Meet the GM: Graham Ward, Pokolbin Estate Vineyard
Pokolbin Estate Vineyard in the Hunter Valley prides itself by producing elegant yet powerfully structured wines which are created to improve further over time.
Since 1999, Pokolbin Estate Vineyard has been presented with over 100 Hunter Valley Boutique Wine, NSW Wine and National Wine awards for its Semillion, Riesling, Shiraz, Sangiovese, Tempranillo, Nebbiolo and Fortified vintages.
Here, General Manager, Graham Ward, talks to The Wine Pig about the vineyard’s success.
You’re based in the Hunter Valley. What's the main attraction of this region? And how does it differ in terms of winemaking and wine styles compared to elsewhere in Australia?
Well ultimately The Hunter Valley is one of the oldest Boutique wine destination in Australia. Besides that, it has become quite famous for golf, corporate functions & weddings and in the last 10 years a big entertainment destination for concerts. Our wine styles are quite unique to the region with Semillon fruit from the Pokolbin region being classified as the best in the world. Because of the region and climatic conditions the hunter is recognised as producing relatively softer style reds in comparison to the vineyards in SA & WA.
How does Pokolbin Estate Vineyard differs to its peers in the region? What is your point of difference?
Well firstly, we are the only vineyard in The Hunter Valley to grow & produce the traditional Riesling variety. We serve young, aged, late harvest, autumn harvest and fortified Riesling. Being the only vineyard in the hunter to grow this certainly doesn’t diminish the quality, with our 2011 Riesling winning the Best Riesling in Australia through Winestate.
Secondly, since 2006 Pokolbin Estate Vineyard has won the Best Semillon in Australia five times. To win this accolade so many times, one would have to conclude we consistently produce the best Semillon in Australia.
Why are you the only vineyard in the region to produce the traditional Riesling variety? What have you managed to do that others can't?
A couple of things. Our vines are now 60 years old and everything is still done by hand. We implement selective picking, bunch thinning for premium quality and might do 2-3 different pickings in a vintage. Because our vines have developed over time and have been meticulously cared for is a big reason for this. If another vineyard in The Hunter planted Riesling today, it probably wouldn’t produce high quality fruit for 10 years.
Which of your wines are you most proud of and why?
Our Semillon vintages & our Riesling because of the extraordinary results nationally. Beating the likes of Claire & Eden Valley to the Best Riesling in Australia was certainly a massive achievement.
What most surprises people about Pokolbin Estate Vineyard and your wines?
I think the broad range we have from our Pokolbin & Belebula vineyards. We have wines suitable for all level of wine drinkers. Additionally, we only make wine if it is a good vintage, so we have a high quality of product across all our varieties.
What are you drinking now and what are you cellaring?
Our 2010 & 2011 Ken Bray Semillon are really drinking exceptionally now. For me personally I would be cellaring our 2009 Phil Swannell Semillon & a selection of our 2009, 2011 & 2014 Reserve Shiraz.
It’s the end of a long day. You’re sitting down to your favourite meal and a great wine to go with it – what would that be?
I’m a big fan of Italian cuisine. Who doesn’t like pizza, pasta and risotto? For me, a simple wood fire pizza with a glass of our 2013 Sangiovese wins every time. The light, dry nature of the Sangiovese with the subtle spicy characteristics really compliments pizza well. Match made in heaven…