CHEERS TO WINEMAKER
Ballandean’s Mike Hayes up for top award
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.”
CHEERS TO THAT: Symphony Hill wine maker Mike Hayes could soon be Australia's best.
HISTORIC: Mike Hayes has been short-listed as the first Queenslander to be in the running for Australian Winemaker of the Year.