What do international rock stars and oil exploration geologists have in common?

Answer: Both professions can lead to a range of roles within the business of winemaking.

The first taste is the sweetest

While the most significant link between celebrities and wine used to be consumption, not so anymore. Case in point: Francis Ford Coppola, Drew Barrymore, Sam Neill, Mick Fleetwood, The Beckhams, Fergie (the singer), Graham Norton, John Legend, Madonna … everyone that is anyone is part of the winemaking business these days.

In our own Australian wine industry, while many major success stories are born and bred on the vineyard with shiraz coursing through their veins, there is also strong contingency and history of folks making a name for themselves who didn’t come to us straight from the vine.

From geologist to vineyard terroir connoisseur

In another life, John Davis from Pepper Tree Wines was a successful oil exploration geologist. In 1982, he bought his first vineyard and by 1988 his first winery.

What started out as a serious hobby, gradually became his sole business focus. Since then, John has used his geological knowledge to select vineyard sites in four of Australia’s premium grape growing areas.

His purchase of Pepper Tree in 2002 completed his objective of putting together his own vineyards with a compatible high-quality boutique winery, where each vineyard’s terroir (environmental conditions such as soil and climate) can be fully expressed.

Fiumara the fruiterers

Lillypilly Estate in southern New South Wales is the product of a hardworking Italian family who began to make a life for themselves and contribute to the Australian economy and community by growing and selling fresh fruit and vegetables in the 1950s.

Seven Fiumara brothers worked with their parents to build a strong family business. Robert Fiumara, the sixth son, developed a love of winemaking, inspired by his father Pasquale and eldest brother Domenic, and went on to study and develop a range of high quality wines that are a testimony to the family business.

A new chapter for book dealers

Leo Berkelouw is a fifth-generation antiquarian book dealer from a bookselling dynasty that began in Rotterdam, Holland in 1812.

When the bombing of Rotterdam in World War II destroyed the family’s entire stock of books, Leo’s father, one of only two of the family’s holocaust survivors, decided to bring his young family to Australia, where he continued the family tradition by establishing Berkelouw Books.

In 1977, with a thriving book business in Sydney that required larger quarters, Leo purchased the Bendooley Estate in the Southern Highlands and moved his books and his family there.

The Berkelouw Book Barn operated successfully as a new, rare, second-hand and antiquarian bookshop, with a teahouse, for thirty-five years and went on to became an iconic Berrima landmark and tourist destination.

Today, Leo still lives on the estate while his son Paul and his wife, Katja Berkelouw, live and work on the property, managing the book business and overseeing the talented staff who work on the estate complete with farm, vineyard, cellar door, restaurant, and accommodation.

A history of just making it happen

Over in the Margaret River, Cape Grace Wines is very much linked to the man who helped turn the region into a buzzing hub of activity and export. The winery was established and is owned and run by Robert and Karen Karri-Davies, but its origins lie in timber.

In 1875, Robert’s great grandfather, MC Davies built a timber mill at Karridale with jetties at nearby Hamlin Bay and Flinders Bay to ship timber to England and the Far East; he also built the Cape Leeuwin lighthouse so his ships and others would not run aground in the treacherous waters.

Later he established a livery stable and way station at the railhead near the banks of Margaret River. In 1996, one hundred years after the Cape Leeuwin lighthouse was built, the Davies legacy continued as Robert and Karen further propagated the local economy when they planted their 15-acre vineyard on the headwaters of the Wilyabrup Valley.

Next time you’re at a cellar door and you get the opportunity, quiz the winemakers about their backgrounds. You will rarely find two the same.

By | 2017-07-29T21:30:29+00:00 June 20th, 2017|