Who Won the 2018 Winemaker of the Year?

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Vintage Cellars
April 3, 2018
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We’re happy to announce that the Adelaide Hills winemaker, Kim Milne, MW from Bird in Hand is Vintage Cellars’ 2018 Winemaker of the Year, also winning the Best Sparkling category for their sparkling pinot noir. Bird in Hand’s creed is that “the story is in the soil”; an apt mantra for a label who are passionate about celebrating their state.

Since 1997, Bird in Hand has made a mark in the Australian wine industry with their excellent cool climate wines. Through constant experimentation.

We spoke to Kym Milne, MW, their chief winemaker, about winning the award, the future of winemaking and what makes Adelaide Hills’ vines so unique.

Vintage Cellars: How does it feel to be Winemaker of the Year?

Kym Milne: It’s a huge honour for the whole winemaking team. We all work very hard to produce quality wines that reflect Adelaide Hills; wines that we are not only proud of, but that people enjoy drinking. To have that quality acknowledged by others reflects well on the dedication, creativity and skills of our team.

You’ve been making exceptional wine for over 30 years. Can you tell us about your early life and how this shaped your career in winemaking?

I was raised on a mixed farm (cropping and livestock) near Mundulla in South Australia. I always enjoyed the outdoors, as well as science subjects at school. I came across winemaking as a great combination of science, art and agriculture.

You’ve been on judging panels for several international wine shows. Can you tell us about the ways those shows are judged and if their focus is different?

In general, wine shows around the world are very professionally run, but especially so in Australia and New Zealand. I prefer our system of judging wines in classes where wines can be compared rather than the OIV system used in many European shows – which involves judging only one wine at a time with an overly complicated scoring sheet.

You’re one of only 370 Masters of Wine in the world. What set you on the path to become a Master of Wine and how would you describe the process of reaching this elite goal?

I sat the MW to broaden my outlook. Having made wine for 10 years in Australia and New Zealand, I was interested in understanding the wine styles in other countries. The process involved a lot of study and a huge amount of tasting, as the exam involves both written and tasting papers.

We’re very taken by several of the Bird in Hand wines, with three being nominated as finalists this year. What do you think it is that the judges are responding to? What is it that Bird in Hand does differently?

Our winemaking and viticulture team are always focused on producing the highest quality possible at all of our price levels. Our aim is to make well defined wines with elegance, texture and length that reflect the cool climate of the Adelaide Hills.

Can you elaborate on the importance of Adelaide Hills in your winemaking?

Adelaide Hills is a large and varied region that runs along the top of the Mt Lofty Range, and covers a larger surface area than the Barossa, with vineyards from 300-600m above sea level. By selecting sites from the length and breadth of the region, we are able to select fruit that specifically suits the wine styles we wish to make – generally, whites and pinot from the cooler central part of the region and reds, such as cabernet, from the warmer northern and southern fringes. Our shiraz style benefits from the spice of vineyards sourced from the cooler sites, and richness and depth from the warmer sites.

What is your favourite wine at the moment and why?

Chardonnay in all its forms is always a favourite of mine, and one of the wines I most enjoy making.

Can you tell us what to expect from you and the winery in the future?

At present, we are trialling whole bunch fermentation on reds for an aromatic lift, experimenting with larger format oak, working to select smaller unique areas within our vineyards (fermenting those parcels separately in smaller lot fermentations) and foot stomping small batch reds.

We are constantly experimenting to improve quality.