From fossils to ferments

PEOPLE get into the wine industry via all sorts of unusual occupations, but senior winemaker and general manager for the Hungerford Hill, Sweetwater Estate and Dalwood brands Bryan Currie arguably takes the cake by once being a palaeontologist.

From a Gippsland dairy farming family, Bryan was born in Melbourne and after school studied paleontology at Latrobe University. On graduating he began a career studying fossils in the uni’s paleontology department and wrote several papers on the subject.

Life as an academic paled for Bryan and he took time off to work as a vineyard and cellar hand at various wineries – an experience that led him at the age of 20 to begin a Charles Sturt University winemaking degree. That was followed by 18 years at Calabria Wines, during which he was chief winemaker. He then joined McWilliam’s as premium labels winemaking manager and developed a particular regard for Tumbarumba fruit.

Now aged 41 he has the stimulating task of running the burgeoning wine empire of the Iris Capital group of hotelier and developer Sam Arnaout.

A hugely exciting aspect will be reviving the Dalwood brand that hasn’t been seen for 40 years or more. That comes because Sam Arnaout recently bought the right from the Penfold arm of Treasury Wine Estates to restore the Dalwood name to the historic Hunter River frontage Dalwood-Wyndham Estate property at Branxton, recognised as Australia’s oldest continuous winegrowing site.

Dalwood was the name given by pioneer George Wyndham when he and his family settled there in 1828 and, after buying it in 1904 and selling it in 1967, Penfolds continued to own the name.

Last July Iris Capital bought the property with its beautiful winery buildings, vineyard, tasting cellars, picnic grounds, restaurants and function rooms from the French Pernod Ricard Group, which in 2014 had shut down the site.

Now Bryan Currie will be able to release Dalwood-brand wines from Branxton-grown 2017 vintage semillon, chardonnay and shiraz and from grapes from the coming 2018 vintage. The first Dalwood-label wine, a 2017 chardonnay, will be released next autumn and other wines will be available later at the Hungerford Hill cellar door and reopened Branxton cellar door. Bryan is also in charge of making the Sweetwater wines from the prized 16-hectare vineyard at Rothbury, and the Hungerford Hill portfolio from Iris’s 41 hectares of Hunter vines and grapes from the prime NSW areas of Tumbarumba and Hilltops.

Wine reviews

SEMILLON FROM DALWOOD

THIS Hungerford Hill 2017 Hunter Valley Semillon comes from Dalwood vineyard fruit and is green-tinted straw and has orange blossom scents and crisp lemony front-palate flavour. The middle palate has nashi pear, sherbet and slate and the finish flinty acid. PRICE: $27. DRINK WITH: oysters. AGEING: six years. It and today’s other wines are at hungerfordhill.com.au and 1 Broke Rdcellar door.

RATING: 4.5 stars

A SWEETLY AGED SHIRAZ

THE Hermitage on the label grates, but the Sweetwater Hermitage 2005 Shiraz is a beautifully aged 13.5 per cent alcohol Hunter red with deep purple hues and bouquet garni aromas. The front palate introduces plush blackcurrant flavour and briar, licorice, black pepper and mocha oak integrate on the middle palate. Minty tannins play at the finish. PRICE: $90. DRINK WITH: osso bucco. AGEING: 12 years.

RATING: 5 stars

JUICY 2015 HUNTER RED

WITH 13.5 per cent alcohol, this multi-faceted Hungerford Hill 2015 Hunter Valley Shiraz shines bright garnet in the glass and shows berry pastille scents. The front of the palate bring in juicy plum flavour and the middle palate has elements of mulberry, peppermint, capers and savoury oak and earthy tannins come through at the finish. PRICE: $45. DRINK WITH: beef fillet tornedos. AGEING: 10 years.

RATING: 4.5 stars

CRUCIAL ROLE IN WINE EMPIRE: Bryan Currie, senior winemaker and general manager for the Hungerford Hill, Sweetwater Estate and Dalwood brands. Photo: Simone De Peak

CRUCIAL ROLE IN WINE EMPIRE: Bryan Currie, senior winemaker and general manager for the Hungerford Hill, Sweetwater Estate and Dalwood brands. Photo: Simone De Peak