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  4.  | Issue 12 Meet The Winemaker – Dwayne Cunningham
Austin Wines

Dwayne Cunningham


“In five years’ time I hope to be making some of the best pinot’s in Australia, and I think we have the vineyard and capability at Austin’s to do so.”

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When did you realise you wanted tobecome a winemaker?

I grew up in Coonawarra and began working in vineyards and wineries as a teenager. I loved the region and consequently became a huge fan of cabernet, the complexities and technical aspects involved in growing grapes and making wine.

Please tell us about your career so far.

My career began in Coonawarra working as a seventeen-year-old, before moving to complete a Bachelor of Oenology and Viticulture at the University of Adelaide. From there, I worked in the Adelaide Hills, Barossa Valley, Langhorne Creek, Rheinhessen in Germany and Marlborough in New Zealand. After a stint working and travelling, I became a winemaker at Paxton’s in McLaren Vale making organic, biodynamic wine, before moving onto my next challenge: making predominantly pinot noir and chardonnay in the Moorabool Valley for Austin’s Wines and 6Ft6.

What do you love most about being a winemaker?

I love seeing the evolution in the vineyard over the growing season and striving to produce the highest quality wine possible. Blending is always fun, as well as seeing the influences of winemaking direction, oak impact and terroir.

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

I love the GSM blend; the balance of weight from shiraz and tannin from Mataro really complements a pretty fruit-forward grenache. Herb-crusted French lamb cutlets with a delicious GSM is a great pairing for a mid-week dinner.

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

For me, when developing a new wine, I try to first understand what you can expect from the vineyard and work my way forward [from there]. I am always trying create wines that are representative of the vineyard. If I love the brightness of a certain block, but the tannin structure and weight of another block stands out, blending both together creates an intriguing style that combines each aspect.

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

2020 was a very low yielding year that was incredibly tough, but some of our best pinot vineyards really delivered a delicious combination of flavour and tannin. Despite being very low yielding, the flavours that came out are quite delicate, sophisticated and will continue to evolve over time.

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

In the Moorabool Valley we have a very cool, yet dry climate for growing grapes. We always want the vines to be in a healthy growing condition with soil moisture, however it is quite easy to deliberately put stress on vines, at times, when you want to. Together with our vineyard manager, overseeing irrigation and canopy growth allows us to ensure that the vines are in balance, and the fruit produced will be concentrated with flavour, retain acidity and tannin, resulting in a style we are striving for.

Which of your own varieties do you typically indulge in?

The Austin’s Wines Pinot Noir is the perfect midday wine for me. It is so versatile with its supple tannin profile, combined with bright raspberry and strawberry flavours make it such an easy drinking wine that you can open at any time.

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

I have only recently moved to the Moorabool Valley near Geelong and love the atmosphere of the region. Being in a cool climate region that is a leader in crafting pinot noir and chardonnay really appeals to me. In five years’ time I want to be making some of the best pinot’s in Australia, and I think we have the vineyard and capability at Austin’s to do so. I want to incorporate my skills making shiraz, grenache, and cabernet into a cool climate region and deliver wine that has elegance, finesse but also power. I want people to realise how special Geelong is as a region and remember that time they visited the vineyard or drank a bottle of our wine. I truly believe the medium-bodied, sophisticated and elegant wines that we produce are what the market desires and I want to continue exploring down that path.

From Wineries of Victoria – Issue 12, edited by Bethany Hayes.