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  4.  | Issue 12 Meet The Winemaker – Simon Fennell
Montara Wines

Simon Fennell


“I let the season and vintage dictate the vineyard’s potential in any given year.”

Montara Wines Logo

When did you realise you wanted tobecome a winemaker?

It was probably after quite a few years being a cellar and vineyard hand. I knew there was [so much more] behind the industry to learn and explore – winemaking was the choice!

Please tell us about your career so far.

I have qualifications in both horticulture and winemaking. I came from a horticulture and viticulture background first, with my later external studies in winemaking [having] really reinforced the entire wine production process. My career has varied from doing intake and assessment at the then Southcorp Wines, to managing a vineyard in Wrattonbully, then a diversion making craft beer. A move back to Coonawarra and eventually (whilst studying) saw me land a job as assistant winemaker at Best’s Great Western. After four years there, I was approached about the role at Montara Wines, where I have now been winemaker for five years.

What do you love most about being a winemaker?

I think seeing the beginning of the growing season at Budburst, right through to marketing and promoting Montara Wines. Being a smaller winery gives you the scope to be involved in all aspects of the business – I really enjoy the diversity!

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

As for a Montara Wine, I think our 2017 Chalambar Road is delicious! Although it drinks well now, it has bright future in the cellar. The ideal food match for me is a barbequed rare fillet of beef on the grill, with a drizzle of salsa verde, with some seasonal roasted vegetables.

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

Not really; I let the season and vintage dictate the vineyard’s potential in any given year. It is so cliché, but great wine begins in the vineyard. It’s really my job to steward the grapes and wine through the winery to produce – hopefully – great wines!

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

2017 was especially rewarding; good crop levels levels, spice, ripeness – all things good! All varieties across the vineyard in 2017 were a delight to deal with.

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

I think the Grampians is a super interesting region. The diversity in geology, micro-climate, and aspect across the regions’ vineyards give winemakers such an individual opportunity to express something truly individual and unique.

Which of your own varieties do you typically indulge in?

Our Montara Wines Single Vineyard Pinot Noir; such delicate wines from our fifty-year-old vineyard that really express a sense of place in the region.

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

I would love to still be at Montara, developing the house style and looking for new and interesting ways to express this truly wonderful vineyard site.

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