|Grapegrower & Winemaker||Wine & Viticulture Journal||Wine Industry Directory||
||Daily Wine News||
A 17-year winemaking partnership
Sue Hodder and Sarah Pidgeon, winemakers for Wynns Coonawarra Estate, were jointly named the 'Winemaker of the Year' at the 2016 Australian Society of Viticulture and Oenology (ASVO) Awards for Excellence in November last year. The award recognises the work that the two have done particularly with Cabernet Sauvignon, and their contribution back to the local community in which they live and work, and to the broader wine community in Australia and internationally.
In summing up their selection for the prestigious award, ASVO president Mardi Longbottom said, 'Sue and Sarah have demonstrated enormous commitment to the pursuit of winemaking excellence from the vineyard, through the winery, in their wines and through their engagement with the broader wine community.'
The two winemakers have worked together at Wynns for 17 years. Hodder started with Wynns in 1993, and Pidgeon arrived in 1999.
For both women, it is a working relationship firmly based on mutual respect, a shared passion, and a clear, focussed strategy on where they want to take the Wynns wine styles into the future and how they are going to do it.
After interviewing both women recently, their passion for what they do and for Wynns, and the deep respect they hold for each other's winemaking abilities and skills, shone through brightly. A real sense of achievement from both of them is apparent in their voices, as is pride in what they have achieved and excitement about what is coming up in the next few years at Wynns. Both acknowledge the contribution of the company's viticulturist Allan Jenkins, who is guiding the massive task of rejuvenating and replanting large sections of the Wynns vineyards that started in 2004.
After 17 years of working together, there have been many memorable moments. Pidgeon rates working alongside Hodder to introduce the first single vineyard wine in 2001 from the Harold Vineyard as one of her favourite moments. This wine also happened to be a 100% Cabernet Sauvignon wine. Hodder continued, 'There have been memorable moments with these 'skinny old guys', as we call them, and it has been finding out how to coax out the best in these heritage vineyards.' Pidgeon added, 'They are hard to make until you find the best way, a bit like cracking the safe code then opening the safe to find exquisite treasures inside.' She said, 'Making good wines from younger vineyards is easier; the wines are juicier and more forgiving, easier to make, but are less complex. The key is realising the potential and not missing it in these wines from the Heritage vineyards, and realising the need to be patient and give the wines a chance.'
Hodder continued, 'There is no definitive, singular factor that has lead us down the path we are currently travelling. It's a matrix of factors that has contributed to the paradigm shift that we are going through at Wynns. The catalyst for us both was in 2004 with our 50-year tasting that took us through until the current vintage of the time, which was our 2004 which was still in barrel. The 50-year tasting coincided with the need to rejuvenate some of our vineyards. Combine this with the fact that Allen Jenkins joined our team in 2001, and the first serious acknowledgement that climate change was real and that it was happening now.'
The winemakers' 'light bulb moment' came when they were tasting the 1960s Cabernets during the 50-year tastings. They were medium bodied, not big from a tannin aspect, and aged gracefully and elegantly. This gave Hodder and Pidgeon the confidence to change the style direction of future Wynns Cabernets, and gave the team as a whole the confidence to start the rejuvenation of the old Wynns vineyards.
Pidgeon said, 'By conducting the 50 years of Cabernet tasting in 2004 and being able to taste the full set, both winemakers learnt so much and ended up with some very significant findings and lots of ideas for change. At that time of the tasting, the 1954 wine, which was the first wine tasted, was still amazing and received lots of votes for the best wine of the 1950s and 1960s. Another standout was the 1991, which also received lots of votes, but both of these also had solid wines around each of them.
'The Cabernet tasting took in significant changes over the decades with overlapping winemaking trends and differing practices being used in the vineyards,' Pidgeon continued. 'In the 1970s, there was a planting boom and a new winery was built, which were both large and significant changes at Wynns at that time. What shone out though for me at the end of the tasting was the ageability of these wines and this enduring quality in each of the wines which was more important than the winemaking techniques used. There were differences in oak and winemaking, and you can see the style differences from winemaker to winemaker, but the basic age ability of the wines didn't change.'
Hodder added that the findings from the 50-year tasting 'also coincided with the Australia-wide interest in the marketplace in the international red wine styles which were leaner and more elegant in style'.
'Having someone like Allan as our viticulturist, who could assess the Wynns vineyards with a fresh set of eyes and also knew the history of the region, and recognised that not all of the older, loved vineyards were good, was also the key,' Hodder said. She explained Jenkins had developed a vineyard rejuvenation strategy that 'encompasses utilising the best old vineyards, replanting some vineyards, changing row orientations, reworking minimally pruned vineyards, changing trellising systems, changing pruning practices, planting new clones and using new rootstocks'. It's an ambitious project which will take many years to complete.
