CHEERS TO WINE­MAKER

Bal­lan­dean’s Mike Hayes up for top award

Stanthorpe Border Post - - FRONT PAGE -

MIKE Hayes prides him­self on be­ing a glass half-full man.

It’s a prover­bial phrase which has proven prophetic in more ways than one for the Bal­lan­dean wine­maker who is in the run­ning – the first Queens­lan­der – to win the Aus­tralian Wine-maker of the Year ti­tle in Novem­ber.

As last week’s win­ner of the Aus­tralian So­ci­ety of Viti­cul­ture and Oenol­ogy (ASVO) Queens­land Wine­maker of the Year, Mr Hayes is now a con­tender to win the pres­ti­gious na­tional ti­tle.

A VITICULTURIST and wine­maker with Sym­phony Hill Wines, which won Queens­land Win­ery of the Year, Mr Hayes said: “Words can’t ex­plain it – it just goes to show what the whole in­dus­try is do­ing up here.

“It’s an in­cred­i­ble feel­ing to be in the fi­nal four. It’s not about the win­ning.”

The Sym­phony Hill wine­mak­ing team was awarded four tro­phies, four gold, six silver and 18 bronze medals.

“I think it’s im­por­tant to have a be­lief in your­self and never stop try­ing to reach higher or achieve goals. The glass is al­ways half full … I think life is too short to be sur­rounded by pes­simists.”

As a well-es­tab­lished ex­pert in the field with an ob­vi­ous pas­sion for “do­ing what I love”, Mr Hayes is work­ing at set­ting up vine­yards for the fu­ture, and in­spir­ing oth­ers to learn about al­ter­na­tive wine grape va­ri­eties. Th­ese are rare va­ri­eties, or any­thing that’s less than 1% of all wine grapes grown in Aus­tralia. They in­clude Saper­avi, Ver­mentino, Fiano, Mon­tepul­ciano.

At the Queens­land Col­lege of Wine Tourism, he’s set­ting up vine­yards for the fu­ture which he hopes will ben­e­fit the Aus­tralian wine in­dus­try.

“We put in half a dozen vines of 100 va­ri­eties. Th­ese are set up and we im­ple­ment th­ese va­ri­eties to deal with dif­fer­ent cli­mate changes. They have been virus tested and DNA tested.”

“I love all wine. But I do have a par­tic­u­lar pas­sion for al­ter­na­tive va­ri­eties and, at the present time, Gewürz­traminer, a Ger­man white va­ri­ety, and in the reds, I can’t go past La­grein, a north­ern Ital­ian va­ri­ety.”

Mr Hayes, a third­gen­er­a­tion Bal­lan­dean boy who be­gan “chip­ping weeds” on 15ha at a Gran­ite Belt win­ery af­ter com­plet­ing his ju­nior cer­tifi­cate in 1979, dis­cov­ered a love for the in­dus­try and be­gan forg­ing a path he “never takes for granted”.

He said in the early 1980s, there were five winer­ies on the Gran­ite Belt where he would ded­i­cate him­self to work­ing and prun­ing. In 1995, Mr Hayes started de­sign­ing and set­ting up vine­yards in south­ern Queens­land and north­ern NSW. By 1999, he was work­ing for Sym­phony Hill Wines and in 2005 be­came their wine­maker, so far win­ning 100 gold medals and 90 tro­phies.

His ad­vice? “Ev­ery time you go out, don’t keep drink­ing the same thing. Ex­plore the beauty of the al­ter­na­tive grape va­ri­eties … there’s 20,000 dif­fer­ent va­ri­eties in the world.”

PHOTO: CON­TRIB­UTED

CHEERS TO THAT: Sym­phony Hill wine maker Mike Hayes could soon be Aus­tralia's best.

PHOTO: MATTHEW PUR­CELL

HIS­TORIC: Mike Hayes has been short-listed as the first Queens­lan­der to be in the run­ning for Aus­tralian Wine­maker of the Year.

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