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Meet the Winemaker: Alex Finnie, James Estate

Alex moved to the Upper Hunter Valley in mid-2015 to join the James Estate family, just four short years after his wine career began, and quickly rocketed, at a Port Macquarie winery.

With grapes grown in the region and made and bottled onsite, James Estate is a premium Hunter Valley-based winery which spreads over two sites – and a cellar door in the beautiful Pokolbin – and plantings which date back to 1968.

With a new vibrant winemaker on board and the ongoing revamp of its cellar door and the James Estate Guest House nearby, these are very exciting and innovative times for Alex and the rest of the James Estate gang.

Here, The Wine Pig has been lucky enough to speak to Alex to find out more about his passion for the wine world, and what we can look forward to from James Estate in coming months.

Why did you decide to become a winemaker?

My father worked in the wine trade in the UK and Germany in his youth so I grew up with great stories of the industry and great wine to accompany those stories. I travelled a bit after finishing school and worked in a few different trades while still continuing to have a keen interest in wine. When the opportunity came up for me to work my first vintage I jumped at it and I have been hooked ever since.

What attracted you to the Hunter Valley wine region in particular?

One of the best things about making wine is that every single day presents you with a new challenge and as far as regions go there are few as challenging as the Hunter Valley. I have always been a fan of Hunter Valley wines and how unique the varietals can be from any other region. The Upper Hunter Valley is also a beautiful place filled some very genuine people and is a great place to raise a family.

Can you describe your winemaking style, and how it differs to your peers in the region?

It is very difficult to say I have a particular style of winemaking, I still consider myself a green horn. I am constantly learning new and innovative techniques from colleagues and peers in the industry. I feel the key to making good wine is being able to recognize how to use and adapt these techniques for each individual wine you produce.

Which of your wines are you most proud of and why?

This has been my first vintage in the Hunter and also my first in leading the team. I am very happy with the wines we have produced this year and look forward to the first of the 2016 whites hitting the shelves in June and getting feedback. There is a particular batch of Pinot we hand picked, open fermented in oak and basket pressed this year. I seem to find myself at these barrels on a daily basis to taste.

What are you drinking now, and what are you cellaring?

I’m a bit Semillon obsessed at the moment. It’s a great wine to grab two bottles of, drink one now and cellar one for a few years to see how it rewards.

If you could only drink one wine for the rest of your life, what would that be?

What a terrible world it would be to live in where you were only limited to one wine for the rest of your life! If it did come down to it though it would have to be our 2013 Reserve Shiraz, Medium bodied with subtle oak it is drinking beautifully right now but will cellar well and develop for many years to come.

What is the most exciting thing coming up for both you and the business over the next 12 months?

I am very excited to see our wines from this vintage starting to make its way to bottle and on the market. We had a great vintage and some excellent fruit came off the vine. Obviously for me being the one in the driver’s seat for the first time I am very anxious to hear the publics reviews. We will be releasing some exciting new wines including a couple of sparkling wines that the winery has not done for many years.

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