously cared for. The 2013 Hunter vintage was just one of those vintages you get every now and then where all varieties performed well.
Q If you had to pick three, name your biggest career highlights so far?
From a production point of view, evolving new techniques over the last 30 years and watching how the wines mature as a consequence – it’s given me a great sense of achievement. This has led to the development of an extensive Single Vineyard portfolio which gives great integrity throughout the business from vineyard to consumer.
Secondly, I would say having worked with a great bunch of people close to the winemaking team. When you have people that have stayed with you for over 20 years they offer amazing experience and knowledge. Thirdly, I’ll be indulgent and say having won QANTAS and Gourmet Traveller Winemaker many years ago was great.
Check out our range of Tyrrell’s Wines here.