Like a rolling stone.

An­drew Marks makes the Yarra Val­ley’s Gem­brook Hill and The Wan­derer wines, and is also the man be­hind The Mel­bourne Gin Com­pany. Here, he shares the mo­ments that have shaped his wine jour­ney.

Halliday - - Winemaker - Words Casey Warrener Pho­tog­ra­phy Dean Golja

ANY­ONE WHO GETS INTO wine­mak­ing has to have a cer­tain tenac­ity to get through the tough vin­tages and phys­i­cally ex­haust­ing days, but An­drew Marks’s ca­pac­ity for work is rare. Hav­ing al­ways been heav­ily in­volved in his fam­ily’s Up­per Yarra Val­ley win­ery, Gem­brook Hill, An­drew took the reins last year. He started his own la­bel The Wan­derer in 2005 and then, just for kicks, The Mel­bourne Gin Com­pany in 2012. To top it off, he makes the com­mute from Mel­bourne six days a week, and has done for the past 12 years. If you feel tired think­ing about that, you’re not alone. “There’s no down­time any­more. Peak vine­yard time co­in­cides with peak gin time, so it keeps me pretty busy,” An­drew says.

Com­ing full cir­cle

Founded by June and Ian Marks in 1983, Gem­brook Hill is a part of the Yarra Val­ley clique that in­cludes iconic fam­ily winer­ies such as Mount Mary and Seville Es­tate. As well as be­ing pi­o­neers of this now-cov­eted wine­mak­ing area, the fam­i­lies also share a pro­fes­sional back­ground. “Prior to es­tab­lish­ing Gem­brook Hill, my fa­ther was a third-gen­er­a­tion den­tist, which ac­tu­ally fol­lows quite strongly in the his­tory of peo­ple here,” An­drew says.

“In par­tic­u­lar, Dr John Mid­dle­ton [Mount Mary], Dr Peter McMa­hon [Seville Es­tate], Dr Bai­ley Car­ro­dus [Yarra Yer­ing],

Reg Egan, a lawyer [Wan­tirna Es­tate] and James Hal­l­i­day, a lawyer [Cold­stream Hills]. I think that’s been im­por­tant to the rigour with which peo­ple have gone about mak­ing wine here – it’s a con­sid­ered way, I sup­pose.” More drawn to the fam­ily lin­eage of wine than den­tistry, An­drew never had as­pi­ra­tions to be in the busi­ness of teeth, but he did in­herit those de­tail-ori­ented, ‘tin­ker­ing’ ways.

Dur­ing last year's har­vest, Ian Marks passed away. “That made for an un­usual year. It’s been a bit of a brave new world for us,” An­drew says. “We’re bot­tling the ’17s at the mo­ment and we in­tend on re­leas­ing a blended Gem­brook wine, which we’ve never done be­fore, in hon­our of my dad. It’s a pinot noir and we’re calling it the IJM, after Ian James Marks. It’s a blend of three of the old­est rows on the prop­erty and a few of the youngest vines. I thought that com­ing full cir­cle would be a nice idea. It will be avail­able some time this year and, as it’s some­thing spe­cial, it’s only a small quan­tity. I think the old man will ap­prove.”

It’s a lovely and de­served trib­ute. An­drew and many oth­ers in the mod­ern Yarra Val­ley owe a lot to peo­ple like Ian. “My par­ents planted in an area that oth­ers avoided be­cause it’s wet and cool. My fa­ther was a per­fec­tion­ist and he en­gi­neered it not to pro­duce huge quan­ti­ties, but rather recog­nis­able qual­i­ties. I’m lucky in the sense that I had the op­por­tu­nity to go off and learn, while al­ways know­ing there was this spe­cial patch of land I’d prob­a­bly be com­ing back to.”

