Young Hunter winemaker Angus Vinden is making his mark

The future is now: Winemaker Angus Vinden and his Headcase range. Pictures: Daniel Honan
The future is now: Winemaker Angus Vinden and his Headcase range. Pictures: Daniel Honan

I studied architecture at uni because Dad didn’t want me to become a winemaker,” Angus Vinden says. “For him, growing grapes and making wine was always a bit of a hobby.”

Family land: Angus in the vineyard with his dog Eadie.

Family land: Angus in the vineyard with his dog Eadie.

Angus Vinden is a winemaker. Not only that, he’s an award winning winemaker. At the 2017 Hunter Valley Wine Show Awards, Vinden was awarded two trophies for his 2017 Vinden Estate verdelho; a delicious drop that’s loaded with youthful verve and a burgeoning complexity that’s quite reflective of the intentions and ambitions of the winemaker himself . . . Sorry, Dad.

Born in it: Young Angus at vintage time.

Born in it: Young Angus at vintage time.

“I’ve been around wine my whole life,” Vinden says. “Mum and Dad bought some property in Pokolbin around 1990. They started planting a vineyard right around the time I was born. Growing up was always a lot of fun, planting trees and building gardens and just playing around outside. I’ve been helping Dad out during vintage since I was seven.”

Despite his father’s best wishes, having grown up in a vineyard, in the Hunter Valley, Angus was, inevitably, drawn to winegrowing. At the end of 2014, Guy Vinden, Angus’ father, made his son an offer he couldn’t refuse.

“Dad was retiring and he knew that I was keen to be a winemaker,” Vinden says. “He said that if I could make Vinden Estate stand up on its own two feet, it was mine to inherit. The following vintage, in 2015, I got serious about what I wanted to do and took over making all the red wines in our small winery on the property.”

In addition to architecture, Angus spent two years studying a diploma of Viticulture through TAFE so that he could learn the technical aspects of grape growing while spending time with revered Pokolbin winegrower, Glen Howard.

Howard is a 7th generation Hunter Valley farmer and vigneron who, with his brother Ivan, co-owns and manages the Somerset vineyard, just off Oakey Creek Road. The vineyard has been growing shiraz and semillon vines for over 50 years.

Howard also helps Angus manage the Vinden Estate vineyard on Palmers Lane, which, grows shiraz and Alicante Bouschet; an unusual, red-fleshed wine grape variety that can make deeply coloured, dark fruited and spicy red wines, or, not-too-serious, deliciously dry and refreshing light wines.

“A few years back, I went to Beaujolais in France. I’d not drunk much beaujolais before that, but the wines I tasted were incredible,” Vinden says. “It was here that I had my lightbulb moment. It inspired me to make fun, but seriously delicious wines here in the Hunter, which, I think, these lighter styles are better suited to our warm climate.”

The Hunter Valley has history when it comes to producing lighter style wines. Due to the environmental conditions - the combination of soils and climate - the region’s wine grapes are able to achieve flavour ripeness at lower alcohols. This means the wines are generally lighter to more medium bodied than, say, the Barossa.

“Personally, I want to enjoy something that can be chilled in the fridge and drunk on a hot summer’s day, but, can also be just as refreshing in the cooler months of the year,” Vinden says.

It’s the Hunter’s ability to produce lighter, more elegant styles of wine that encouraged Angus to start his own label, The Vinden Headcase. 

“Headcase gives me the freedom to make wines that are a little more eccentric compared to the Vinden Estate wines,” Vinden says. “I love to build in texture underneath lots of layers of primary fruit. To me that’s what a delicious wine should be, it’s what I like to drink, and the Hunter’s been doing it forever.”

Honan’s tip

Headcase Charmless Man ($30) is an experimental blend of silky Alicante and vibrant pinot noir that unfurls with time and air into a juicy and joyful song of glossy cherries, pips, herbs and pomegranate crunch that is an absolute pleasure to consume.

The Headcase Semillon ($30) has that classic bolt of lemon and lime acid line running like a blade through a sluice of light and grippy saline textures that will make a mockery of summer’s hot and humid conditions.

Likewise, the rosé ($30) is super fun to splash down the back of one’s throat, particularly if you enjoy leafy strawberries and fresh picked raspberries crushed and served over ice.

However, it’s Angus’ homage to that moment in Beaujolais that holds all past, present, and future tenses in understated tension; Charmless Man ($30) is an experimental blend of silky Alicante and vibrant pinot noir that unfurls with time and air into a juicy and joyful song of glossy cherries, pips, herbs and pomegranate crunch that is an absolute pleasure to consume.