An idyllic childhood spent in her parents’ vineyard piqued Virginia Willcock’s interest in wines and prompted her to pursue winemaking as a career. The Chief Winemaker at Margaret River winery Vasse Felix, who was named Gourmet Traveller WINE’s Winemaker of the Year 2012, shares her passion for viticulture with Travel 3Sixty°
Compiled by: Chitra S.
How did you get into winemaking?
My parents had a small hobby vineyard where they made wine for every day drinking and I had great fun tending to the vines in the beautiful countryside. I saw how much happiness wine brought to the dinner table after working hard in the vineyard all day.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
Creating something new and beautiful every year. While we have such wonderful and consistent vintages (harvests) here in Margaret River, we still find slight variation in the nuances of fruit character. It is like giving birth each year. While the genes are the same, the newborns are never exactly alike.
What does a day on the job entail?
During vintage, a lot of time is spent tasting fruit and deciding when to harvest each little plot. I work six to seven days a week during vintage and no less than 12 hours per day, as the fruit and fermenting wines need to be looked after all the time. Outside vintage, we spend a lot of time tasting the batches of wine and making decisions about how we manage each batch, and then later determining how the wine will come together before bottling.
Is winemaking an art, science or labour of love?
It’s all three. The art is in creating the balance of fruit and fermentation to make something distinct and unique. The science is in the method and understanding how to manipulate these nuances of character for the right balance. And, the labour of love is in the hours of sampling the fruit and making sure it all comes together as envisioned.
The most challenging aspect of winemaking is..
Visualising the end-result and understanding how to handle the wine to obtain a consistent, perfect outcome. I cannot work alone and those who work with me must feel the same way about what we are trying to achieve, in growing the fruit and handling the wine.