Michael Fragos - Winemaker Series:
Michael Fragos joined Chapel Hill Wines back in February 2004, instantly he became an invaluable addition to the winemaking team. Michael was named 'Winestate Magazine's Winemaker of the Year' in December 2003.
After not wishing to become a teacher, Michael completed a graduate diploma course in Oenology at Roseworthy Agricultural. Michael has an enviable reputation as an outstanding winemaker and is well known in the international winemaking arena as a hard working winemaker. In 2007 Michael received the title of 'Winemaker of the Year' at the London International Wine & Spirit Competition (IWSC).
Michael and the dedicated team have achieved a lot since winning this accolade, not least of which is the 2010 McLaren Vale Bushing King, awarded to the maker of McLaren Vale's top wine in that year.
Michael is in fact one of only two winemakers to have won the award 3 times in the awards 40 year history. Michael strives for wines to express their individual vineyard sites, whilst harnessing the passion, energy and commitment of all involved from the committed team in the vineyards through to the hands on team in cellar. It is clear for all to see and enjoy in every wine that Michael and his team carefully craft.
I have had the pleasure to see the development in Michael’s wines over a number of years now, actually going through a private wine tasting with him, not long after he started at Chapel Hill - then in 2016 spending several days with Michael and the team getting a complete behind the scenes insight to their vineyards, winemaking and expressions. And ongoing, receiving barrel samples of the next vintages to be blended, bottle and released... - always my taste buds are on the alert with anticipation.
Here is a short sound-bite / interview with Michael - sharing a little bit about his background, influences, philosophies and insights, since his arrival and becoming chief winemaker & CEO at Chapel Hill Wines - so here are some of his brief thoughts.
• What first attracted you to the wine industry and as a winemaker?
"I grew up on a vineyard in McLaren Vale and enjoyed the annual ritual of making a barrel of our 'house' wine. I have always loved food and wine connections..."
• When and where did you study winemaking?
"I graduated from the Roseworthy Wine College - South Australia back in 1989..."
• Which person has influenced you the most as a winemaker ...?
"I learnt a lot from Drew Noon, ...don’t get caught up with the hype and work hard..."
• What is your favourite grape varietal(s) to work with and why?
"Old Vine Grenache, it is such a privilege to be able to interpret the personality and character of these old vines 'with a tiny pocket of 1897 vines' - and others that were planted in the 1920’s onwards..."
• Which grape varietal would you most like to work with in the future and why?
"Actually we are not currently pursuing any new varietals...over the diversity we already have..., instead more focusing on articulating the unique characteristics of our vineyards..."
• With each new vintage what do you most look forward to?
"The fact that they are all different is invigorating. We need to celebrate our vintage variation more and ensure that the wines capture and confidently tell the vintage story..."
• To date what has been your most interesting / challenging vintage and why?
"It had to be my first vintage in 1990, I had the technical knowledge but no practical experience and I was thrown into the deep end when the assistant winemaker walked out on the day before we received our first grapes. It was also the vintage that taught me to swear in Greek..."
• Which person ‘past’ or ‘present’ would you most like to meet and why?
"Just missed out on meeting both my grandfathers...; I would have loved to have received some of their wisdom..."
• 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?
"Sharing it with Marianne - it would be a bottle of 1985 Krug..., if I was enjoying a birthday glass for myself, then it would be an aged bottle of single malt whisky..."
• If you could make wine anywhere else in the world - where would it be and why?
"I have promised my family that we will one day spend a couple of months living in a villa in a quaint Italian village, whilst I partake in a leisurely vintage in a small winery owned by a warm and embracing family who love cooking and entertaining..."
• What advice would you give a young person starting out as a winemaker?
"Attention to detail is imperative, once you get this right you can then learn to trust yourself and your grapes..."
• If you weren’t a winemaker - what would you like to be and why?
With a huge smile - "I am a music nut..., so a music journalist for a reputable international magazine would be nice…"
• In the future, what exciting changes can you see, or would like to see for your wines, vineyard or winery?
"Always seeking more complexity and intrigue in our wines, whilst ensuring that we always preserve the purity of fruit. As above, learning to trust instincts and the vineyard sites which results in less winemaking 'interference' and ultimately achieving full expression of the unique grape characters..."
Where can you find Chapel Hill Wines:
Chapel Hill Wines 'expressing the best of the McLaren Vale' are available in New Zealand and around the world from quality wine retailers, restaurants / wine bars and hotels. Or visit the Chapel Hill Winery website - CLICK HERE.