An early love for science, coupled with part-time hospitality gigs, was enough to convince Adam Carnaby that the life of a fine winemaker was for him.
Now the winemaker at Seppelt — home of the sparkling shiraz loved by Longsong and most visitors who have sampled it in the Barossa — Carnaby cut his teeth at Yering Station in the Yarra Valley, before heading west to Margaret River. But for him, the Seppelt estate feels like home. "One of the first wines I started drinking was sparkling shiraz," he says. "Now that's what Seppelt is famous for. Funny how it all comes full circle."
We caught up with Carnaby to talk tasting days and winter wines.
What's an average day like for you?
We do a lot of tasting, particularly at this time of year; a lot of blind tastings where you sit in the tasting room for six hours and taste 120 young red wines. We'll be looking at the 2018 vintage wines that have been put down to rest and classifying them. Then the rest of the year it's intermittent tastings and blending trials and stuff like that; there's also a fair bit of office work involved. Very varied, but not as glamorous as people might think.
During your time at Yering Station, you visited Burgundy. How did that shape you as a winemaker?
The main thing I took away was the importance of terroir and sight. There were three different Premier Cru vineyards next to each other which I'd walk through with the winemaker. You'd say, "What do the juices from those taste like?" and he'd say, "I don't know, I just know that one's better than that one because of the way the soil is and the land." They don't even really worry about the juice, they just know that over time those sites produce those things. That really fascinated me. I suppose that's one of the things that underpins my ideas.
Who, or what, inspires you?
A number of people, not just winemakers but consumers too and what they're interested in. Also, what we can convince them to be interested in because we think those wines are a good idea. The pinot meunier that we produced from the Drumborg vineyard in Henty is a good example. It's a Champagne variety that's similar to pinot noir. I tasted some interesting pinot meuniers in the Grampians and thought this cool climate could make some really interesting wines. I think consumers are hungry for that sort of thing.
Share your favourite drops from the 2018 Seppelt Luxury Collection.
The St. Peters shiraz is really special. We take the best parcels from the vintage of Great Western Vineyard and try to produce something that's really representative of the personality of that vineyard, so it has a real sense of place. The Drumborg wines are the same - they're all single vineyard meaning they're pretty much a pure expression of that vineyard.
Which other wines will you be drinking this winter?
A drop of pinot. My wife absolutely loves pinot so we tend to drink a bit of that. I also drink a lot of European wine. Côtes du Rhône is a favourite — I admire that these guys effortlessly produce these wines that have a sense of place. I'm getting into the northern Italian reds as well. Lately I've been enjoying dolcetto and barbera. It's important for me to taste those wines and understand the tannins, sugar and acid. That said, even in winter I'll still drink a bottle of Seppelt Juluka chardonnay.
What's your favourite time of the year at Seppelt?
The vintage or harvest period is pretty exciting. You're out in the vineyard looking at blocks and parcels of fruit and thinking about the terroir. Then you see the fruit come in and nurture it through - that's what I get a kick out of. It's like being a chef, you take the great produce or great fruit and produce something that people can enjoy. I suppose I get a bit of a kick when people taste a wine and say "wow". There's a level of self-satisfaction - although it takes two or three hours to get that reaction as a chef, and two years as a winemaker!
Brought to you by Seppelt Wines. Enjoy the 2018 Seppelt Luxury Collection this winter.