Craft, Passion & Provenance - Winemaking Tasmania

Updated: Apr 17, 2019

Jonathon Lord, CEO of Winemaking Tasmania

Winemaking Tasmania produce some of Tassie’s finest wines and ciders, which are all carefully sourced and crafted locally.

Steering away from traditional methods, there are no set recipes. Instead, each drop is tailor made to represent the provenance of the fruit’s source. So, quality and taste is always guaranteed. We’ll drink to that!

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Winemaking Tasmania’s CEO, Jonathon Lord.

Tell us about Winemaking Tasmania and the company’s unique vision.

With a vision to be Tasmania’s best producer of premium alcoholic beverages, Winemaking Tasmania is a unique and highly specialised producer of Tasmania’s finest wine and cider brands in partnership with our client base of vineyard and orchard brand owners. Whilst we may only represent 5% of Tasmania’s total finished wine production by volume, we represent almost 25% of the state’s wine brands and qualitatively wines made by us on behalf of our various clients, and received 35% of the awards at the 2019 Tasmanian Wine Show – including an amazing 6 Trophies and 47 Gold Medals.

This unique commitment to provenance and quality has led to the continued expansion of the company since 2016 as well as the introduction of accredited quality systems, continuous improvement and environmental management practices across the organisation. Our ethos is fuelled by our unique commitment to the craft, passion and provenance of each and every wine and cider that we produce. We believe that if we can combine the best of nature’s fruits grown in Tasmania’s pristine natural environment together with our passionate commitment to our craft whilst representing the unique provenance of our island home – that each and every beverage we create will be not only be world class in quality but unique in its individual representation of where it is from.

Tell us about your current range of quality drops. How can we get our hands on them?

Winemaking Tasmania have so many amazing wines and ciders (more than 180+) to choose from, so it is hard to pick a few standouts.  On the wine side of things, I’d have to declare a three way split between the spicy 2017 Waterton Hall 20 Year Old Vine Tamar Valley Shiraz (rated 94 points from Huon Hooke, $45.00, the super seductive 2016 Gala Estate Black Label Pinot Noir (rated 95 points from both James Halliday & Huon Hooke, $65 and finally the elegant 2017 Bream Creek Chardonnay (Double Gold Medal at the 2018 San Francisco International Wine Competition, $36

On the cider front, I can’t go past the multi-award winning BLACK DEVIL Premium Apple Cider. It’s made from 100% fresh, hand-picked Tasmanian apples, carefully bench blended and hard to beat when it comes to refreshment on a hot day. Black Devil is currently available via their website, Dan Murphy’s online and limited stores or at any screening of American Express’s Open Air Cinema Australia.

What inspired you to create the Sparkling Fruit Fusion (a blend of wine and cider)?

Our Blushing Lady Sparkling Fruit Fusion is the singular creation of our amazingly talented Cider Maker, Melissa Fettke. She’s one of those creative geniuses that cannot help themselves when it comes to experimenting – be it blending, fermentation, using unique fruits and flavour infusions you name it. Blushing Lady began as just an experiment – a unique blend of hand-picked Tasmanian apples, cherries and Pinot Noir grapes (like, who would have thought of that??) which Melissa blended together and then put a glass in front of me whilst declaring “You’ve just got to try this Jon!”. I did, and instantly fell in love with it! We were inspired by the opportunity it presented; its ability to share such a fusion of unique fruits and flavours that represent the very best of Tasmania. On the consumer side, Blushing Lady taps into the increasing value consumers place on provenance and Tasmania’s unique natural attributes whilst offering the opportunity for consumers to seek out new discoveries especially so in the blush or rose’ categories.

Walk us through a typical work day for you.

Winemaking Tasmania are a relatively small business, committed to being Tasmania’s best producer of premium alcoholic beverages in a state where our industry lacks the scale of our mainland colleagues and a lot of what we do is driven by passion and belief in the journey that we’re on. As such, my role is really quite diverse. In any given day I can be involved in client communications, finance, governance, product & packaging development, tastings, vineyard visits, HR matters or even find myself on the end of the production line packing boxes. I truly, passionately love my job and I am one of those fortunate individuals who is lucky enough to be gainfully employed, doing what I would do for free if I did not have a mortgage or other financial commitments.

What’s next on the agenda for Winemaking Tasmania?

The vintage 2019 grape harvest has just begun – we took in our first grapes in late February (Pinot Noir & Pinot Meunier from the north east coast to become amazing Tasmanian sparkling wine!) and that will accelerate and pretty much continue all the way through to the middle of May when we harvest the last of our Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon fruit from across the state. Essentially, vintage is that time of the year when every member of our team is singularly focused on the task of receiving, pressing, fermenting and beginning the process of crafting another year’s bounty into an array of beautiful finished wines.

When you consider that each and every wine represents at least 1,000 decisions from the time the grapes first arrive at the winery to when it is finally bottled and this year we’ll be making roughly 200 different individual finished wines – that’s an awful lot of decisions, a whole lot of brain power and an extraordinary amount of tasting, re-tasting and re-tasting again, not to mention the physical labour of getting it all done! Certainly, there is plenty to keep us occupied and in whatever spare moments we can find we’ll be continuing to help extend the reach of our Tasmanian wines and ciders into even more export destinations around the globe.

What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs in the wine industry? 

Simply: visionpassion and commitment. It’s so important to have a vision of where you want your business to be in 5 to 10 years’ time and that you can clearly communicate that and inspire others to join you on and contribute to that journey. In an industry that is defined by an annual harvest the years can pass by so quickly and without a clear vision there is a real risk of looking back and asking yourself how did we get here? For some people “passion” is a dirty word that has no place in business. Personally, I’d be lost without it and I’m happy to be defined in so many ways by my passion for what I do.

There’s a great Simon Sinek quote: “Working hard for something we don’t care about is called stress. Working hard for something we love is called passion.” Pursuing a career in the wine industry is not going to make you the same money as say banking or finance and what’s more there is going to be a whole lot of hard work, blood, sweat and tears. Quite simply, if you don’t genuinely love and feel passionate about the wine industry there are easier ways to make a living. Which brings me to commitment. In the wine industry, as with so many agri-businesses, commitment is that deep seated acknowledgement that everything is not always going to go the way you want it to. That there are times when either mother nature or external factors outside of your control are going to intentionally or otherwise knock your business and you around. That might be financially, physically, emotionally, mentally or all four at the same time. Without genuine commitment, you would just walk away.

Commitment means that you take the tough and the bad with the good and allow yourself to ride the journey – acknowledging those factors that you can influence whilst maintaining an awareness of those factors beyond your control. After 20 years in this industry I’m gradually getting better at maintaining my personal balance on the journey – but if I’d not been committed to the wine industry I would have walked away a long time ago.

For more information on Winemaking Tasmania, please click here.