Taste of Tamburlaine – Is coming to Darwin
Mark and the team from Tamburlaine are making their way to Darwin in a Piper Collective exclusive tasting on Thursday 28th June.
We have two sessions available at 5.30pm or 6.45pm. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to secure your places.
Cost: Wine Club members: Free Non wine club members: $35
We asked Mark some questions on why he became a winemaker and how the vintage is going for 2018.
Q: How early on did you know you wanted to be a winemaker? When I started my
first studies at Uni (Psychology) I was interested in wine, but a career in winemaking
was not on the radar. At that time, winery staff or those close to them did winemaking
and only F/T degrees were offered. This idea only emerged for me in 1976, when I
heard that Riverina College (now Charles Sturt) was offering its first external studies
wine courses to non-industry employees and I enrolled.
Q: How long have you been a winemaker? I formed a company to buy Tamburlaine
in 1985 and my first vintage was 1986, so more than 30 years.
Q: Where did your journey start? Probably with family tastings in the late 1960s and
1970s (my father and later father-in-law were both keen on wine rather than beer). At
that time, with friends at Newcastle Uni, I also formed a wine club focused on tasting
wines blind and formed opinions over time.
Q: Is there a style of wine you really love to make? Why is it special to you? Tough
question really – we make a large range of wines and styles interest me. Aromatic dry
whites like Gewurtztraminers and Rieslings I discovered early in my career and found
great to make. Our first GWT (2017) won a trophy in the National Cool Climate show
last year. I have dabbled in fortifieds since 1986 and really like blending our aged
muscat. Our recent experimentations with no-added-sulphur wines (“preservative
free”) have also been challenging – mainly because most of my colleagues reckon
that you can’t make a decent one. We won our first GOLD for a PF red in an open
competition last year!
Q: What do you think is the biggest challenge facing the winemaker today? The
ability to build that holistic grape to bottle winemaking picture. Training is often in
bigger wineries and in an entire vintage a trainee winemaker may only see a small
part of the process. Also, the training can exclude solid viticultural understanding
where critical winemaking decisions are often made.
Q: How has the role of the winemaker changed since you began your career? More
specialised in general. The older winemaker was out amongst the vines, fixing
equipment, talking to consumers – jack of all trades to some degree. The business
aspect of wineries, and the procedures and compliance aspects are more prevalent
(distracting) than ever.
Q: What is special about winemaking in your region? What challenges and
opportunities does the region present? We work across 2 regions – Orange and the
Hunter Valley – with very different challenges and opportunities. Both are affected
by current climate cycles; both are experimenting with different varieties; both are
attractive to the wine tourism market which continues to grow. You could say the
Hunter has established itself with Semillon and Shiraz; whereas Orange is a much
more benign climate producing a large number of wine styles and varieties very well
and still establishing itself. One thing I am sure of is that a region should not be
defined by only one grape variety. The Hunter has many old vineyards and Orange
viticulture only goes back 25 years or so.
Q: If money and time were no issue, is there a particular wine you would love to
make? I am loving the viticultural aspects of our Orange vineyards. I am keen to
develop Gruner Veltliner or Albarino vineyard blocks then hone these as wines. I may yet get a chance before I hang up the boots. The other thing on the radar is a
very high end red blend – I am a advocate of blended reds in particular to achieve
the best consistent quality. I also like the idea of making a series of
northern/southern hemisphere blends – the structure of cool climate European reds
and Australian are quite complementary in many ways.
Q: What or who, inspires you? Early adopters of organic viticulture, like Di Cullen in
WA – it is still not entirely fashionable but is smart and works brilliantly.
Q: Have you had a particular role model or mentor that has shaped the direction of
your career? I have had role models in shaping the business operation overall, but
in winemaking and viticulture I am quite independent and self-directed.
Q: Where do you see the Australian and your region wine industries heading? The
Hunter has really finessed the wines and viticulture over the last 3 decades; Orange
has a particularly exciting future, establishing itself amongst the finest regions in
Australia. Both will never be bulk producers and are very much focused on quality.
Australia has 2 parts to the industry which are difficult to reconciliate – one is
competent commodity producing regions (cheap and cheerful) and then there are
the specialist and distinctive regions. The latter is where the Australia will ultimately
make its mark internationally – we are not there yet. The buyers’ market we have
largely grown up with, will move gradually now to a sellers’ market and real bargains
will be harder to pick up.
Q: Fast forward ten years. Where are you? Handing the Tamburlaine wine baton over
to someone who will evolve it with similar creativity and care; someone who will set
trends and not follow.
Q: If you could drink one wine for the rest of your life, what would it be? I can’t
contemplate a life with only one wine – how boring!
Q: How was Vintage 2018? Hot and disease free in my regions. Wines are all
flavoursome; natural acidity suffered a little but the reds in particular were very
Q: Best Value on the market right now? There are many regional Aussie wines and
styles on the market today below $25/bottle which represent genuine value. There
are a number of over-priced wines as well, relying only on past reputation in many