Over a Glass with Nick Brown

Podcast released June 15th 2022

Nick Brown talks to Shanteh Wale (Sommelier, Wine Writer & Podcast Host) about working in a tight-knit family operation in one of the most important Australian regions, Rutherglen.

Shanteh: You've got some incredible antique vines at All Saints Estate. What is your approach when making wines from these old and, I imagine, pretty gnarly vines?

Nick: They are gnarly, and they are pretty cool. One block of Shiraz was planted in 1920, a block of Muscat in the same year and the Marsanne was planted in 1959. They're beautiful old vines, handpicked, and they used to be trained up a stake before trellis was around. When making wine from those blocks, I try not to do too much 'winemaking'; you want to let the personality of the vineyard block speak rather than put a winemaker's stamp on it. The Marsanne vines are very low yielding because of their age with beautiful aromatics and texture, which I do nothing to meddle with. I carry that through to the bottle. The Shiraz is the same. It's an accountant nightmare because the vines only produce about four bunches per vine. If the accountant had their way, we would have bulldozed that about fifty years ago. From a winemaking perspective, it makes a beautiful, concentred rich, interesting wine, though.

Shanteh: You've had some great ratings from James Halliday on your Durif. Can you talk a little about Durif, the style of wine, and how it behaves?

Nick: Durif's parents were Shiraz (Syrah) and Peloursin. In America, they call Durif Petit Syrah because the bunches look like small Shiraz bunches on the vine, and the berries are quite small. Many of the tannins are in the skin, making Durif into port an obvious choice. But as tastes have changed, we have started making it a straight red wine. Until the 1990s, it was made into an absolute beast of wine by many wineries – rich, high alcohol, high tannin. But in recent years and with the younger winemaking generations, we are fashioning the wine into a softer, more approachable style. It's still unashamedly huge in colour and has plenty of tannin, but we're not trying to over-extract the variety to make it as big of a wine. We're making it approachable for a younger generation of wine drinkers. It's exciting when we pour the new age Durifs for sommeliers that haven't tasted it before and see their eyes light up, particularly in the cooler months.

Shanteh: I enjoy where it [Durif] sits today, with nice acidity. In the wine world, we talk about Valpolicella, we talk about Amarone, and Durif has a place. It can be a delicious wine. It's a shame that I don't see it more often.

Nick: There are plenty of styles, so it's a fun variety to seek out and explore how they're made.

Shanteh: What is the greatest part of your job and making wine in Rutherglen? Also, what's the biggest challenge of making wine in the region?

Nick: Australia generally has no strict rules about where we plant and when we harvest; we are very open to adaptation and change. And Rutherglen has such beautiful weather that it is usually on our side to experiment with different varieties and baume levels. We're introducing the next generation to our wines now, and the style of wine is changing. Also, you can't forget the Rutherglen fortifieds I mentioned earlier, the stock that has been in barrel for over 100 years—being the caretaker of such beautiful wine that has been passed down winemaking generations. I am their caretaker now; it's a great responsibility.

The biggest challenge is showing people that we don't just make beautiful, fortified wines but that we can make amazing table wines as well. All the wineries in Rutherglen make table wine now, and it's almost impossible to find one that you don't want to return to for a second or third glass. We've made a lot of progress and showing people the region and what we can make and grow here is exciting.

Shanteh: I have told some of my family members to drive up for the fortifieds and stay for the table wines because it gets them out there, but then they're pleasantly surprised.

Nick: Spread the good word – thankyou.

This interview is a transcript from Shanteh Wale's recent episode Over a Glass, Nick Brown (All Saint Estate) – a tight-knit family operation.

Listen to the full episode onSpotifyorApple Podcasts.