IN GOOD HANDS
Rutherglen Estates’ chief winemaker Marc Scalzo shares his passion for creating unique wines.
ON a blistering hot day in March, Rutherglen Estates winemaker Marc Scalzo is up to his elbows in Durif.
The weather’s been bone dry for the last few weeks which means the decision on when to pick has been based purely on ripeness, without being influenced by the threat of disease.
Vintage has been fast and furious with fruit in danger of ripening before the flavour had a chance of catching up, but Marc said overall it’s been a pretty good year, with some reds still to be picked.
“We’re happy with the whites this year – they all look good,” he said.
“We work pretty hard to make sure our whites are fresh and keep their varietal flavours.
“Our viticulturist Matt (Matthew Partridge) and I spend a lot of time in the vineyard tasting the grapes, watching the sugar, but we’re also tasting to make sure we get the flavour profile, before they go flat and ‘melon-y’ but not when they’re too hard and green.
“It’s been a bit of a challenge, especially in this sort of year, but I think we did a pretty good job.”
Marc has been the winemaker at Rutherglen Estates for eight years, after spending seven years at Brown Brothers and experiencing busy vintages in New Zealand, and he took on the role of general manager in 2014.
He remains chief winemaker and during vintage it’s a case of all hands on deck, but outside vintage his role is decisionmaking and giving direction, leaving his team to get hands on.
Every year he looks forward to the Viognier, Roussanne, Marsanne (or VRM), a wine he particularly loves; a blend which has become Rutherglen Estate’s flagship wine released as part of the Renaissance premium range.
Two picks are done of the Viognier, one pick of the Roussane and two picks of Marsanne, in an effort to achieve different flavour profiles, with each wild fermented in barrels aged from new to several years old.
“It’s probably because I helped develop the style and it’s been so well received by the media and wine shows, but I also just love the amount of winemaking that goes into it,” said Marc.
“Every barrel ends up tasting different, which is fantastic, and we do lots of different treatments to add some complexity, before we sit down and decide what goes into the mix.
“It’s something I’m really proud of.”
Fiano and Arneis are another two wines he particularly enjoys making and drinking, his passion for the Italian varieties shared, and no doubt influenced, by his heritage and father, Mario.
“I’ve always enjoyed working with Italian varieties and trying to make wines with texture and not just the varietal flavours,” Marc said.
“I want to make sure the wine is always sound, but I want to add something. I think the winemaker’s role is not to have your personality in the wines – for me you can’t push a wine where the grapes don’t want to take it.” >>
“I THINK THE WINEMAKER’S ROLE
IS NOT TO HAVE YOUR PERSONALITY IN THE WINES – FOR ME YOU CAN’T PUSH
A WINE WHERE THE GRAPES DON’T WANT TO TAKE IT.”
He said the award winning Arneis is a good example of where traditional techniques from Europe are incorporated into the winemaking process, with the aim of achieving texture, making it a good food wine.
“It’s not all fruit – its texture goes perfectly with Mediterranean style foods,” he said.
Marc’s philosophy on winemaking is generally about being light on intervention, incorporating wild ferment and barely “fining” the wines; pressing them gently and not stirring the barrels too much. “I sort of like to let the wines make themselves,” he said. “My big decisions are made now, with the pick date vitally important as well as the pressing regime and how you treat the juice before the ferment starts.”
And when it comes to reds, he likes to make the wines he likes to drink, avoiding those with a big alcohol hit in preference for those where the fruit shows through.
With a big wine like Durif, Marc says he’s not scared of tannins, but never wants to get to the point where the wines are dried out; where there’s so much tannin the fruit flavour is lost. “It’s about getting that balance right,” he said. “With our other reds, we try to tread a bit more gently to keep them fresh and vibrant and get the tannins out early in fermentation.”
Marc said the company’s growing number of cellar club members is testament to the fact the public is discovering Rutherglen Estates does not take a “big corporation” approach, just because it has the largest vineyard holdings in Rutherglen, but is instead made up of a passionate team of highly talented individuals who like making select batches of fine wine.
“We do a lot of two tonne and five tonne batches because that’s important to me, and it’s where we are going to get our point of difference, giving us options when it comes to blending,” he said.
A food and wine experience is something Marc and Rutherglen Estates is also continuing to build on, exemplified through ongoing “meet the maker” style events and masterclasses, and through the menu at the Tuileries restaurant, its wine bar, and within the relaxed and casual Tuileries Le Café.
While chefs and winemakers work together to tailor menus for special events, Tuileries’ changing seasonal menu always offers suggested wine matches, such as VRM with boned quail, grilled figs and hazelnuts, or Durif with grass fed rib eye, roasted potatoes and Café De Paris butter.
Visitors are encouraged to make the most of the on-site boutique hotel where spacious and tastefully decorated rooms offer intimate views of a 2.5 hectare vineyard from their individual private decks, before wandering over to taste at the cellar door or enjoy a selection of tapas in the Tuscan style courtyard.
“I think we’ve created a nice offering for our guests,” said Marc.
“The courtyard has been refreshed and it’s a beautiful spot now to relax and enjoy a glass of wine.
“We want people to come up and visit so we can tell our story.”