The wan­derer

Learn An­drew did, work­ing for house­hold names such as Sep­pelt and Pen­folds, and com­plet­ing vin­tages ev­ery­where from France to Cal­i­for­nia and Spain. “I stud­ied at Rose­wor­thy in South Aus­tralia and went on to work at Pen­folds after that.” It was around this time that he started to hit his stride. “Ev­ery­thing came to­gether for me when I did a vin­tage in Bur­gundy in 2002, which was a beau­ti­ful, el­e­gant year. I was given a list of great pro­duc­ers to visit and spend time with – I’m for­tu­nate to speak French flu­ently, thanks to an ex­change I did in Bordeaux when I was 16, be­cause that means I can go into the cel­lars of wine­mak­ers and un­der­stand what they’re talk­ing about,” he says. It was ex­pe­ri­ences such as these that in­flu­enced the wine­mak­ing phi­los­o­phy An­drew holds to­day. “For each vine­yard, no mat­ter where it is, it’s just about try­ing to grow the best grapes pos­si­ble and rep­re­sent them well in the win­ery. It’s ‘the in­ter­na­tion­al­ist’ ap­proach to wine­mak­ing be­cause it’s a method that can be em­ployed any­where.”

Trends and the cult of per­son­al­ity are not par­tic­u­larly im­por­tant to An­drew. “I’d rather the wine speak for it­self than to have to run around in my un­der­pants like a lot of peo­ple do,” he says. With Gem­brook Hill and The Wan­derer, it’s all about qual­ity. “The stuff that peo­ple are do­ing these days has been done long be­fore.

“Pen­folds St Henri, for ex­am­ple, is the orig­i­nal hip­ster wine

[for its use of large-for­mat oak], from well be­fore it was cool to be hip­ster. Fash­ions come and go in the wine­mak­ing world, the pen­du­lum is al­ways swing­ing,” An­drew says. “In the 2000s, we were en­cour­aged to avoid adding ‘green’ char­ac­ters to wine.

Now, the in­clu­sion of whole bunches is in vogue and that’s ac­tu­ally in­cor­po­rat­ing a facet of green­ness. More re­cently there’s been an ac­cep­tance of ox­ida­tive wine styles, or wines with ex­tended skin con­tact. From my point of view, it’s all about bal­ance and mak­ing sure none of these are a dom­i­nant fea­ture,” he says. “It’s got to be a good drink at the end of the day and the no­tion of qual­ity is be­ing chal­lenged a lot more. You don’t want a wine­maker telling you about the ins and outs of how they’ve suf­fered to make a wine while you’re stand­ing there go­ing, ‘Yeah, but it still tastes like shit’. Peo­ple aren’t id­iots – they can fig­ure out qual­ity for them­selves.”

As well as the great legacy of Gem­brook Hill, there are a few other fac­tors that have drawn An­drew to wine. “It’s an amaz­ing life­style choice. You’ll never make that much money, but you can travel the world. It’s typ­i­cally grown in beau­ti­ful re­gions. It’s also as­so­ci­ated with cul­ture – food and wine are of­ten the two main­stays of a place, and that’s where I find it in­ter­est­ing.” These ideas led to the nam­ing of An­drew’s own la­bel, The Wan­derer. “It’s ba­si­cally re­flect­ing that ev­ery­one – be it James Hal­l­i­day or a novice – is on a jour­ney with wine. That’s what I wanted to cap­ture,” he says. “You can re­ally delve in or you can just en­joy a good drink at the end of the day.” This jour­ney also ap­plies to wine­mak­ing.

“Your palate changes, your style evolves and you’ll never know ev­ery­thing there is to know – there’ll al­ways be some­thing to be sur­prised by. Each vin­tage is a page out of your life and over time you develop this story.” Travel has cer­tainly pro­vided plenty of in­spi­ra­tion. There’s even a wine in The Wan­derer range that’s made from in­ter­na­tional grapes. “Since 2008, I’ve pro­duced a wine from a sin­gle vine­yard of 100-yearold carig­nan bush vines called El Wan­derer. That came about be­cause I be­came friends with a girl who has a fam­ily-owned win­ery in Spain – es­sen­tially next to [glob­ally renowned restau­rant] El Bulli – that has these in­cred­i­ble old vines. I’ve just sold out of the cur­rent re­lease and I haven’t been able to do vin­tage over there re­cently, but I in­tend to go over and re­make that wine this year,” he says.

