About Me

Gavin Hubble - (BSc & Post Grad. Business Marketing) - I started working in the wine industry over 23 years ago in New Zealand. Working in; wine retail, sales, wine production, label & packaging design, marketing, wine buying, consulting and wine education. I am responsible for the Brand Health of 60+ wine brands distributed here in New Zealand. Wine Brands from New Zealand, Australia, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Chile and Argentina. I work closely with the Trade Industry - (Retail Stores & Restaurants) introducing, educating and positioning exciting and unique brands to wine enthusiasts all over the world.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Winemaker Series:

Welcome to another in the series of winemaker interviews.

Kilikanoon Wines founder, director and senior winemaker Kevin Mitchell grew up in the vineyards of South Australia’s Clare Valley, where his father, Mort, planted and tended vines.
The Kilikanoon property, featuring a 1860s stone cottage housing the Kilikanoon tasting room, was originally settled by early English migrants who named it after an historic old mansion in Cornwall. On purchasing the property in the 1990s, Kevin Mitchell inherited 30 year old Shiraz, Cabernet, Grenache and Riesling vineyards, many of which were planted by his father in the 1960s.
The first Kilikanoon release was in 1998, with a 1997 vintage Shiraz, Cabernet, Grenache and two 1998 Rieslings. Since that time Kevin has continually refined his skills and has produced a wide portfolio of Kilikanoon wines from some of Australia’s finest terroir - carefully chosen to express the individuality of their respective sites.


Kevin has an uncompromising approach to quality for all his wines, crafting not only wines that are approachability in their youth but with the potential to age gracefully for many years. I have enjoyed watching this winery develop over the years and sharing Kevin’s wines with enthusiasts here in New Zealand. With such an impressive short history the future is one to keep an eye on.

What first attracted you to the wine industry and as a winemaker?
A number of factors were in play, obviously being part of a grape growing family had a huge influence, however, it wasn’t until I attended Roseworthy Agricultural College where I completed a agricultural science degree that my interest was truly piqued.  I naturally gravitated towards the wine group, they were my kind of people and I really took it from there.

Where and when did you study winemaking?
Once I had my agricultural science degree from Roseworthy Agricultural College under my belt. I went on to study oenology, completing a graduate diploma of wine technology during 1991 and 1992.

What is your favourite grape variety(s) to work with and why?
That would have to be Grenache and Riesling.  In my opinion, these are the ‘most honest’ varieties to work with.  They are vineyard dependent and the hardest two to dolly up!  It’s very difficult to embellish these grapes through tricks, I love the styles that are possible and of course, they are perfect for the Clare Valley.

Which grape variety would you most like to work with in the future and why?
Pinot Noir.  As time has gone on and my own palate has developed I have become a big fan.  It wasn’t always that way, I used to scoff at Pinot, but now, I’m really enjoying good Pinot. It’s hard to grow in Clare but I would love to work with it.

With each new vintage what do you most look forward to?
The end of it!  No seriously, every year provides a blank canvas, every year is going to be the best in 10 years, and the expectation of vintage is the most exciting part.  You can’t predict it and each year is unique.  As a winemaker I learn something new each vintage because one is never the same as the next.


To date what has been you most interesting/challenging vintage and why?
[Laughs] The most challenging (worst ever) was probably 2008.  At the outset it was looking like a great year, it seemed that autumn had taken the place of summer; it was too cold for ice cream but great for the grapes.  We experienced a beautifully cool January and February where temperatures never exceeded the mid 20’s (Celsius) for six weeks.  We had just picked most of our whites when in late February the temperature soared.  We suffered through 40+ temperatures 16 days in a row.  We could not pick the remaining fruit fast enough and were juggling to get it into the winery, things got worse day by day.  It was an absolute paradox as it was a fantastic year early on.  However, our whites (Riesling and Semillon) were superb.  They had enjoyed a cool ripening period and picked before hot spell.  We were one of the lucky ones in that regard.

Which person has influenced you the most as a winemaker and why?
That’s a really hard question to answer, but going back to my student days I would have to credit Doctor Andrew Markides who taught amongst other things sensory evaluation. He had a very friendly and encouraging style and his knowledge was incredible.  Professionally it is hard to nail it down to one particular person; our industry has many icons, some of who have resided in the Clare Valley so you don’t have to look far out of the region for inspiration.  But if I had to name an individual it would have to be Brian Croser, he has achieved a lot personally but he is someone who is also a huge advocate for true winemaking.  He has been a driving force in promoting authentic Australian winemaking not only domestically but also internationally.

Which person ‘current’ or ‘past’ would you most like to have met or meet and why?
The late great Mick Knappstein, who through his work as grower really put the Clare Valley on the map.  From all accounts he was a very charismatic character.  His vineyards provided the foundation for the Knappstein dynasty.  Clare wine making really started with Mick.

If you were stranded on a desert island and you could take one bottle of wine with you – what would it be and why?
It’s no secret I am a big fan of Southern Rhone Grenache blends, so perhaps a high end Ch√Ęteauneuf-du-Pape, or if I was on a budget something from Gigondas.

If you could make wine anywhere else in the world - where would it be and why?
Either Ch√Ęteauneuf-du-Pape or a region in Burgundy, the holy grail of wine and pinot.  The wine there is made in such small batches and very hard to get.  It would be a joy to be truly immersed in the region to study the winemaking styles, where tradition is revered.  One day…

What advice would you give a young person starting out as a winemaker?
Study accountancy!   If you’re passionate about wine & winemaking you should of course seek to fulfil it.  It’s a wonderful lifestyle, wine is a truly unique product, the vintage variations we discussed earlier are just one factor, the opportunity work internationally and immerse yourself in an entirely different region and work with different varieties adds yet more layers to the tapestry of winemaking.  Not to mention you can travel the world and claim it on your tax!  However taking what you love and making it your career takes on a whole new dimension, I wasn’t kidding when I suggested studying accountancy.


If you weren’t a winemaker - what would you like to be and why?
A great philosopher…hmmm… seriously I think I would enjoy being a good shrink! Psychiatry is a fascinating discipline and I think I would enjoy delving a little deeper in the human spirit and psyche.  Human nature is multi-dimensional and who doesn’t want a deeper understanding of it - it’s all a paradox of wine really…

In the future, what exciting changes can you see, or would like to see for your wines, wine styles, vineyard or winery?
At the end of the day, and I think this applies to anyone, I will continue to strive to further refine my own personal style, the same style that has helped Kilikanoon become the successful brand that it is.  I would enjoy the opportunity to delve much deeper into the mystery of terroir.  It’s something we could really explore in the Clare region, especially if the resources were unlimited.
To really truly refine your own winemaking signature as an expression of the terroir and unashamedly stamp your own style on the wines, yes that would be an exciting pursuit.

Kilikanoon Wines are available in New Zealand and around the world from quality wine retailers and restaurants. Or visit their website: Kilikanoon Wines

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