Sarah Fagan

Winemaker

It might seem like stating the obvious, but employing a winemaker to make the wines they like to drink is a pretty smart thing to do. Combine passion with winemaking and you can achieve poetry.

Sarah Fagan is a no-nonsense kind of woman who would probably roll her eyes at the suggestion of winemaking poetry. But her work with De Bortoli’s white wines has revealed someone simpatico with white grape varietals and demonstrates Steve Webber’s talent for identifying winemakers with a connection to their craft beyond the technical.

Born in Cowra, NSW, Sarah is the product of a family with a passion for good wine who, in the late 90s began to make wine themselves. As she puts it, "we always liked to drink well and we would drink some interesting things, some European styles and all of that".

It was while drinking one of the ‘Frenchies’ when she was 16 or 17 – a white burgundy to be exact – that the connection with good white wine was made. The more poetic might call it an epiphany but, as Sarah recalls it, "it wasn’t too exciting but it was completely different from any other chardonnay I’d ever tasted - my ears pricked up a bit or something."

The chardonnay revelation didn’t immediately lead to a winemaking career. Sarah spent a year at Sydney Uni doing an Ag Science degree before transferring to Charles Sturt University in Wagga Wagga where she "learned how to drag hoses and read a hydrometer' but 'didn’t learn too much about making and drinking good wine."

The De Bortoli connection came when her father asked Steve Webber about a job for his daughter. Initially Sarah was to stay for 3 months to participate in the 2003 vintage but ended up staying until 2004. She then went to the US to do vintage in California with a wine maker who "was really into small winemaking production." When she returned to Australia, Steve asked her to "come and help out with the whites" which she has been doing – with great success – ever since. More recently, Sarah has been "helping out" with the Pinot Noir as well.

Sarah, like many of our winemakers work under the philosophy that wine should have 'a sense of place.'

"Wines which interest me now are ones which speak of their origin, the patch of dirt in which they are grown - single site wines. What is exciting is that the same grape can look so different even just 20m away, whether by soil type and profile, vine aspect or a whole range of things that create detail."