Well, I think I kind of fell into it. I didn't realise it was something I wanted to do until I got involved.
I grew up in the Barossa Valley which was a very good place to start! I completed year 12, and I really enjoyed chemistry, maths, and physics but I didn't really know what I wanted to do when I left high school.
Growing up in the Barossa had its advantaged. The easiest place to get a job was in a winery! I started on the bottling line, more specifically the ‘Tirage’ line at Orlando. Disgorging and refilling sparkling wine. It was work. Not really for me though. Probably the worst part was closing my eyes in bed at night and seeing thousands of green bottles whizzing past! That was OK, It was a start but I always wanted more. I wanted to see the different parts of the winery, so I moved into the cellar for a short time as well.
My first laboratory job was at Yalumba during the 1988 Vintage, testing the grapes as the growers brought samples in, or as the loads were brought in for crushing. I'd do some analysis on the grapes, and prepare a sample for the wine makers to come and taste every day. I had a small amount of interaction with the wine makers there, and that got me interested.
My next job was back at Orlando in the cellar. I met Sam Kurtz, who's now the senior red wine maker at Orlando. He was planning to go to Roseworthy College to do the wine making degree. I thought that sounded like a pretty good idea. I like working in wineries, I really quite like the chemistry and the things involved, so I applied to go into Roseworthy College as well.
My first year at Roseworthy was 1989 and back then it was a three year degree. I met some wonderful people in my time at Roseworthy, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Many have gone on to fantastic wine making careers such as Tom Carson (Yabby Lake), Sam Kurtz (Orlando), Andrew Locke (Rosemount) and Hugh Reimers (Kendall Jackson).
I’ve always enjoyed the technical side of wine making. The chemistry, biochemistry, physics and maths involved. Also how anecdotes and ‘old’ methods come to match with scientific studies. The in-depth studies at Roseworthy really appealed to my enjoyment of discovering the deeper understanding of what makes things tick.
So, I'm definitely more of a wine geek rather than an artisan wine maker. I have a clear ‘image’ of the style in my head. I use my knowledge, skills and experience to select the right fruit and influence and direct the wine through the various stages of its production. With some good weather and luck thrown in, the finished wine will resemble my image! Even if it doesn’t, it’s still my baby and I’ll love it just the same!