family and flexibility
HE may be part of the sixth generation of a family that has been an integral part of Rutherglen’s winemaking industry since the 1850s, but Stephen Chambers believes it is never too late to learn more about winemaking and reexamine traditional ways of doing things. He has been making wine at Chambers Rosewood since the turn of the century, but says even that amount of time is not long at all in a typical winemaker’s career. But 2018 has been a banner year for Stephen and the winery. The company’s Old Vine Muscat was awarded a gold medal at the Sommeliers Wine Awards in London, while the winery and its product were once again acknowledged in the James Halliday Wine Companion. Chambers Rosewood product also performed well in the top 100 of the well known Langton’s Classifications, and in the recent Rutherglen Wine Show, the winery made an impressive showing, scoring three gold medals, two silver and two bronze.
Stephen said he appreciated learning from previous generations when it came to kick starting his career, saying that knowing how certain problems were addressed before, or what the winery did with certain varieties, was valuable information. Looking back to see how the winery addressed different seasonal conditions in the past was also useful, Stephen explained. “It gives you a greater appreciation of what has been done,” he said, adding that while he learned some of his trade by studying at a tertiary level, there is no substitute for simply working in the industry. He said the winery does not simply make wine, though – a farm on the property also sees the family raising fat lambs and occasionally breeding flock rams. “It diversifies the business,” he said, adding that one of the benefits of running the two enterprises side by side is the ability to supplement feed with grape marc produced by the winery. Stephen said that the recent award and wine guide recognition of the wines produced by the winery has been very satisfying. He said that the two kinds of recognition can be very different, with wine critics often tending to be invididuals with their own preferences and opinions, while wine shows combine the judgements of a panel of people. “It’s a good way to see how you sit amongst your peers,” he said of wine shows. “Wine is about diversity – people are all different.” What really keeps him attracted to winemaking is how the impact of a range of factors, especially seasonal ones, can have on the final product. “Part of it is the challenge,” Stephen said of his work. “No two years are the same.
“I’m always creating something, and doing something new. “It’s like one big science project. “You continually learn new things.” Stephen said he liked to experiment with different grape varieties whenever possible, with rare variety gouais blanc being among his favourites, and he also enjoys muscadelle because of its late ripening nature. Looking to the future, Stephen said wine producers will need to be more adaptable than ever, with warmer climates, water availability and other factors, such as growing worries about food availability, all set to impact viticulture and agriculture alike and force people to be more adaptable and resourceful. But he said he had no fear that Chambers Rosewood, and the industry as a whole, would adapt. “The Australian wine industry has evolved, and the wine we consume has evolved,” Stephen said.
WASTE NOT, WANT NOT: Stephen Chambers, a sixth generation winemaker, feeds grape marc to some of the sheep being raised on the family property.
FAMILY BUSINESS: Stephen Chambers in his element at Chambers Rosewood Winery at Rutherglen.