Geoff Merrill - Winemaker Series:
Geoff Merrill was born in 1953 and was raised on a sheep station in the far north of South Australia until he was 11 years old. Geoff’s family then moved to the Barossa Valley where his first links with the wine industry were formed.
From 1970 to 1973 Geoff undertook a winemaking trainee-ship - and then a position as an Experimental Winemaker with the Stellenbosch Farmers Winery which lured him to South Africa for a year back in 1974, after which he traveled through Europe.
By the end of 1975 Geoff was back home in Australia and had joined the team at Chateau Reynella as the Assistant Winemaker. In 1977 he was promoted to Senior Winemaker, a position he held until 1985.
Whilst working a Chateau Reynella Geoff also managed to find time to make wines under his own ‘Geoff Merrill’ label. Releasing his first wine in 1983 with the 1980 Cabernet Sauvignon and a 1981 Semillon.
By 1985 Geoff had become a Consultant Winemaker for Hardy and Chateau Reynella’s red wines. At the same time he was on the lookout for a winery where he could base his own operations. In 1985 he found the beautiful, but run-down, Mount Hurtle Winery, which he restored - by 1988 Geoff had left Hardy’s to focus on his own business. Since 1988 Geoff has concentrated on the winery and his wines. He has continued to gain national and international recognition for his distinctive style of winemaking, zest for life - all while with his wife Annie, bringing up their 3 wonderful children.
I have been enjoying Geoff’s wines for over 25 years - my first a 1978 bottle of Chateau Reynella Port through to the ‘Jimmy Watson Trophy’ winning 2004 Reserve Shiraz - to his more recent wine projects & releases. You know when you open a bottle of Geoff’s wine - you are going to be treated to genuine sensory experience.
The following is some background, influences, thoughts and insights Geoff has gained during his trail-blazing winemaking career - here are some of his brief comments.
• What first attracted you to the wine industry and as a winemaker?
"I was at Orlando Wines in the Barossa Valley, where my Father worked and saw a winemaker do a simple acid-base titration - changing 3 white liquids pink and I was amazed..."
• When and where did you study winemaking?
"I was accepted to Roseworthy in 1969 but took up a position as a trainee winemaker with ‘Seppelt Wines’ which paid me money - I also completed a Diploma course at the Institute of Technology in Adelaide - Australia..."
• Which person has influenced you the most as a winemaker and why?
"Len Evans - (1930-2006) - as he taught me a great deal about different styles..."
• What is your favourite grape varietal(s) to work with and why?
"Without hesitation and a large smile - Geoff says, Cabernet Sauvignon - as it is the ‘King of Grapes’..."
• Which grape variety would you most like to work with in the future and why?
"With a combination of humour and business acumen; Geoff declares; any grape variety that will make me a fortune!!!"
• With each new vintage what do you most look forward to?
"With the recent challenging vintages still fresh on his mind: I look forward to - ‘The End’."
• To date what has been your most interesting / challenging vintage and why?
"Cyril says - ‘The 1983 vintage - as there was so much Botrytis in the South East of the region - and while we had the technology to understand and deal with it we didn’t have the equipment..."
• Which person ‘past’ or ‘present’ would you most like to meet and why?
"Maurice O'Shea - (1897-1956) ‘Mount Pleasant Wines’: as he made some great wines in an era without much technology..."
• For your next birthday dinner - if you could open and enjoy any bottle of wine in the world ever-made - what would it be and why?
"He replies with a smile: A 1978 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti La Tache - it is simply the greatest wine I have ever tasted..."
• If you could make wine anywhere else in the world - where would it be and why?
"If would have to be in Spain and in the Douro - as I simply love the food..."
• What advice would you give a young person starting out as a winemaker?
"If you are going to work overseas - don’t sell yourself short."
• When you are ‘not’ making wine - what is one of your favourite things to do to relax?
With another cheeky smile - "That’s easy: Enjoy a glass of wine, Play Golf or Fish...". On occasion you can see Geoff practicing his golf swing between the vines.
• In the future, what exciting changes can you see, or would like to see for your Champagnes, vineyard or winery?
"With my business hat on: I would like to see the Australian dollar devalued so that we can become competitive again in the export market and return to profitability..."
Where can you find Geoff Merrill Wines:
Geoff Merrill Wines 'in perfect balance' are available in New Zealand and around the world from quality wine retailers, restaurants / wine bars and hotels. Or visit the Geoff Merrill website - CLICK HERE.