When I made the decision to become a winemaker the first thing I had to do was get qualified. As it happens my interests have been more on the Oenology side rather than Viticulture and this is where my efforts and training have been focused. I'm more than happy to buy good grapes from someone that loves doing the viticultural side of things.
But even after this amount of time, or maybe especially today, people still struggle with the concept of a 'Virtual Winery', or a winery that can exist without owning vineyards or winery. If it's a big winery then that's ok, no thought is given to it. Large wineries all the time buy grapes from growers and have them processed by someone else into wine.
People happily purchase a wine made by a 'Negociant' in France no questions asked. A Negociant is someone who as the name suggests sources wine from a Chateau or producer meeting the quality and style requirements, and then blends a house style for their own purposes and takes that to market. This has happened for hundreds of years.
In Max Allen's book on winemaker Maurice O'Shea who was the original developer of the Mount Pleasant vineyard, he related how Maurice would go around to many of the Hunter wineries at the end of vintage and find the most favourable parcels, bring them into his own winery and then go to work on them for his creations. Apparently some of these wines were still drinking extraordinarily well after multiple decades, and very recognisable. Nobody ever really knew what gave them that kind of longevity, but it's pretty safe to say that it's in the blending.
As a small producer using these same models in Australia often times people, on the face of it, find that less legitimate. The general view is that a small producer has to have a vineyard and cellar door otherwise you are just not serious about winemaking. My own view is that a differentiation isn't often made between someone who grows grapes and gets it made into wine for them by someone else and calls themselves a winemaker, and someone who has done the training in Oenology and is a Winemaker by Trade without necessarily seeing the need to own a vineyard.
When people I know have grumbled about lack of consistency for price in wines they have been drinking, my answer is to look at who is making them and see if they have done the training which enables them to get a consistent result year in and year out. Irrespective of the price point a good winemaker will always make a decent wine given reasonable starting materials, and even when the materials are unreasonable.
In a future mail-out I will talk about the 2011 Vintage which has been unfairly maligned exactly for the reasons laid out above, where the under-qualified in both vineyard and winery were found out, but where the most competent winemakers forged ahead and now have some unique and great results to show for it.
Since commencing Black Stump Wines close on thirty years ago the areas of business where I focus my energies have continually evolved. In the beginning most of my efforts were in learning my trade and craft.
Then working in foreign countries with people of different cultural backgrounds and gaining a working knowledge of their languages. Then learning about the different asset classes to invest for the future.
Now there are these and many other areas including building a diverse team, improving communication skills, maintaining good health, and giving insights to those willing to learn, just as many helped me when I was starting out.
The networking tools available today leverage this process. For myself I am very fortunate and grateful to have access to some of the best mentors and trainers imaginable.
Starting out in the late 1980's without mobile phones, cheap phone calls, email or facebook meant that I, and I'm sure many like me moved from mistake to mistake trying to find our way without proper guidance and being alert to the pitfalls. Making mistakes is certainly part of the process but if the needless ones can be minimised it is better.
Today I am happy to be part of a group that helps people starting out avoid some of these same pointless mistakes and instead allow them to make better ones where something is learnt, and achieve greater results sooner for all of our benefit.
Oh Boy! We have been putting in some serious work to set up a really exciting second half of this year and into the next. There is a great team in the making and you'll have a chance to meet some of them soon. Winter time is the best time of the year for working on the very extra special blends from the private cellar and limited bottlings. So keep your eyes open.
Secondly HANG ONTO this subscription. Your patience will be rewarded with some great lifestyle content, new services, and wine offers starting today and we are only scratching the surface. You are welcome to share the links around.
You don't have to wait there is a great selection easily accessible in the store. To kick start the Rewards Program and get the ball rolling the Lemon Heaven and Cloud9 offers are open for a short time.