There’s also a col­lec­tion of vinyl that in­spires the Gem­brook Hill/Wan­derer win­ery team. “We’ve played a lot of mu­sic over the years. I quite like clas­sics such as the Rolling Stones, Diana Ross and The Supremes. When AC/DC toured a few years ago, one of the wine­mak­ers who used to work with us had orig­i­nal press­ings of theirs from the ’70s, so we played those. That was a pretty hard and fast year,” he says.

The gin thing

You might think two wine la­bels and reg­u­lar vin­tages over­seas would be enough to keep one oc­cu­pied, but not An­drew. “I live in Mel­bourne’s Colling­wood and when I started play­ing around with gin, my flat­mate at the time and I would solve the world’s prob­lems over mar­ti­nis on Tues­days. One day it just oc­curred to me that I have this par­tic­u­lar set of skills, hav­ing worked with flavours for my en­tire pro­fes­sional ca­reer, so why not have a crack at mak­ing gin? There’s a lot of time think­ing in the vine­yard with the three months it takes to prune 18,000 vines, so I bought a cou­ple of cop­per pot stills and started do­ing tri­als in my apart­ment at night time. I had to ven­ti­late the place a lit­tle when my flat­mate started hav­ing weird dreams and hal­lu­ci­na­tions,” he says. “It was a real jour­ney into alchemy. I wanted to un­der­stand the dif­fer­ent flavour pro­files that make up gin – ju­niper ber­ries, co­rian­der seeds, or­ange peel – so I dis­tilled them in­di­vid­u­ally and that al­lowed me to build a be­spoke flavour pro­file. At the end of that win­ter, I’d got­ten it to the point where I thought, this ac­tu­ally tastes like gin. So I had a still made for me in Por­tu­gal, which is a tiny cop­per pot de­signed for mak­ing per­fume, pro­vid­ing a re­ally gen­tle ex­trac­tion, and I spent the whole year dis­till­ing botan­i­cals.”

“I use a grape-based spirit that comes from South Aus­tralia – it’s prob­a­bly the best use of Barossa shi­raz and semil­lon,” An­drew jokes. “I make just one gin and I wanted it to taste like gin – a dry style that some­one from Eng­land would recog­nise – but with a Mel­bourne twist. There are na­tive botan­i­cals in there – I think mine is the only gin in the world that uses honey myr­tle, which

I get from a farm in Western Aus­tralia that grows it for me es­pe­cially. I also use lo­cal san­dal­wood, rose­mary from our gar­den at Gem­brook and or­ganic grape­fruit from the Queen Vic­to­ria Mar­kets. In win­ter, I’ll sit there and peel grape­fruits for days and then dis­til them, which means I can use those and other botan­i­cals that are only avail­able in win­ter all year-round. We are avail­able na­tion­wide and ex­port to seven coun­tries, but it’s sold by word of mouth in Mel­bourne and that’s our big­gest mar­ket by far.”

“You don’t want a wine­maker telling you about the ins and outs of how they’ve suf­fered to make a wine while you’re stand­ing there go­ing, ‘Yeah, but it still tastes like shit’. Peo­ple aren’t id­iots – they can fig­ure out qual­ity for them­selves.” An­drew Marks

No place like home

Hav­ing worked all over the world and in Aus­tralian re­gions as di­verse as Coon­awarra, the Barossa, the Hunter Val­ley, Western Aus­tralia's Great South­ern and Vic­to­ria’s Great Western, the

Yarra Val­ley is still where An­drew wants to be. “It’s an ex­tremely ex­cit­ing place to make wine. The rea­son for that is we make good sauvi­gnon blanc, chardon­nay, pinot noir, caber­net sauvi­gnon and shi­raz, as well as hav­ing some amaz­ing pro­duc­ers of neb­bi­olo and ga­may. Show me any other re­gion in the world that can do the same. It al­most de­fies imag­i­na­tion, yet the proof is in the wines.” And what of Gem­brook Hill and The Wan­derer? “Our wines aren’t for ev­ery­one, but we don’t make a lot and there are enough peo­ple out there who like them,” An­drew says. “I would say they’re for peo­ple with good taste, of course.”

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