“In autumn we get to taste the wine from the most recent vintage and then tell the stories from the vineyard about what went into the growing of the grapes that made the wine. There are 18 months of those vineyard stories, from first signs of bud development to harvest, and just three weeks for the yeast to turn juice into wine.”
Rob Sutherland was like a lucky inheritance. When De Bortoli Wines purchased a Yarra Valley vineyard in 2005, Rob had been managing the property for a year and he agreed when the family asked him to stay on as Manager. It proved to be a good relationship from the start and in 2007, just a year after after completing his Viticulture degree from Charles Sturt University, Rob became Viticulturist and Vineyard Manager for the entire 240 hectare estate.
Rob has been integral to the implantation of biological farming at De Bortoli’s Yarra Valley Estate, a system focussed on nurturing living organisms in the soil that minimises the need for chemical or physical intervention in the vineyard. He says that biological farming methods represent “a long term view for the soil, the vines and the land”.
If there’s a downside for Rob about his job, it’s that the timing of vintage each year prevents him from getting to Augusta, Georgia, to watch the Masters Golf Major in the first week of April. He’s something of a golf fanatic, playing a couple of times a week and naming a hole-in-one at the famed Escena Golf Club in Palm Springs as one of his life’s great achievements.
But his career is an equal passion, especially when he sees his work in the vineyard pay off. He loves the moments when he’s behind someone at the checkout in the bottleshop and “they’re buying a bottle of wine made from the grapes that I grew”.
"Use the best glasses you can – the quality of the glass and matching a shape for the style of wine really does make a difference."
Rob and his wife built a mud brick house from scratch on their 80-acre property in Strathbogie in the 1990s and did it while working full time, building on the weekends.