Meet the winemaker: Tim Stevens, Huntington Estate
Huntington Estate’s chief winemaker Tim Stevens was rural journalist for The Land, The Australian and ABC Radio, before he took the plunge and switched course to winemaking.
“I got into wine and found I was good at tasting it,” Tim told The Wine Pig. Could there be a better excuse?!
But it’s not just Tim’s love for drinking wine that driven him to where he is today (else all us wine-lovers would be knocking on the doors of the wine-making industry thinking we’ve got what it takes).
Of course being an excellent wine drinker helps, but it’s Tim’s finite skills and life-long farming background which have helped him to win several impressive awards and become the proud owner of Huntington’s neighbour Abercorn Wines, and later Huntington Estate itself.
Here, The Wine Pig was very excited to find out more from the man who produces some of Australia’s best wine.
Why did you decide to become a winemaker?
In my previous career as a journo I got into wine and found I was good at tasting it, and I enjoyed it. Plus, I come from farming originally, in Central Queensland, and always wanted to return, growing things is in my DNA, but couldn't face the isolation. Most wine regions are close to cities so it ticked that box.
What attracted you to the Mudgee wine region in particular?
By the time I wanted to make the switch from journo to vigneron I had fallen in love with the traditional ageing style of Mudgee wines, and Huntington Estate in particular, so I bought the place next door.
Can you describe your winemaking style, and how it differs to your peers in the region?
More of a traditional approach to the style mixed with a modern approach to winemaking technicalities. This means respecting the aggressiveness that Mudgee red grapes produce, not fighting it, in the belief that the final wine will usually only come together after a few years, sometimes even a decade.
Which of your wines are you most proud of and why?
My Sparkling Methode Traditionelle. It is a truly lovely wine with classic qualities. In our climate we shouldn't be able to produce such a wine but we have used a lot of lateral thinking and clever techniques to get it right. It makes me smile every time I drink it.
What most surprises people about you or the wines you produce?
Consistency. This sounds corny but the feedback from our regular customers confirms my answer; that we produce so many exceptional wines that aren't bland and are full of unique personality despite the risks we take to get these types of wine.
What are you drinking now, and what are you cellaring?
Alternative white varieties like Fiano. Reds, its my old favourite Barolo. Cellaring, I am picking up Rieslings, Barossa Shiraz and Coonawarra Cabernet.
If you could only drink one wine for the rest of your life, what would that be?
Toss up between my 09 Block 3 Cabernet and 97 La Chapelle Hermitage.
What is the most exciting thing coming up for both you and the business over the next 12 months?
The new style we are developing for our Grenache. We are aiming for a light-medium wine with great complexity and ageability, sort of like a Pinot on steroids. It's a fascinating style that has been developed in the southern Rhone for generations and is ideal for our climate and soils.