Dark Horse Win­ery of the Year

PRINCIPIA, Morn­ing­ton Penin­sula, Vic­to­ria

Halliday - - Halliday Wine Companion Awards 2019 - Pre­sented by Oz­pak

Principia (Prin-kip-ia) is a dark horse in more ways than one. Af­ter fall­ing in love with wine on a hol­i­day to the Barossa, owner/op­er­a­tor Dar­rin Gaffy gave away his 25-year ca­reer as an en­gi­neer to start his win­ery. Hav­ing never com­pleted any for­mal wine­maker train­ing, Dar­rin has since worked it out along the way, which makes Principia be­ing named Dark Horse of the Year all the more im­pres­sive.

“I love it, I re­ally do. For me, it’s not a job any­more,” Dar­rin says of his shift into wine. “In my past life as a tool­maker, no one ever rang me up to talk to me about my work. Now, I get phone calls from peo­ple say­ing they like my wines and ask­ing where they can find them, so it’s much more re­ward­ing,” he says.

It’s been 24 years since Dar­rin started his Morn­ing­ton Penin­sula win­ery. “I found a block of land, which was the cheap­est on the road. It had no power, no house and no vineyard, and I es­tab­lished it from there.” The low-tech na­ture of the oper­a­tion hasn’t changed much over time either, with Dar­rin pre­fer­ring to keep things sim­ple. “I’ve just put in a new shed, so I’m happy with that. I’m re­plac­ing a few rows of vines each year – not ex­pand­ing, but more so re­work­ing and re­fresh­ing,” he ex­plains.

That min­i­mal phi­los­o­phy car­ries through to the wines. “I try to man­age the vineyard with­out in­ter­fer­ing too much. I sup­pose the more you know about viti­cul­ture, the less you have to know about oenol­ogy. If you have good, healthy grapes, typ­i­cally it’s go­ing to be okay,” Dar­rin says.

He calls on neigh­bours for help when he needs, but beyond that, Dar­rin does it all, from the prun­ing to wine­mak­ing, pack­ag­ing and sales. “You learn from your

mis­takes more than any­thing be­cause you have to,” he says.

In line with the low-key ethos of Principia, the fo­cus is on just two va­ri­etals – chardon­nay and pinot noir – and Dar­rin aims to achieve a more savoury style with them. “I fo­cus on the struc­ture above all else,” he says. “It’s very sim­ple what I do – I har­vest it, squash it and leave it to set­tle overnight, and then wild-yeast fer­ment. That’s it. I use about 25 per cent new oak for the chardon­nay, but on the whole,

I just let it go. I’m not in a rush. I haven’t got an ac­coun­tant telling me I need to get them into bot­tle. When it’s ready, I’ll do it.” His pinot noir soared this year, with three wines from his range re­ceiv­ing 95 points or more. “I’m so hum­bled by it,” he says of the re­sults. “I don’t have the tra­di­tional back­ground, so to be recog­nised among the best in Aus­tralia is just great.”

Dar­rin Gaffy.

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