Ian Hendy, Tahbilk, VIC

Ian Hendy, Tahbilk, VIC

Name: Ian Hendy
Place of birth: Mildura, Victoria.
Professional qualifications: Farming course Mildura Technical School. Certificate in Viticulture, (Correspondence).
Professional experience: Born and raised on a dried fruit property in the Mildura district where the family had a 12 hectare block. Later on I was given the opportunity as vineyard manager at Tahbilk and worked up to group vineyard manager.
Current job title, winery & region: Group vineyard manager; Tahbilk, Goulburn Valley, Victoria.

What made you decide to become a viticulturist?
Born and bred on grapes. It was in my blood, and I like working outside.

Which are your favourite varieties to grow?
Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon.

What is your least favourite variety to grow?
Roussanne and Grenache.

Do you have any plans to expand the growth of certain varieties, or plant any new varieties?
It depends on what the company requires. In 2008 we will plant about 16ha of varieties existing.

What steps do you take to ensure good lines of communication with the wineries that purchase your fruit?
We have our own winery and utilise all of the Tahbilk estate fruit.

Can you remember the 'worst' vintage you've ever been through? What was the problem and what did you do to solve it?
There were two actually. In 1991 it was a wet year and caused mouldy fruit and 2007 has been well documented as a frost hit, dry season with limited water, so there was no growth or fruit.

Is there a standout season for you, when everything ran just about perfectly? When was it, and what made it such a good year?
2005 and 2006. The weather was dry, with some rain at the right times providing enough water and these years ran smoothly. In 2001 and 2004 we had bumper crops.

What do you like to do when you're not tending vines?
Do some sketching, bush walking, touring and gardening.

If you had an unlimited budget available to establish your existing vineyard all over again, what would you do differently?
Have different rootstocks, everything under drip irrigation and mulch all vineyards.

What is the biggest challenge you face growing grapes in your particular region?
Lack of experienced staff, and the weather. We struggle to get enough water.

What is the most important piece of equipment in your vineyard?
My managers and their staff.

Have you learnt any 'tricks of the trade' you can share with your colleagues?
Don't get complacent. Go to seminars and workshops because there is always something to learn, even if it's only minor.

If you could remove one vine pest or disease from the face of the earth forever more, which would it be?
Phylloxera.

What keeps you awake at night?
I sleep very well, early to bed, early to rise. But I do worry about my daughters at times.

What sends you to sleep?
A bad game of football. Possibly the glass of wine I sometimes have with my dinner.

Do you have a mentor who has influenced you, or your direction in viticulture?
My boss. Also the previous vineyard manager as I worked with him for four years.

Which areas of grape research do you find of most interest, and most practical benefit to your work?
For us at Tahbilk I think rootstocks and clones. It is important to get these right and compatible for today and the future, especially with this weather variability.

What do you think is the number one problem facing today's industry?
Overcropping and all the fly-by-night vineyards out there.

What would be your solution to this problem?
Stop plantings Australia-wide until things settle down some.

And, I have to ask, what's your motto in life?
Be happy in your work and lifestyle, relax a bit.

This article can be found in the November 2007 issue of the Grapegrower & Winemaker magazine.

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