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Fowles Wine

Sam Atherton


“I love new challenges and no two days in a winery are the same.”

When did you realise you wanted to become a winemaker?

I had a year where I went from managing wine shops around Melbourne, to making cocktails at 5.5-star hotel to working as an underground geo-technician in a gold mine in Western Australia, which finished with backpacking around Europe with a mate. I wasn’t too sure what I wanted to do when I got back home, but I knew I wanted to keep working in the wine industry, so after a few chocolate stouts in Belgium, I signed up to a winemaking degree back home.

Please tell us about your career so far.

I worked my first vintage at Chandon in the Yarra Valley, whilst studying a degree in winemaking and viticulture at NMIT in Melbourne. I worked for the next six years in the cellar at Chandon, including working a vintage in the Napa Valley for Chandon California and Newton Vineyards, before moving to Greenstone Vineyards, also in the Yarra Valley, for a winemaking position at the end of 2015, and then on to Fowles Wine in the Strathbogie Ranges at the end of 2020.

What do you love most about being a winemaker?

I love new challenges and no two days in a winery are the same; there’s always something new and interesting to learn and do each day.

What is your favourite wine, and what food do you typically pair it with?

I love Aussie chardonnay. You can drink the fresher more mineral styles throughout the warmer months and have the heavier, creamier, more oaky styles in the colder months as substitute for winter reds. You can’t really go too far wrong with chicken dishes and chardy.

Is there a specific process you follow when developing a new wine?

We either get a wine style brief to work towards or we set aside parcels of fruit/wine of something we find to be really interesting or tasty.

Is there any vintage you’re particularly proud of creating? Why?

The last three years, 2021, 2022 and 2023, we’ve had a lot of changes coming out of the back end of lockdowns and with a very small team we have managed to produce some beautiful wines in those years.

How does the local climate/soil affect the wine you make?

Our two vineyards on Upton Hill are on deep sandy clay loam soils with some shallower sections that are sitting on giant granite boulders, which is great for vines and for our vineyard dudes to get bogged in. Temperatures at our vineyards on Upton Hill are generally about five degrees cooler than just down the hill at Avenel, and being on a hill we’re quite exposed to wind and weather, making our vines and our people very hardy. The cooler climate and granitic soils give our wines freshness and minerality, plus we get a slower ripening, especially for reds, which thickens skins and gives more colour and flavour.

Which of your own varieties do you typically indulge in?

In the whites I’m really enjoying our Stone Dwellers Vermentino and Arneis at the moment. The Vermentino has super fresh minerality with lots of citrus and saltbush characters, makes for a great aperitif style wine, and the Arneis has bit more of a silky mouthfeel, with hints of tropical fruits that make it a great alternative to sauv blanc or pinot gris. In the reds I’m loving our Stone Dwellers Mourvèdre, which is a soft silky medium bodied red with dark fruits, subtle white pepper spice and soft supple tannins.

Where do you see yourself in five years? How do you think your winemaking will evolve during this time?

There is a really positive move in the Australian market towards making lighter styles of reds and whites, which are styles I really like and am looking forward to making more of, it also works well with our climate and the varieties we have planted.

From Wineries of Victoria – Issue 14, edited by Bridget Armitage