At the age of 18, Will Wolseley told an immigration agent at Australia House in London about his plans to run a boutique vineyard in Australia.
Jump forward almost 30 years, and Wolseley has achieved his goal and a lot more. One of Australia’s best restaurants buys the entire production of his dessert wines, and wine writers are beginning to recognize his achievements. One scribe described Wolseley’s cabernet sauvignon as “the best cool-climate cabernet in Australia”.
Born in the United Kingdom, Wolseley visited Australia every year as a child to see relatives. He emigrated at age 19 after convincing the immigration agent of his plans and in 1992 started planting vines at Paraparap, about 5 km from Australia’s Great Ocean Road in Victoria.
Wolseley chose the area because of what he described as the “gentle” climate.
“I looked at hundreds of sites and finally bought 16 hectares in Paraparap,” he says. “About 6 hectares are under vines. This place just felt right.”
Some experts have suggested the area is too hot to grow pinot noir, but early every afternoon, cool ocean breezes reduce temperatures.
Wolseley’s first vintage was in 1998. He focuses on red wine – shiraz, cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir, cabernet franc – with small portions of chardonnay and semillon. The semillon goes into his famous botrytis dessert wine, which is handpicked in the middle of winter.
I tried different barrel samples of the 2010. Aromas of apricot, honey and musk streamed from the glass, and the flavors kept lingering long after I drove away. The current vintage on sale, the 2005, retails for $35 for a 375-ml bottle.
The vineyard is well kept though the cellar door is best described as rustic.
“We focus on winemaking, not grandstanding,” Wolseley says.
An antique Wolseley truck is parked near the cellar door, a nod to Wolseley’s UK carmaker relatives. All grapes are handpicked and Wolseley is careful in his use of oak for his reds, believing the flavors of the fruit should dominate, not vanilla from new oak.
Vintage time is an international affair, with pickers arriving from most of the Western European nations, based on word of mouth. Every year, French and German winemakers take part in the vintage. Wolseley, in turn, spends time in Alsace to learn more about dessert wines.
The vineyard is entirely self-sufficient, with power coming from a range of solar panels.
“We are entirely off the electricity grid,” he says, proudly.
Wolseley refuses to submit his wines at wine shows, believing the process is too subjective. During my visit a steady stream of people drove in to buy wine.
“I don’t worry about awards. I get on with making great wine for my loyal customers, and they keep coming back,” he says.
* “These cool cabernets are really hot stuff” in China Daily, 18 February 2011, page 12. Find story here.