Both winemakers are eagerly looking forward to Wynns 60 years of Cabernet tasting in mid 2018, which is timed to coincide with the release of the 60th vintage and will be the catalyst for the next crop of ideas and inspiration.
'It is good to have concise and accurate data to refer back to,' Hodder said. 'The '90s, when we both started here, are now a long time ago and our memories of each vintage are certainly not as accurate as our written vintage dairies and vineyard records. The way in which we compare one vintage to another is now very different. We used to talk about the number of heat degree days; now it's maximum and minimum temperatures and the conditions during the ripening period which are the key ripening factors. We have far more precise data collection and interpretation and discussion around our vintage data records now than ever before.'
The 50-year tasting also showed that the weight, ripeness and ultimately alcohol have not changed much at Wynns and have been reasonably stable, with no huge fluctuations. With tannins, Hodder said, 'We have so many more analytical tools at our disposal now, as well as greatly improved and fine-tuned management techniques in the vineyard, and new technologies in the winery. There are now better viticultural practices to pick when the tannins are riper, and at their best for optimal ripe flavours. Tannin analysis has made a big difference to the quality of the tannins in our wines.'
Pidgeon explained Wynns had supplied samples to the AWRI of every bottle from the 50-year tasting which were analysed for tannin and colour. The results from these 50 wines will be used to formulate theories about ageing and make up a very important part of the AWRI Tannin Project.
The complete version of this article first appeared in the Jan/Feb edition of the Wine & Viticulture Journal. Not a subscriber? Visit www.winetitlesbookstore.com.au/shop/wvj or email email@example.com to access Australia's specialist wine industry publication, dedicated to covering all aspects of winemaking and technology, viticulture, wine business and marketing — from vine to market.
Other feature articles
- Natalie Fryar, Winemaker, Jansz Tasmania
- Angelo Puglisi, Ballandean Estate, Queensland
- Dave Cleary, West Cape Howe Wines, WA
- Kim Chalmers, Chalmers Nurseries, NSW
- Tiffany Nugan, Nugan Estate, NSW
- Doug Bowen, Bowen Estate, SA
- Drew Brent-White, Windance Estate, WA
- Ian Hollick, Hollick Wines, SA
- Andrew Nugent, Bird in Hand Winery, SA
- Jim Chatto, Pepper Tree Wines, NSW
- Tony Keys, The Key Files
- Forum in pursuit of Pinot excellence
- Andrew Naylor, Pernod Ricard, NZ
- Samantha Scarratt, Fishtail Vineyards, New Zealand
- Adam Hooper and Elena Golakova, La Curio, SA
- Kathleen Quealy, T’Gallant/Balnarring Vineyard/Quealy Wine, VIC
- Richard Smart, Tamar Ridge Wines, TAS
- Terry Lee
- Ben Glover, Wither Hills, NZ
- David Fonseca Guimaraens, Fonseca and Taylor’s Port, Portugal
- Sam Temme, Lloyd Brothers, SA
- Peter May
- Colin Kay, Kay Brothers Amery, SA
- Mark Deegenaars, Sirromet Wines, QLD
- Peter Dry, University of Adelaide, SA
- Simon Thistlewood, Bimbadgen Estate, NSW
- David Lehmann, Barossa Valley, SA
- Mark Lloyd, Coriole Vineyards, McLaren Vale, SA
- Tom Harvey, Chalk Hill, SA
- Albarino – potentially Australia’s great white hope
- Ian Hendy, Tahbilk, VIC
- Oak trials instigated to create the right balance
- Jason Conti, Paul Conti Wines, WA
- Swan Valley goes organic in its approach to wine production
- 100-year-old vines saved from destruction
- Paul Boulden, Margaret River, WA
- Pinot trophy wine a close call
- Grenache finds its place in the spotlight
- Ashley Ratcliff, Yalumba Wine Company, SA
- Lessons from a fiery day in February
- Prolific Penfolds takes a double triumph
- Great win for Tatachilla Shiraz
- Ian Long, Yarraman Estate, NSW
- Capercaillie looks to future
- Tolley leaves AWBC in good shape
- Julian Parrot, Mandala Wines, NSW
- Yarra Valley’s Sticks grows up
- Rebuilding Bianchet Winery
- Kalleskes take organic grapegrowing to heart
- Vineyards benefit from WWOOF program
- Organic producer in touch with the earth
- BackVintage adopts integrated IT solution
- Lark Hill achieves full biodynamic certification
- Joseph Gilbert of Pewsey Vale – early maker of the classic Australian blend
- Sam Statham, Rosnay Wines, NSW
- Young achiever to study in USA
- Evolving Durif at Morris Wines
- Diane Miller, The Vintage Wineworx, WA
- NZ’s star producer guided by the cosmos
- On the rise: Pinot Gris secures its place
- Killeen wins Winetitles’ scholarship
- Rebecca Wilson, Tamar Valley, TAS
- Liz Riley, Vitibit, Hunter Valley
- The Gilberts of Pewsey Vale: the next generation
- Mark Cairns, Riverside Wines, Hawke’s Bay
- Craigow wins Tasmanian Vineyard of the Year
