Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Winemakers to watch (part III)

The third and final instalment of my round up of 30 hot shot winemakers to watch under 40, originally published in The Drinks Business magazine.


21: Nick Picone (35)

In 2012, Nick Picone scooped The Wine Society Young Winemaker of the Year award, becoming the first New Zealander to be honoured with the title. Completing his first vintage at Esk Valley Estate in Hawkes Bay aged just 18, Picone became Villa Maria’s youngest assistant winemaker when he joined the Marlborough-based estate aged 24, after completing a two-year BA in wine science and working vintages in California and Italy. Promoted to winemaker in 2004, two years later, Picone moved to Auckland, becoming senior winemaker in 2008 in charge of Villa Maria’s North Island production primarily from Hawkes Bay and Gisborne. Aside from playing the guitar, Picone’s two great passions are Chardonnay and Gimblett Gravels reds. 



32: Dario Pieropan (35)

A fourth generation of the Pieropan dynasty, Dario is responsible for winemaking at his family’s 35-hectare estate in Soave where wine has been made since the 1860s. Alongside his agronomist brother Andrea, Dario is keen to push the boundaries at Pieropan and has pioneered the production of a duo of red wines from his family estate in Valpolicella, bought by his father Nino in 1999. From eight hectares of vines, Pieropan makes Ruberpan Valpolicella Superiore and Vigna Garzon Amarone. In addition, he oversees the production of the estate’s famed whites crafted from Garganega, including two single vineyard examples – Calvarino and La Rocca. Before he joined the family firm, Pieropan gained experience by chalking up stints with Fontodi in Chianti Classico and Silvio Jermann in Friuli. 



23: Louisa Rose (38)

One of Australia’s leading winemakers, Melbourne-born Rose joined Yalumba in 1993, becoming chief winemaker in 2006. Involving herself in every aspect of winemaking and cellar management, during her tenure, Rose has pioneered the Viognier variety at Yalumba, resulting in the creation of The Virgilius Viognier, which has helped put quality Australian Viognier on the map. “I’m passionate about The Virgilius becoming one of Australia’s flagship whites and am looking to get it into the Langton’s Classification, but in order for it to do so, it has to be able to prove that it can age,” says Rose, who makes a number of different styles, from entry level and organic, to an Eden Valley example. Known for her flair and painstaking attention to detail, Rose has also been instrumental in the development of Riesling at Yalumba.



24: Luke Skeer (33)

Coonawarra-born Skeer always wanted to get his hands dirty and worked his first vintage while still a schoolboy in 1996. Hitting the books, Skeer studied oenology at Adelaide University before completing vintages everywhere from Bordeaux to the Barossa Valley. Having returned home, he is currently winemaker at Wynns Coonawarra and scooped The Wine Society Young Winemaker of the Year last year. “Wine is all about the purity and expression of a region, variety, vineyard and vintage,” says Skeer, who is passionate about sourcing the best parcels across Coonawarra’s renowned terra rossa soils for the estate’s signature Cabernets. 



25: Charly Thévenet (30)

One of a number of rising stars in Beaujolais, Thévenet keeps things simple at his estate, producing just one wine – a 100% Gamay from three hectares of 80- year-old vines in Régnié. The resulting Grain & Granite, which is aged for four years in old Burgundian barriques then bottled unfiltered, caught the eye of American wine author and importer Kermit Lynch, who snapped it up for the US market. The son of famous “Gang of Four” Morgon producer Jean-Paul Thévenet, Charly, who worked a harvest with Piedmont producer Luigi Pira before a stint with the late “Pope of natural wine” Marcel Lapierre in Morgon, chose Régnié as his canvas because he believes the lesser- known, terroir-driven cru has tremendous potential. “I wanted to do something different and put Régnié on the map.”
Louisa Rose

Photo courtesy of Tom Anderson

26: Morgan Twain-Peterson (33)

With self-styled “Zinphomaniac” Joel Peterson for a father and role model, it’s easy to see why Morgan Twain-Peterson chose a path in wine. Raised at Peterson senior’s Ravenswood winery in Sonoma, Morgan developed a fascination for wine at a young age. Legend has it that at the age of five he was already able to distinguish between a Merlot and a Zinfandel. After a brief stint as a wine buyer, travels took him to Hardys in the McLaren Vale and Lynch-Bages in Pauillac. 

Returning to the US fired up with enthusiasm and knowledge, Peterson founded Bedrock Wine Co. in 2007 in a former chicken coop with the aim of spreading the gospel of Californian Syrah by sourcing fruit from top terroirs in the North Coast. In addition to Syrah, Peterson makes Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, rosé and Sauvignon-Semillon blends inspired by the whites of the Graves. He is just a dissertation away from being crowned a Master of Wine. 



27: Rafael Urrejola (39)

Just squeezing onto our list, 39-year-old Urrejola joined Chilean estate Undurraga in 2007 and went on to blaze a trail with his T.H. (Terroir Hunter) series that aims to shine a light on Chile’s diverse terroirs. Promoted to winemaking manager last year, before Undurraga, Urrejola started out at Viña Leyda, where he crafted wines from Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Chile’s flagship red grape, Carmenère. With stints at Saintsbury in Carneros, Paul Ginglinger in Alsace, Domaine Jacques Prieur in Meursault and, closer to home, Montes in Chile under his belt, for his T.H. series Urrejola selects the individual lots in each vineyard that he believes have the most interesting and expressive soils. 



28: Giuseppe Vajra (26)

At just 26, baby-faced Giuseppe Vajra is keen to follow in his father Aldo’s footsteps at their family estate, GD Vajra in Barolo, named after Vajra junior’s grandfather, Giuseppe Domenico. Having recently graduated with a degree in oenology from the University of Turin, Vajra works full- time as a winemaker for his family business alongside his father, with the pair sharing the philosophy that wine is the ultimate unifier. At the 40-hectate estate, which includes 10 hectares of Nebbiolo, Vajra is learning from his father how to hone the signature GD Vajra style of Barolo that displays bright fruit, defined perfume and elegance achieved by striking the right balance between extended barrel ageing and a judicious use of oak.



29: Tamra Washington (34)

Following a stint as a flying winemaker overseeing production from the Veneto for supermarket Sainsbury’s, Marlborough- born Washington has chosen to make a base in the South Island at the green- focused Yealands Estate in Blenheim where she is winemaker. Wine is in Washington’s blood – she spent school holidays working in vineyards, which gave her a thirst for the industry. Graduating with an oenology degree from the University of Lincoln, Washington’s first post was at Seresin Estate in Marlborough, followed by a stint at Franciscan Estate in Napa and time in the Hunter Valley and Margaret River, where she enjoyed getting her hands dirty in the vineyard. The lure of Italy followed, leading to a post as head winemaker for the Calatrasi Group, which involved making wine in Sicily, Puglia and Tunisia.



30: Sebastian Zuccardi (33)

The bright, blue-eyed, eldest son of José Alberto Zuccardi, director of Familia Zuccardi, was put in charge of winemaking across his family estate’s entire range last year. Based in Mendoza, from a young age Sebastian showed signs of sharing his father’s passion for wine. Going on to graduate with a degree in agronomy, Italy and California, in 2000 Zuccardi founded his own sparkling wine project with friends called Alma Cuatro that aimed to push the envelope through experimenting with grape varieties not traditionally planted in Argentina.

Back at his family estate, Zuccardi is involved with the production of a traditional method blanc de blancs sparkling wine, and is passionate capable of producing world class,  fizz, albeit in small quantities. He is also convinced of Bonarda’s potential in Argentina.

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