Producer Profile: Natalie Cleghorn

Senior winemaker
North of Penola, Coonawarra, South Australia
CURRENT SIZE OF PRODUCTION: 800 tonnes (mostly red wine)

What are your earliest memories of wine?

A school visit to a McLaren vale winery, I recall the peace and quiet, obviously not a visit during vintage.

How did you get your start in the wine sector?

After having my son, I wanted a fresh start in a new industry, I was lucky enough to be employed in the Yalumba laboratory as a technician.

What made you want to be a winemaker?

Whilst working in the laboratory, Peter Harvey – a winemaker at Yalumba at the time – showed me a glass of Veuve Grand Dame. I was blown away and thought how amazing would it be if I could do something like that.

How did that transition into winemaking?

I enrolled at Charles Sturt University and undertook my degree whilst still working in the lab at Yalumba and Oxford Landing Winery. I became an assistant winemaker in 2006.

What do you think is the most endearing thing about winemaking?

For me, each bottle is a snap shot in time, a mini, yummy time capsule. I also very much enjoy the multi-faceted roles a winemaker plays. Farmer, scientist, artist, story teller and consumer.

What regions have you worked in? What was the best thing about that experience?

I started my career in the Barossa, working with Barossa Valley, Eden Valley and Adelaide Hills fruit. I have completed vintages in Priorat in Spain and Tasmania, which were amazing and over the last decade I have been more focussed in Coonawarra and Wrattonbully.

What is it like working at Katnook?

Katnook is a historic site and brand and we have an amazing, dedicated and passionate team. I feel very much at home at Katnook and in the Coonawarra, it is a tightly knit community who are all passionate about all things wine and Coonawarra.

Tell me a little about 2020 for you, how did that go?

It was a rollercoaster! 2020 was a massive learning curve for me, I only had five weeks learning a new site, working for a new company and becoming part of a new team before we started crushing. The vintage is one of the best I have seen from Coonawarra and we have made some amazing wines.

What keeps you making wine?

This job is very rewarding, challenging and never boring. I love the art versus science aspect and I adore being able to share our wines and the Katnook story with fellow wine lovers.

What changes to winemaking have you noticed over your time in the industry?

For me the biggest change I have seen is the less is more concept, a respect of letting great fruit shine without too much noise from winemakers and winemaking intervention.

What are your thoughts on using more alternative varieties to combat climate change?

There are regions that will be affected sooner by our changing climate and people like Ashley Ratcliff in the Riverland are leading the way with matching varieties that are more suited to the changing climate. Coonawarra, whilst not yet quite in the same boat as some other regions, will of course need to look to other varieties and how they may be better suited as the climate changes.

What advice might you impart on your younger self if you had the chance?

Explore the world of wine earlier, understand that wine is something that is ever changing and very much influenced by who you enjoying it with and where you are. Every wine has a story.

Have you read anything in the Grapegrower & Winemaker recently that has inspired you?

I generally find something in each magazine that is of interest – I enjoy the technical winemaking information and the Producer Profile section.


This article was originally featured in the October 2021 issue of the Grapegrower & Winemaker magazine.
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