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Fowles Wine

Alessandro Stefani


“Ultimately, the fruit is what guides us in the winery, so we will always strive to improve our work in the vineyards!”

When did you realise you wanted to become a winemaker?

I was always interested in wine through my family and always helped on the vineyard and winery whilst growing up, and even more once I left school. Conveniently, it wasn’t until I was in my last year of an engineering degree that I realised I wanted to do winemaking full-time and dropped the engineering.

Please tell us about your career so far.

After having worked in my early twenties during university at the family vineyard, I decided to go overseas to work in 2018. I spent two years working in Burgundy, France, and then a further two years in Rheinhessen, Germany. I still haven’t done any formal education in winemaking/viticulture. I feel I have learnt a lot from places I have worked and people I have worked with, as well as countless research papers, books and podcasts.

What do you love most about being a winemaker?

The diversity of the job is one of the biggest advantages of this job. We are a small winery and therefore is hands on in all aspects of production and sales. In the vineyard and winery there are always different jobs to do with new challenges. But perhaps my favourite part of the job is the privilege of being part of such an awesome industry with so many people doing crazy things. Wine is one of the few agricultural products that has such a diverse and profound culture behind it that is celebrated all around the world in so many different ways.

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

This is the impossible question. Too many great wines to have a favourite. In winter, I find myself always going for sparkling. Recently, I’ve been going through a range of sparkling wines from around France and a highlight would have to be a Cremant D’Alsace by Domaine Rietsch. An incredibly complex wine for the price; I think I had it with fresh bread, butter and a tin of anchovies on a Wednesday night. It was a pretty good combo.

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

Not particularly. It is mostly just being aware of the fruit that we grow. It is important that we notice when a certain vineyard parcel, variety or even clone produces wine that shows a strong identity or a unique characteristic. When a wine shows a certain character despite the vintage or change in winemaking techniques, then it could form the basis for a new wine. However, this is not a fast process.

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

This is a little tough as I have only been home and in charge for two vintages so far. Due to the pandemic, I was only able to return shortly before the vintage in 2022, so it was quite chaotic. However, the wines are looking good so far and I was able to learn a lot about the potential of our sites. Having said this, the 2023 vintage just gone was one of the hardest growing seasons in the vineyards I have ever experienced. So I would say I am very proud of my vineyard team managing to produce such quality fruit in difficult conditions.

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

Our soils here are often heavy and shallow with bedrock close to the surface. As our post-flowering period coincides with our drier and warmer months of January and February, we often end up with bolder wines with darker characteristics. This is especially true for our lower yielding vineyards on the slopes that produce more concentrated wines. For this reason, in my experience so far, I feel it best to be careful with extraction and I try to use the stems as much as possible to bring freshness and a more elegant tannin – also in the whites.

Which of your own varieties do you typically indulge in?

I have to say sangiovese is the one variety of ours that stands out. It suits our area really well and I believe there is so much potential for it here. Especially as a lot of our sangiovese vineyards are beginning to get to an interesting age, there is heaps of diversity in our vineyards within the one variety. We have a lot to play with within that one variety and it’s exciting to figure out how to piece it all together.

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

Hopefully right here, with deeper understanding of the wines that we can produce that represent us. I don’t see the winemaking changing too drastically. Ultimately, the fruit is what guides us in the winery, so we will always strive to improve our work in the vineyards!

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