Take us back to the beginning – how did you first get into the world of winemaking?
When I left school I worked for my father as a timber merchant, then I went overseas and worked in a heap of kitchens and really just found myself drinking a lot of wine and kind of just wanted to explore that avenue of winemaking. So I came back in 2006 and went to uni, then went and worked in Western Australia. But at the time I was working for bigger corporates in the industry behind a computer just adding heaps of different things to different wines, and I kind of didn’t really understand why we had all of these horrible things to wine … so I moved away from the corporate wine scene and eventually started making my own wines without any additions at all.
How did Jilly Wines come to life and what’s behind the name?
Jilly started around the same time that my parents purchased The Clunes Store. I saw these vineyards in New England and saw the potential of varieties up there, and it was all only 2 and a half hours away from Clunes so I thought I could really make a go of it. The name stems from my great grandfather, it was one of the names he was given as a kid and it kind of filtered down to me.
How do you best describe the philosophy behind your wine?
I guess wines with made with little to no additives, that are an expression of the site they are from. Just wines with heaps of clarity and high drinkability.
On a broader scale, how have you seen Australia’s wine culture evolve over the past few years?
I think it’s changed significantly. I think people are becoming more aware of what they are actually consuming – and not just in terms of wine. But for the wine industry, people are tending more towards wines that are part of a smaller production and carry a story, rather than just picking up something and investigating what it really is. Consumers are more engaged with what they are drinking, which is really cool because it’s pretty amazing for young winemakers like us.
How do you feel the ongoing trend toward natural and minimal-intervention wines has changed the industry?
You look at wine lists around the country now – there are a lot of minimal-intervention wines taking up these lists. A lot of the bigger players are now having to experiment with older winemaking techniques and are adding less to their wines, which is certainly a big change. Historically, winemaking is something that’s handed down from generation to generation, and in the big winemaking gigs there are still a lot of older people making wine and they have their old ideals – and that was kind of the benchmark where people thought if you stuck by them you’d succeed. But that’s not how it is anymore. People don’t want to drink old, leathery, booty wines anymore, they want to drink fresh, vibrant wines with life. People aren’t buying wines and putting them away for ten years and bringing them out on Christmas Day anymore!
What do you think the future holds for Australian wine?
It’s funny you say that, because yes, I think the whole natural movement has obviously influenced the industry a lot over the last ten years and that will be something that continues – but I also think people have been pushing the boundaries a little too far with natural wines and some of them are making wines that are, well, kind of a little bit faulty. And I think because people are becoming more savvy to what they are drinking now and they are more aware of this. I certainly think that the industry is in an amazing spot at the moment and it’s changing so much, and I think the focus will continue to be on the smaller boutique producers doing good things.
Let’s get deep. What inspires you?
Being able to get up and let my mind create, every single day.
Finally, what are you pouring for yourself tonight?
I have been drinking a lot of nebbiolo recently. It’s a wine I love making, and it’s the first wine I released under Jilly. Plus, it’s kind of neb’ weather right now.