Ruther­glen Es­tates’ chief wine­maker Marc Scalzo shares his pas­sion for cre­at­ing unique wines.

North East Living Magazine - - Con­tents - -Marc­scalzo words Anita Mcpher­son photos Kylie Wil­son, Ruther­glen Es­tates

ON a blis­ter­ing hot day in March, Ruther­glen Es­tates wine­maker Marc Scalzo is up to his el­bows in Du­rif.

The weather’s been bone dry for the last few weeks which means the de­ci­sion on when to pick has been based purely on ripeness, with­out be­ing in­flu­enced by the threat of dis­ease.

Vin­tage has been fast and fu­ri­ous with fruit in dan­ger of ripen­ing be­fore the flavour had a chance of catch­ing up, but Marc said over­all it’s been a pretty good year, with some reds still to be picked.

“We’re happy with the whites this year – they all look good,” he said.

“We work pretty hard to make sure our whites are fresh and keep their va­ri­etal flavours.

“Our viti­cul­tur­ist Matt (Matthew Par­tridge) and I spend a lot of time in the vine­yard tast­ing the grapes, watch­ing the sugar, but we’re also tast­ing to make sure we get the flavour pro­file, be­fore they go flat and ‘melon-y’ but not when they’re too hard and green.

“It’s been a bit of a chal­lenge, es­pe­cially in this sort of year, but I think we did a pretty good job.”

Marc has been the wine­maker at Ruther­glen Es­tates for eight years, af­ter spend­ing seven years at Brown Broth­ers and ex­pe­ri­enc­ing busy vin­tages in New Zealand, and he took on the role of gen­eral man­ager in 2014.

He re­mains chief wine­maker and dur­ing vin­tage it’s a case of all hands on deck, but out­side vin­tage his role is de­ci­sion­mak­ing and giv­ing di­rec­tion, leav­ing his team to get hands on.

Ev­ery year he looks for­ward to the Viog­nier, Rous­sanne, Marsanne (or VRM), a wine he par­tic­u­larly loves; a blend which has be­come Ruther­glen Es­tate’s flag­ship wine re­leased as part of the Re­nais­sance pre­mium range.

Two picks are done of the Viog­nier, one pick of the Rous­sane and two picks of Marsanne, in an ef­fort to achieve dif­fer­ent flavour pro­files, with each wild fer­mented in bar­rels aged from new to sev­eral years old.

“It’s prob­a­bly be­cause I helped de­velop the style and it’s been so well re­ceived by the me­dia and wine shows, but I also just love the amount of wine­mak­ing that goes into it,” said Marc.

“Ev­ery bar­rel ends up tast­ing dif­fer­ent, which is fan­tas­tic, and we do lots of dif­fer­ent treat­ments to add some com­plex­ity, be­fore we sit down and de­cide what goes into the mix.

“It’s some­thing I’m re­ally proud of.”

Fiano and Arneis are another two wines he par­tic­u­larly en­joys mak­ing and drink­ing, his pas­sion for the Ital­ian va­ri­eties shared, and no doubt in­flu­enced, by his her­itage and fa­ther, Mario.

“I’ve al­ways en­joyed work­ing with Ital­ian va­ri­eties and try­ing to make wines with tex­ture and not just the va­ri­etal flavours,” Marc said.

“I want to make sure the wine is al­ways sound, but I want to add some­thing. I think the wine­maker’s role is not to have your per­son­al­ity in the wines – for me you can’t push a wine where the grapes don’t want to take it.” >>




He said the award win­ning Arneis is a good ex­am­ple of where tra­di­tional tech­niques from Europe are in­cor­po­rated into the wine­mak­ing process, with the aim of achiev­ing tex­ture, mak­ing it a good food wine.

“It’s not all fruit – its tex­ture goes per­fectly with Mediter­ranean style foods,” he said.

Marc’s phi­los­o­phy on wine­mak­ing is gen­er­ally about be­ing light on in­ter­ven­tion, in­cor­po­rat­ing wild fer­ment and barely “fin­ing” the wines; press­ing them gen­tly and not stir­ring the bar­rels too much. “I sort of like to let the wines make them­selves,” he said. “My big de­ci­sions are made now, with the pick date vi­tally im­por­tant as well as the press­ing regime and how you treat the juice be­fore the fer­ment starts.”

And when it comes to reds, he likes to make the wines he likes to drink, avoid­ing those with a big al­co­hol hit in pref­er­ence for those where the fruit shows through.

With a big wine like Du­rif, Marc says he’s not scared of tan­nins, but never wants to get to the point where the wines are dried out; where there’s so much tan­nin the fruit flavour is lost. “It’s about get­ting that bal­ance right,” he said. “With our other reds, we try to tread a bit more gen­tly to keep them fresh and vi­brant and get the tan­nins out early in fer­men­ta­tion.”

Marc said the com­pany’s grow­ing num­ber of cel­lar club mem­bers is tes­ta­ment to the fact the pub­lic is dis­cov­er­ing Ruther­glen Es­tates does not take a “big cor­po­ra­tion” ap­proach, just be­cause it has the largest vine­yard hold­ings in Ruther­glen, but is in­stead made up of a pas­sion­ate team of highly tal­ented in­di­vid­u­als who like mak­ing select batches of fine wine.

“We do a lot of two tonne and five tonne batches be­cause that’s im­por­tant to me, and it’s where we are go­ing to get our point of dif­fer­ence, giv­ing us op­tions when it comes to blend­ing,” he said.

A food and wine ex­pe­ri­ence is some­thing Marc and Ruther­glen Es­tates is also con­tin­u­ing to build on, ex­em­pli­fied through on­go­ing “meet the maker” style events and mas­ter­classes, and through the menu at the Tui­leries restau­rant, its wine bar, and within the re­laxed and ca­sual Tui­leries Le Café.

While chefs and wine­mak­ers work to­gether to tai­lor menus for spe­cial events, Tui­leries’ chang­ing sea­sonal menu al­ways of­fers sug­gested wine matches, such as VRM with boned quail, grilled figs and hazel­nuts, or Du­rif with grass fed rib eye, roasted pota­toes and Café De Paris but­ter.

Vis­i­tors are en­cour­aged to make the most of the on-site bou­tique ho­tel where spa­cious and taste­fully dec­o­rated rooms of­fer in­ti­mate views of a 2.5 hectare vine­yard from their in­di­vid­ual pri­vate decks, be­fore wan­der­ing over to taste at the cel­lar door or en­joy a se­lec­tion of tapas in the Tus­can style court­yard.

“I think we’ve cre­ated a nice of­fer­ing for our guests,” said Marc.

“The court­yard has been re­freshed and it’s a beau­ti­ful spot now to re­lax and en­joy a glass of wine.

“We want peo­ple to come up and visit so we can tell our story.”

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