fam­ily and flex­i­bil­ity

Wangaratta Chronicle - North East Regional Extra - - FRONT PAGE - By KYLIE WILSON

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.

PHOTO: Phoebe Pow­ell

WASTE NOT, WANT NOT: Stephen Cham­bers, a sixth gen­er­a­tion wine­maker, feeds grape marc to some of the sheep be­ing raised on the fam­ily prop­erty.

PHOTO: Phoebe Pow­ell

FAM­ILY BUSI­NESS: Stephen Cham­bers in his ele­ment at Cham­bers Rose­wood Win­ery at Ruther­glen.

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