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People & Places

Meet the Maker: Cate Looney

Thu 7 Mar 2024

Cate Looney is a driving force behind innovation at Brown Brothers, and a trailblazer in the wine industry.  


For more than 16 years, Cate has led her team to produce over 1 million cases of wine, among them our prized Patricia label of which she is solely responsible. A Chardonnay-loving, sparkling wine maker with a wealth of experience and accolades behind her, Cate's influence extends beyond the winery: she’s a highly respected wine judge, award-recipient, and mentor to many. 



Cate, what inspired you to become a winemaker, and how has your journey evolved since you first started? 

I always wanted to make something. I loved baking as a kid, and it was probably a tour of a winery when I was young, that really sparked my curiosity for wine, and how it's made. It also helped that my parents liked to drink wine, and growing up, it was part of our dinner table culture. 

How do you balance tradition and innovation? What gets you excited?  

Tradition is the core of our craft, and innovation helps us think outside the box to improve our process or enhance what we might already have. It's exciting when you try something new and it works! "Experiments" don't always turn out the way you want them to... or taste that great. But that's half the fun.  

How do you navigate the complexities of sustainability in winemaking, both environmentally and economically? 

The entire grape processing cycle, from start to finish, is quite sustainable - right down to our grape marc waste getting consumed by some happy cattle. The complexities lie in our inputs like electricity and water, but by establishing clear targets within our sustainability plans to reduce these inputs, we're continuously working to enhance both our environmental impact and economic efficiency.

What do you love most about being a winemaker? 

The diversity of different jobs that need to be done throughout the year. Vintage is busy and frantic, and once that's done you can really assess all the wines ready to be made, and start to blend or put them to barrel. There are wines from the previous years that will be in barrel that need to be blended and bottled, and for me, our sparkling wines need to be tiraged. Plenty of different and varied jobs that you never get bored. 

Patricia was a powerhouse; how does it feel to be making wines in her honour? 

It's a great honour to be part of the winemaking team that is making these wines, we put plenty of love and dedication into them which Patricia put into the business and her family. We are always trying to make these the best we possibly can, and of course I still feel excited and proud with each new release.

We're now well into vintage; what does a typical day look like?  

It's vintage, nothing is "typical"!  

I dedicate time to meticulously plan our intake to ensure smooth operations each day, managing press allocations, tank space, and addressing any potential bottlenecks. My responsibilities also include tasting ferments, visiting vineyards, and problem-solving... more like being the general complaints department!

What are you currently drinking?  

We have such a great diverse portfolio of wines to choose from, but I do love a glass of Chardonnay on these warm evenings. 

What do you see as the next “it wine” and why? 

I see great promise in Fiano, a wine that's textural, fresh, and bright, with fantastic acidity.

Outside of wine, what brings you joy? 

My family, friends, our 3-year-old dog - Zoe, delicious food and wine, and the ultimate holiday. 

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