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There are few people in the wine trade that I’ve met who come across as laid back as Bob Berton does.
His passion for wine is very prominent, as it shows in the quality of his wines.
He’s also a funny guy.
So I was pleased when he agreed to take part in this interview.
Here’s what the man had to say….
1- Name? Bob Berton.
2- Occupation? Farmer, Winemaker.
3- Australia or England to win the World Cup? Far Eastern Australia (ie New Zealand).
4- How did you get into wine?
I was an accountant – working in an office and giving people advice about how they should run their business – but I had never run one… So I joined a winery to get some experience in the real world and never looked back.
5- What is your favourite grape? Shiraz.
6- What is your favourite wine? Sancerre.
7- Do you have a country of preference? Australia.
8- What is the most challenging aspect for you as a winemaker?
Delivering the best of what the fruit has to offer – ie Not stuffing it up.
They are all different, so they all have like a unique personality so you tend to look past the immediacy of the wine in front of you and start to feel how it behaves and then you select those wines that feel right for each different wine.
10 a- Because of the amount of wines you produce, do you own all the vines or do you have a group of growers that you buy from?
Absolutely we buy from about 25 different growers. Two are quite big and very professional and we rely on them to bring in large volume of very consistent fruit. The rest are smaller growers who give us diversity and careful quality.
10 b- If you do purchase from growers, how much influence do you have in the way the grapes are grown?
We have hand picked the growers that grow fruit that we like, so unless they change what they do, we leave them to do what they know best. It works well giving both of us a measure of independence whilst still depending on each other – if that makes sense.
11- How many bottles do you produce per vintage? Overall about 13million.
12- Amongst your wines, what region produces the best grapes and what makes that area special?
High Eden will always be special because its where it all started for me and Cherie. We planted the Bonsai vineyard in 1996 with the idea we would be gentlemen farmers, and then we made two barrels of wine four rows of shiraz that we didn’t pick and then someone bought the wine – all of a sudden we became winemakers, so you never know where an adventure will lead.
14- How do you enjoy wine? With food, on it’s own, social etc.
I have wine with dinner every night – after a beer of course.
15- What influences your wine choices? Price, occasion, season etc.
Mostly its what is in the fridge and ready to go, but when we have friends over I’m conscious of putting wines on the table that they will most likely enjoy, so they are not always the “best” or most expensive wines. Good wines should be like a good referee at a football game, they shouldn’t be the centre of attention but they should be remembered as contributing to the event.
16- Champagne. Overpriced in the current climate?
Don’t really know, I opened a bottle two days ago because my daughter and husband brought their new son home – so we are first time grandparents. For times like this, nothing is too expensive, just because you want to mark the event with a real sacrifice to make it special. They have cornered the market and give meaning to this type of celebration.
Generally I think its one of the few things we (aussies) cant do as well as the French. However we can get very close and at a quarter of the price I’m surprised that more people don’t try us – but then they may all be just like me and celebrating their first grandchild…
18- Are boutique wineries the way forward?
I think they are very important in the development of both a wine culture and of the innovation that drives winemaking forward. The big companies tend to be very conservative because their markets are so huge that they cant afford to take any chances. Boutiques tend to try different things with what they have so as to be special and stand out from the crowd. Wineries like us a sort of in the middle, so we have a kindergarten program that allows the young winemakers to experiment with different ideas so that we can keep ourselves fresh and interesting.
Generally I would say that the UK retailer is very reflective of the market as a whole. They tend to be well versed in the classic wines and are very knowledgeable about the new world so are in a very good position to pass this on to consumers.
20- What do you think the wine industry needs to improve on?
Probably getting the pretentious bullshit out …
21- Which wines, countries or regions do you think are worth keeping an eye on for the future?
Spain has all the space and sunshine to produce wines just like us and they are close to the biggest market.
22- What tips do you have to anyone looking at getting into the wine trade?
Start at the bottom so you understand what you are really doing.
23- What is the best thing, for you, about wine?
I get to play with all the toys in the sandbox, tractors, huge presses, bottling equipment and then I get to see what impact it has all made when we sit down over dinner. I’d pay to do this job.
24- How are the new vintages shaping up?
Early days yet but 2011 has definitely been the most difficult vintage in my lifetime. We had 8 years of drought and this year it wouldn’t stop raining – so go figure.
25- In wine terminology, how would you describe yourself?
I’d say I’m full bodied with generous flavours balanced by a slightly astringent palate. Definitely not the laying down type.
For more information take a peak at the Berton Vineyard website
Thank You Bob.
That airline ticket does seem to have got lost in the Chilean smoke. E-Ticket next time.
For UK suppliers, click on the link
To read my review of the Black Shiraz, click on the link below.