Born and bred in Hobart, Tasmania, a passion for food and wine has always been in Penny’s blood.
After graduating as Dux of Oenology in 2004 at Adelaide University, Penny stayed on in the Adelaide Hills for nine and a half years to work her way through the ranks to winemaker at Petaluma winery. Penny returned to her home state of Tasmania and is now focusing her passion for cool climate wines as winemaker for Bay of Fires.
I have a hospitality background, so I love all things food and wine. One particular Hobart underground restaurant and it’s owners (French chef, Aussie Maître D) really got me hooked on wine, and eventually I realised it was time to put my brain to work at university. I was pretty excited to learn I could actually study winemaking there, so I packed up the car and drove to Adelaide! The rest is history.
One of the greatest things about my job is that every day is different. Because winemaking stems from the vineyard, the type of work we do in the winery is very seasonal. That means that no two days, weeks or months are the same. Part of the satisfaction of the job is that our premium wines are actually the result of well over a year of hard work and commitment, from a passionate and committed team of people.
From a global perspective, the Australian wine industry is unique in its ability to be able to do new and, sometimes unusual, things; with few rules and regulations to hold us back or restrict our imagination. Having said that, I’m pretty traditional and still believe that learning about your own sites year on year is really how your quality improve and your wines grow stronger.
Our Pinot Noir wines have received incredible recognition over the years, standing tall amongst the Pinots of Australia (and indeed the world). As our vineyard resources change and develop with time, we continue our journey to make the best version of our style that we can and this is a constant evolution.
The wine industry is a challenging place to work in itself! No season is like the last, and that is part of what makes it so challenging and rewarding at the same time. Tasmania is really a tiny producer in terms of volume, and yet we are working to make wines that are world class. Part of the challenge is in getting our story out to the rest of the world.
Given COVID-19 struck Tassie just as we were about to start harvesting in 2020, we were very nervous as to whether we could even bring in our crop. We basically locked down as a winery team and focused on the job at hand. We are so very proud that the wines we have produced out of what was also a very agriculturally challenging season are of such high quality.
Tasmania is really such a dream location to grow premium wine grapes. We enjoy a truly cool climate which promotes slow ripening and flavour development, all the while retaining crisp, bright acidity. As a result, Tassie wines should be bright and lively, with loads of perfume, freshness and personality.
My favourite reads in the Grapegrower & Winemaker are often about the people. It’s great to see stories about people you know in the industry, but perhaps don’t see very often, and read about what they have been up to. It was fabulous seeing Cynthea Semmens on her tractor on the cover of the January 2021 issue! A great shot!
This article was originally published in the April 2021 issue of the Australian & New Zealand Grapegrower & Winemaker. To find out more about our monthly magazine, or to subscribe, click here!
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