We sit down with Nick from Red Hill Estate - a boutique Australian, multi-award-winning wine producer - to discuss life at a winery.
The Wine Industry is one that’s vast and expansive in Australia, and with extensive wineries across the East Coast, our wine is the envy of many across the globe. Today we’ve caught up with Nick from the Red Hill Estate Winery in Red Hill to deep dive into the life at a winery.
We all love wine, but sometimes it can all get a bit confusing, trying to discern what goes into all the different types of wines, trying to understand the different ages we need to keep some wines, so today we’re getting a better understanding of the industry and wineries as a whole.
There are countless amounts of wines, all made it vastly different ways, but as Nick outlines, there’s a standard process that all winemakers follow, from the grape-picking to the bottling stage.
“There are endless methods and deviations to the process, but you need to do these five things to make wine: harvesting, crushing and pressing, fermentation, clarification, and then aging and bottling.”
Red Hill produces a bunch of amazing wines that have been critically renowned by many across Australia. Some of their wines include Prosecco, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Rose, and Pinot Noir, Nick mentioning the latter being the most difficult to produce, often due to the volatility with the wine’s resources; “Pinot Noir fruit is unpredictable, and keeps us on our toes.”
“For instance, if the grape is grown in conditions that are hot, not only will it ripen too fast failing to develop its full flavour but it may rot. As a cool climate wine region we need to monitor our seasonal weather patterns to adjust our vine management practices,” he adds.
“The fruit possesses a rather thin skin that makes it susceptible to infections, disease, and deterioration from a harsh environment. Pinot Noir grapes are particularly sensitive to frost, wind, soil types, cropping levels, and pruning techniques.”
As you’d expect, no two days are the same at a winery, with a lot of its production based on grape-growing, the weather and seasons come into play, and as the seasons change, Red Hill moves into a different stage of the extensive wine-making process.
As we’re currently working our way through Autumn, it’s prime time for focusing on picking grapes for their bevy of amazing wines; “vintage is underway – so we’re harvesting, de-stemming, crushing and processing for primary fermentation.”
The next stage of the process involves the next stage of the fermentation, the bottling stage approaches, through “secondary fermentation, as well as any blending that is required, before getting ready for bottling.
“Our winemaking team are constantly checking and topping up vats/barrels to ensure the wine is progressing as intended.”
But as is the case with all forms of food and drink production, there are many issues that come up and are difficult to overcome, the main one being the unpredictable weather we are constantly faced within Melbourne.
“Growing grapes are impacted by sunlight, water and temperature. Unfavourable conditions, early season variances, and other climactic events are the cause of grey hairs. You can make bad wine with great grapes, but you can’t make great wine with bad grapes.”
There’s no formula for great wine, it ultimately comes down to the preference of the drinker; “A good wine is, above all else, a wine that you like enough to drink – because the whole purpose of a wine is to be enjoyed.”
Nick also speaks of the different flavours and sweetness associated with their range of wines, and the process of getting these tastes;
“Sweetness in wine is not from added sugar. Your sweet wine isn’t sweet because sugar was added.”
Any sweetness you taste in wine is all-natural, it actually comes from the sugars in the grapes they pick; “The sweetness in wines is from residual sugars from grapes while fermenting. Other factors such as the variety, harvest time, noble rot or fortification all impact the sugar content too. Very rarely sugar will be added to assist with Sparkling production or if grapes have not ripened.”
There’s more to a winery than just making the wines though, Nick mentions that there are a variety of jobs to suit all different types of wine lovers.
“Wine industry jobs may cover all aspects of vineyard, winery or cellar door. They can also be more specialised to include bottling, laboratory work, vineyard work, warehousing and packing, cellar door sales or export orders, depending on the size and type of winery.”
Working In the industry may be the start of a lifelong career in the food and wine industry; “Even if you don’t spend the rest of your life making wine you’ll gain knowledge and insight into the process that is invaluable and can lead you down many other paths.”
Red Hill Estate is located at 53 Shoreham Rd, Red Hill South. Check out Red Hill Estate’s online store here.