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Meet the winemaker: Candice Helbig, CRFT Wines

Married winemakers and co-owners Candice Helbig and Frewin Ries founded CRFT Wines in 2012, turning a lifelong dream into a reality.

Their winemaking philosophy is simple: preserve what the vineyard grew and create balance and harmony, leaving a minimal winemaking footprint.

Sourcing the fruit from seven South-Australian vineyards across Adelaide Hills, Barossa Valley and Eden Valley, the duo do an amazing job of championing the diversity of soils and climates across the regions

Candice and Frewin live in Carey Gully in the Adelaide Hills with their two dogs, Angus the Labrador and Cooper the Jack Russell Terrier.

Here Candice shares her wine story and talks to The Wine Pig about her love and passion for all things wine.

Why did you decide to become a winemaker?

I grew up in the Barossa Valley and have been surrounded by the wine industry my entire life. After high school my dad helped me get a job on a bottling line, which eventually evolved into laboratory work, and then on to wine making. I had been intrigued by every aspect of being a winemaker, how exciting and varied the career was and I was inspired by the winemakers around me and what they were creating. 

I then enrolled to do the Bachelor of Applied Science in Wine Science through CSU and haven’t looked back!

What attracted you to the Adelaide Hills wine region in particular?

The beauty of the hills and it’s diversity for making exception quality wines of many styles. It is particularly perfect for growing Pinot Noir and Grüner Veltliner – two varieties Frew and I are incredibly passionate about.

It’s also a very unique climate for growing wines. We get the warm-to-hot days perfect for ripening and flavour development. But our nights are cool-to-very cold, which is perfect for slow ripening and maintaining natural acidity. It’s this quite extreme diurnal temperature variation that makes our region so unique and perfect for premium wine growing.

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

Our winemaking style is all about allowing the wine to evolve and to be itself, allowing the wine to be the focus and for it to be an honest reflection of the site. We don’t want our wines to become a reflection of what happened to them in the winery. Our style is about purity and expression. We want our wines to be lively and harmonious. We’re not aiming to produce a particular ‘style’ of wine, more so we are making the each wine to best reflect the site.

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

It’s hard to decide! I think the Pinots are probably our proudest achievement so far. The wines are very distinctive and they continually surprise us with how they develop and age. Pinot changes dramatically as it matures, it’s a very intriguing variety to make.

What most surprises people about CRFT Wines or the wines you produce?

The difference between each wine. People have been genuinely surprised and excited about the individuality of each wine. You know, we can always tell people our story and why we are doing what we do, but when people actually experience our story for themselves through tasting our wines, it is just amazing. People really get it.

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

We’ve been drinking quite a lot of the Kalleske wines from the Barossa Valley. These are stunning wines, so incredibly well made and perfect for aging. Where possible we try to get our hands on single site wines of the varieties we produce for drinking and cellaring. Wines that are well made and reflect terroir/site are what we want to drink.

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?

It’d have to be an Austrian Grüner Veltliner from Domäne Wachau (any one of their nine Grüners will do!).

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

We are in the process of setting up our own small winery which is very exciting and a dream come true for us both. Our other big news is we will be making another two single site Pinot Noirs in 2016. This will bring our range to five single vineyard Pinot Noirs!

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