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Q&A with Winemaker Simon McMillan

Tue 8 Nov 2022

Winemaker Simon McMillan

The Kindergarten: a place where there’s plenty of playtime, and hardly any rules.

We’re proud of our wine, of each other, of those who came before us. Since 1889 we’ve been here in the Milawa region of the King Valley – and that means we’ve seen a lot of harvest seasons. Sipped a few wines in our time. Discovered some delicious new varieties, and thrown a few experiments out the window. And of the ones that do make it, even our winemakers have favourites.

We chatted all things trial, error, and vinous evolution of the Winemaker’s Series range, with the man whose name is on the label.

Q: As a winemaker, how important is it that you have the freedom to experiment?

It’s important for us winemakers to look for continuous improvement, and experimentation plays an important role here. Whether we are exploring different yeasts (commercial or wild), trialing winemaking techniques like solids or lees contact, or working with techniques like juice-less flotation that provide energy and process efficiency… without the freedom to carry out trials and experiments, our jobs as winemakers would be a lot less interesting.

Q: Throughout your career, how have you personally seen the winemaking industry evolve?

There’s a greater diversity in the mix of grape varieties grown in Australia with interesting grape varieties like Fiano and Nero d’Avola. These are grape varieties that thrive in warmer climates, where they retain natural acidity when flavour is ripe to produce stunning wines. Unfortunately, we are seeing more severe droughts during El Niño conditions and the frequency and severity of bushfires are increasing where we are evolving our winemaking to mitigate these events.

Q: When it comes to innovation, what do you ‘geek out’ on and why?

Our new automated Charmat process is a game changer and is the only system of its kind in Australia. This custom-made Charmat production system was inspired by the brewing industry. We carry out secondary fermentation in pressure tanks for Prosecco production with real-time analysis monitoring and the ability to filter and then send to bottling from the touch of a PLC screen or smartphone.

Q: What’s your soundtrack of choice when hard at work in the Kindergarten?

Fred again.., Idles, Fontaines D.C. and Amyl & the Sniffers are getting a red-hot run at the moment.

Q: Since joining the BFWG family, what’s been your proudest achievement to date?

The 2021 Winemaker’s Series Fiano was my first attempt working with this Southern Italian grape variety. It’s performed reasonably well on the wine show circuit since its release.

Q: In your opinion, what makes the BB Winemaker’s Series unique?

The Winemaker’s Series is a label where we identify unique parcels of fruit that deserve to be kept separate; either because we’re working with an interesting, alternative grape variety like Albarino or Durif, or perhaps there’s a standout parcel of a mainstream grape variety like Shiraz. These Winemaker’s Series wines are crafted in our Kindergarten Winery where they’re nurtured with impeccable attention to detail that allows each wine style to reach its full potential.

Q: Of the Winemaker’s Series range, which is your favourite wine and why?

Right now… it has to be the 2021 Winemaker’s Series Fiano. What I like about this wine is its refreshing and complex palate… loaded with citrus, stonefruit, and varietal salinity, good natural acid, and a touch of hazelnut. But ask me again in the new year, we’re working on some pretty special releases.

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