"Being crowned Gourmet Traveller WINE Winemaker of the Year 2009 was a brilliant way to see out 2008 for Louisa Rose. The chief winemaker at Yalumba spoke to Sarah Davey about the award, the inspiration behind her wine and her admiration for the family who helped her passion along.”
Drinks Trade: Congratulations on your win! How does it make you feel, and how has this experience translated to how you approach your work?
It is a great honour to win this award, particularly considering who the other nominations for (this award) were – many winemakers who I have great admiration and respect for. Having said that, it is great to have the hard work that the team at Yalumba has put in over the last 12 months and more recognised by the industry. We are very proud of the wines that we produce, and there is a lot of thought, passion and sweat that goes into getting them to our customers.
I don’t think that this has changed my approach to work. In fact in some ways it has reinforced the importance of what we have been doing and to keep on doing it. If we stop working hard to keep the wine quality at the for, and to keep innovating then we run the risk of going backwards rapidly, particularly in these challenging times when competition is fierce around the world.
DT: Your experience began with the family-owned Riesling Vineyard near Yarra Glen. In what ways did this shape you r passion for winemaking?
Certainly growing up with the vineyard did help kick-start my passion for the industry. I think the passion for winemaking specifically came later – when I really understood what the job involved, and as I became part of the Yalumba winemaking team.
DT: You began work at Yalumba as a cellar hand while you were studying at Roseworthy. What was it about the winery that drew you in?
There are many things about Yalumba and the Hill Smith Family that drew me in and have kept me here. Firstly it is the family and the fact that working here is like being part of a large extended family. After nearly 160 years there is great tradition and history, and intertwined with this is a culture of innovation and experimentation. No winemaker could ask for a better range of fruit, varieties, resources, mentors or encouragement than that which we have to work with at Yalumba.
Then there are the people I work with – from the cellar to the winemakers and all that makes the wheels turn in getting the wines in the bottle and to the customers. We all work with a common goal – there are few egos that get in the way of the best result. Yalumba is of course an integral part of the Barossa community. The culture and society of the Barossa region is like being at the hub of the whole Australian industry. Even walking down the street you see famous and icon wine industry figures.
DT: What are you current responsibilities as chief winemaker at Yalumba?
My main role is to work with and guide the winemaking team in the making of all the Yalumba and Hill Smith Family wines; this is philosophical as well as technical. We are a team of 11 winemakers who work closely together to produce the wines in our portfolio. People management comes into it of course, as does normal administration. There is also a part of my role that involves being the face of the wines – getting out in the markets, at tastings and dinners and presenting Yalumba and our wines to the market.
DT: What is your signature wine and what do you believe makes it stand out from other wines available to the market?
The Virgilius Viognier is our signature white wine. We have been in the enviable position of being a pioneer of a variety in the country, and in many ways the world. Because of this we have been able to create the style of The Virgilius from scratch, from the oldest Viognier vines in Australia. The wine is a powerful wine that expresses the spectrum of Viognier’s aromatics and lusciousness, while having layers of textures and complexity from winemaking influence. At the same time the wine shows a level of restraint and finesse.
DT: As a winemaker what changes have you seen over time and what do you predict will happen in the future?
Starting at Yalumba in the early 90’s I have seen the growth of the export market for Australia from almost nothing to what it is today. This has demanded more plantings and the results have included new regions – for example Wrattonbully - new varieties and new winemaking techniques to be developed. We are now a much more sophisticated winemaking country than we were. Given how badly I predicted the last vintage I am not sure I want to predict anything! However I do think that as a winemaking country Australia is going to need to restructure to keep a viable place in the world wine market.
DT: What has been the most valuable piece of advice you have been given?
"Lady of the vine"
Sarah Davey, Drinks Trade Magazine (Aus), Feb / March 2009
Louisa Rose is only the second woman to be honoured as Winemaker of the Year by Gourmet Traveller WINE magazine. Upon accepting her award, Louisa said “this is a great honour which any number of people could be up here on stage to accept. We are a great team at Yalumba – a family in a sense, who try to do our best to place something great in a bottle the people will hopefully enjoy.”
Gourmet Traveller WINE says of Rose “Third time’s the charm for this talented winemaker, who was a well-deserved finalist for this award in both 2000 and 2005. The flair she has shown in her work at Yalumba, plus her painstaking attention to detail and the strength of leadership has led to the production of some of Australia’s finest whites. For the sheer quality of these and much more, Louisa Rose is a worthy Winemaker of the Year.”
Louisa Rose is only the second woman to be honoured as Winemaker of the Year, (Vanya Cullen won in 2000). She was also a finalist for the same Award in 2000 and 2005, and was also named “International woman in wine 2004” by the International Wine and Spirit Competition (UK).
Yalumba is the first and only winery Rose has worked for, notching up 17 vintages with the family-owned company with the 2008 vintage. Like many great names of winemaking (including Peter Lehman), Rose first worked as a cellar hand at the Yalumba winery while studying winemaking at Roseworthy in Adelaide. After finishing as Dux, Yalumba was keen to secure her services, and her career has been on an upward curve ever since.
Click here to read more about Louisa Rose
Follow these links to read about Louisa's signature wine Yalumba The Virgilius Viognier
and about Yalumba's journey with the alluring variety, Viognier