“Mother Nature doesn’t give us the perfect vintage too often. Each season is unique and part of the interest is you never know what’s coming.”
Julie Mortlock has been working for De Bortoli Wines for more than 25 years. Not only is she a great cook, a sports fanatic and a keen tennis player with a mean backhand, she’s also Senior Red Winemaker at the Bilbul Estate and helps oversee the company’s extensive fortified wine portfolio, one of the largest and most diverse in Australia. Since 2000, she’s also assisted Darren De Bortoli with the iconic Noble One Botrytis Semillon. Given the success and responsibility, it might seem surprising that winemaking was not her first passion. Even when she first joined De Bortoli, Julie never expected to become a winemaker. But her background and experience helped put her on the path.
Julie grew up on a dairy farm and had ambitions to be a chef. Instead her passion for science kicked in and for the next ten years she became a self-confessed “dairy lab rat”, a qualified tester of cream and milk. She also developed an interest in cheese. She had begun looking for a change of pace and scene when a friend mentioned that wineries also employed laboratory assistants. The idea that wine and cheese went so well together appealed to her. She moved to Griffith and, shortly after, started in the quality control labs at De Bortoli Wines.
Julie became interested in winemaking after progressing to winemaker’s assistant (“doing the jobs they didn’t want to do”, she says) and began studying, firstly for a Bachelor degree in Wine Science and then another in Wine Business, both from Charles Sturt University. She began looking after all the white wines produced at Bilbul, then moved onto the reds and fortified wines.
The fortified wines are a particular favourite. To add to her successes, Julie was shortlisted as 'Sweet Winemaker of the Year' in the 2016 International Wine Challenge.
“Selecting the best parcels of fruit to produce fortified wines that will age well and then tasting them from the barrel as they change overtime is a bit like watching a child grow up and mature,” she says
"The best way to enjoy wine is with good friends over a meal."
Julie likes to name her cats after obscure grape varieties, like Durif, Novac and Noria.