2017 AUSTRALIAN WINEMAKER OF THE YEAR
Wyberba via Ballandean, Granite Belt Wine Country, Queensland
What did your introduction to winemaking look like?
“I started part time work while still at high school at a winery just up from where I lived. Initially I worked the vineyard, however my father and I would pick all day and crush grapes at night. The 1980 vintage frequently would see us work upwards of 15 hour days.”
“The wine making fascinated me from the age of 15, I would smell the aromas when I entered the winery first thing of the morning. More so the importance of viticulture intrigued me as you can’t make great wines, you must grow them.”
Did you have a career before?
“If you call picking up table grape boxes and picking tomatoes on weekends and in school holidays a career then yes, I did enjoy this part of my life enormously. Throughout my life I have poured beers, picked fruit, brickies labourer, cut timber and I also had a stint at running the Stanthorpe Golf and Bowls Club.”
What does your day-to-day actually look like?
“I work between Ballandean and Mt. Cotton and my day varies from winemaking, assessing wines, blending, during vintage making wine to all the attributes of vineyards.
Also, I think the part I am not enjoying is administration. Too many people today think it is all run on a computer and that weekly meetings to discuss issues is of the utmost importance, I have seen this sneak into the business over the past decade, in reality we are farmers, growing grapes first. Probably the travel is what is the hardest at present. Running out of time to do all the things you would like to do.”
Do you have a favourite product, or one you are most excited about?
“I prefer anything emerging as the minor varieties deliver a flavour profile that is adventurous, presently I am enjoying Pinot Blanc. Red wine of interest is Mencia.”
Do you have a favourite tool in your trade, that you just couldn’t live/work without?
“My pruning shears, when I have these and I am out in the paddock the rest of the world can get stuffed, away from phones, computers and MEETINGS!!!”
What do you wish everyone knew about your products?
“My enthusiasm for vegan and organic products. I have moved to no oak on most reds and alfresco, cosmopolitan styles of wine to suit the Mediterranean diet. The wines are made for the consumer, not the big headed wine critic or for other winemakers.”
When you’re not winemaking, what do you like to do out and about on the Granite Belt?
“I spend time with my wife and read a lot, I also read and when I am not doing that I read. Also, we enjoy dining out locally and look forward to going for drives when possible.”
Where you’ll find Mike…
Mike is also winemaker for Sirromet Mt. Cotton, so can often be seen there, or on the Granite Belt in the vineyards. “Yes you can meet me when you come to Sirromet and even on the streets of Stanthorpe.”