- Cornwall’s Camel Valley sets Sparkling pace in the UK
- Fred Peacock, Bream Creek Vineyard, Tasmania
- Arneis a winner, no matter how you say it
- WA’s Vanya Cullen named ‘woman of the year’
- McWilliams Mount Pleasant Estate award-winning cellar door
- Planning eases heatwave burden for Mount Horrocks
- Supplier of the Year proves customer service goes a long way
- Meet Ken Murchison
- The journey of Tempranillo to Australia
- Successful events have wineries bursting into song
- Jim Barry Wines winemaker chooses biodynamic option
- Meet Belinda Gould
- Hard grind is paying off for Sangiovese
- Biodynamic viticulture benefits Nazaraay Estate Winery
- Monitoring the key to reducing water use
- Consistently improving the quality and reputation of Australian Cabernet
- Making sure vines are true to type
- Lessons from the drought
- A story of Cuban cigars and a good nose
- A Murray Valley winery has released one of Australia’s first 100% carbon-neutral wines
- John Casella: The brains behind the brand
- Quality Tasmanian Pinot Noir stems from varying degrees of stalk removal
- Young leader forecasts positive future for Australian viticulture businesses
- China’s light shines on Aussie export radar
- Driving the blue bus of industry exposure
- Noble wine proves sweet for Australian wine industry
- Solar energy schemes lack uniformity in Australia
- Solutions for the wine industry’s fiddlier labelling jobs
- Carbon neutrality: The new black
- An understanding of excellence: James Irvine and his life in wine
- Can Australia overcome a harsh reality in the US
- Cape Mentelle treats itself to first place
- Aussies export their expert advice to China
- Bruce Tyrell: the Don Quixote of Semillon
- Why the past could help unlock grape’s future
- Brazil opportunities beckon
- Cool wine regions to benefit from research on new pathogen
- Wineries embrace sensory analysis
- Author reveals first steps to marketing magic
- China - emerging market or competitor?
- Young Vine Decline is studied closely in NSW
- Is the Shiraz berry the biggest loser?
- Small players the big winners for tomorrow’s vineyard
- Save money and wine by choosing the right bentonite
- Significant variations in an Iconic Coonawarra vineyard lead to radical solutions
- Sustainable pest control – now and in a changing climate
- Is there value in adding tannin to wine?
- How do country of origin, closure type and label style affect purchase decisions?
- City sellers
- Selective science – from the vineyard to the winery
- Change agenda includes new thinking
- WineCloud provides future direction for winemakers
- The iron(III) tartrate photochemistry of wine: impacts of bottle colour and weight
- How important are wine medals and how much can we rely on those who assign them?
- Big rewards in fine detail
- Italian inspiration for novel Nero d’Avola making
- Oak deserves its fine environmental credentials
- Machinery maintenance is key to vintage success
- Wine: does vine age really matter?
- SA wineries make a positive and lasting impression
- Magazine pages bring history to life for Rutherglen grower
- Coles tells small wineries to ‘work with us’
- Distinguished vineyard sites are essential for quality fruit production says Petaluma
- From vine to bottle: sustainability a core value for Barossa winery
- Adapt and innovate in a challenging wine business world
- Verduzzo - a 'crazy' white
- Australia’s grapevine germplasm collections under threat
- Expo offers suppliers a chance to shine
- Wineries celebrate end of vintage
- Artisan by name and nature
- Barossa symposium delivers tips for Shiraz vineyard management
- Research to reveal best irrigation practice in dry winters
- Lake’s Folly proves its credentials over 50 years
- New research sheds light on flavour additives in wine
- It’s a three-ringed circus
- Trying to paint the world red
- Where do little winemakers come from?
- A chip off the old block
- The rise and rise of Gatt Wines
- Bizot and Croser – a marriage made in the vineyard
- Wine’s wild man rides into town
- Jeff Bond – a licence to thrill
- The Visionary – who’s laughing now
- Chilling out in Australian wine’s own Ice Age
- Quarter of our wines face Chinese ban
- Four-year research project investigates early influence of oxygen
- Australian winemakers’ views towards oak barrel alternatives matures
- Ready…set…tweet! How you can bank your social media benefits
- Wine show season: It seems not all wine shows would earn a gold medal
- January 2015 Grapegrower & Winemaker magazine out now
- Smart & Sustainable: Jana Shepherd
- Lazy bones: Jo Perry’s ironic nickname
- Can’t sit still: Bleasdale’s energiser bunny
- Meet New Zealand’s best young viti
- Suzie Muntz
- Clare Burder: Ideas are nothing without action
- Steve Baraglia: A tale of two valleys
- The terror of terroir - By Tony Keys