“We’re not only improving wine quality through our management, by the varieties we plant and the crop levels we expect from them, we’re also handing on healthy and productive land to future generations.”
Kevin De Bortoli has always been an “outdoor person”. Growing up on the family winery at Bilbul, among the chickens, guinea fowl and pigeons that his grandfather kept, he decided he would become a farmer. His plan wasn’t necessarily linked with the family business, given that the work that he and his siblings Darren, Leanne and Victor were expected to do around the winery often had nothing to do with the great outdoors.
His first job, when he was around 10, was working on the winery’s bottling line.
“Everything was pretty well manual back then,” he says. “We had to put the bottles onto the line, knock the corks into the bottles and put all the wires on. We were told we had to do it to earn pocket money but I think they did it to keep us out of trouble.”
After leaving high school, Kevin worked at the winery, learning every aspect of it from the vineyard to the crusher and spending a lot of his time working with the maintenance crew. But it was when he began spending more time in the vineyard and decided to study for a Diploma of Viticulture at Charles Sturt University that he discovered his real passion for grape growing.
Kevin now looks after the 300 hectares of vines and 20-plus varieties of grapes at De Bortoli Wines’ Bilbul Estate. His farming practices continue to evolve as he’s become increasingly interested in improving quality and productivity in the vineyard through environmentally sustainable farming practices.
Kevin’s also been practicing and improving his barbeque skills (his steak with grilled radicchio, olive oil and De Bortoli white wine vinegar gets rave reviews), something that he’s been doing more of since he and his wife Jen and their four kids moved to a the new house they built near Bilbul. A feature of the house is a large dining table that seats 26, enough to house the extended family, which they do on many of occasions.
Working in the vineyard, out in the elements, seems to be “a natural fit”, Kevin says. It also seems to be the fulfilment of his 10-year-old self’s dream of being a farmer.
"There are so many styles of wine from sweet to dry that you’ll find one you like if you’re not afraid to try many different styles."
Kevin met his future wife Jennifer whilst she was on a working holiday at the winery. Born and raised in Ontario Canada, Jen has introduced the tradition of the giant Christmas turkey to the family, something she is now duty-bound to do every year.