Spend ten minutes with
Chris of Coulter Wines
How do you split your time between your Chief Winemaker role at 1847 and your own project? Do you think you have the ‘best of both worlds’ from your two roles or do you simply find yourself winemaking 24/7 at certain times of the year? Does your family get roped into the wine world or do they battle to drag you away from the vines?
It is a struggle at times and the odd 20hr day throughout vintage but like anything of value – you just do what needs to be done to achieve the goal. Ideally, I would like to be just working for Coulter Wines and that will happen in time. I love winemaking and my family support what I do 100%.
You have spent many years working for large winemaking companies including McGuigan and 1847, did this experience help you create a list of ‘must haves’ and ‘never in a million years’ pointers for your own wines?
Winemaking is all about attention to detail, working for a large company like McGuigan taught me this. This includes thoughtful and careful treatment of your wine even down to minimizing movement and interactions with the wine where possible. The bottom line is look after the product and be fully aware of any consequences of your actions or lack thereof.
Did you always have a little voice in your head urging you to create your own brand and how did you eventually manage to turn that nagging desire into Coulter Wines? Are there any interesting benefits or pitfalls of having your own project? Have there been any disasters that you’re able to look back at and laugh about now?
I have always wanted my own brand. I started with 1 Tonne of fruit in 2015 and have slowly built that up to the current levels. Benefits include a broader knowledge of the various components within the industry like package design and the legality’s of producing alcohol just to name a few. Touch wood, there have been no disasters as I do my research before tackling any project I am not fluent with – I imagine this has saved me. I also draw information from various colleges and mentors within the industry.
Was a career in wine always inevitable for you? Did you discover a love of wine from an early age and harbour a long desire to work in the industry?
My father was a wine drinker with a great collection of older Australian wine so I suppose I was aware of wine from a young age. This developed into an interest that is as strong today as it has ever been, I am truly blessed to do what I love as my job!
You had a previous career as a chef before moving to winemaking. You’re not the only winemaker we have heard of who has migrated from the kitchen to the winery, do you think experience in the kitchen makes better winemakers?
Chefs are interesting individuals; I don’t know many normal ones. You could draw this parallel with winemakers. Winemakers, like Chefs tend to be passionate, single minded, driven and extreme personalities – even controversial and opinionated. I do believe Chefs make good winemakers for these reasons.
We’d love to learn more about your time behind the stove. Where did you work as a chef? Did you work with any famous mentors or anyone who influenced your wine career?
I actually had a broad ranging career working for one of the most progressive Restaurants in Brisbane at the time – Rumpoles, to working on the tropical resort – Dunk Island in far north QLD.
I was also head chef at a large facility in Toowoomba QLD that contained 3 profit centres, I had no real mentors but drew a lot of inspiration from books like White Heat (Marco Pierre White), Rockpool (Neil Perry) & Classic Thai cuisine (David Thompson).
The boss at The Vinorium is slightly obsessed with MasterChef Australia! Do you watch the show? Have you ever considered applying or are your cooking days now behind you?
I’m not a follower of MasterChef as I don’t watch a lot of TV but hey, I’d try anything within reason.
As you might have gathered, Team Vinorium are rather food obsessed at times… Can you describe some local Barossan delicacies and suggest some inspiring food pairings for the three Coulter Wines we are launching in the UK?
The Barossa is a food Mecca, we have so many great restaurants here. In terms of pairings, I once had my 2017 Mourvèdre at a restaurant here paired with venison and spiced beetroot that worked particularly well. However, this would be my advice for the 3 wines;
• 2019 Chardonnay with good soft cheese (I just love cheese with Chardonnay!)
• 2019 Syrah with Braise of lamb shoulder, skordalia and Kale crisps.
• 2019 Barbera with chunky Pork sausages, pan seared white beans and tomato jam.
How important is the whole food scene in the Barossa? What would you name as your top restaurant? How about your favourite dish? (We’re starving, can you tell??)
The food scene here is massively important from a tourism perspective. My top restaurants are Ferment Asian, Vintners, The Louise and Fino – all amazing and consistent. The spring rolls at Ferment Asian are worth the trip from the UK!
If you were planning the ultimate fantasy dinner party, who would be on your guest list and what would you be serving? There’s an unlimited budget for the wine of course!
The guest list would be my family and friends. I’d also invite a couple of historical figures, including Miyamoto Musashi (Japanese swordsman from the 1600’s), Rosa Parks (civil rights activist from the 50’s) and Chesty Puller (a famous and distinguished Marine officer from the 30’s, 40’s & 50’s) these are all people who inspire me for the way they have courageously succeeded under immense adversity and duress. Wine; we don’t have enough room but would have to include some 96’ Krug Clos du Mesnil, 45’ DRC Romanée Conti, 59’ Petrus, some Rinaldi Barolo and maybe a wine made by Maurice O’Shea – basically all the wines that are out of my price range or really hard to obtain.
How big is your home cellar collection and what gems do you have hidden away in there? Are your Coulter Wines representative of what you choose to drink on your rare moments away from work? Or are there other favourites that you prefer to pull the cork on with your friends and family?
Approx. 200 bottles at the moment. I have a magnum of 1970 Château Coutet (birth year) for a future party. We drink a lot of my wines, just to ensure they are looking ok – “quality control” is the term! I do love JJ Prum Rieslings and Felton Road Pinot Noir and I always make sure I have an abundant supply of those wines on hand.
We like to think we have a tempting selection of wines from your Aussie neighbours. Aside from your own wines, which wines from our range would you pop into your basket?
Shadowfax, Wantirna Estate, Nocturne, Standish and John’s Blend. All well-made examples of their regions.
"Coulter Wines are minimal intervention, small batch wines that focus on cleanliness and purity."
Coulter Wines C1 Chardonnay
Adelaide Hills 2019
Chris’s notes on his 2019 Chardonnay: "This is without a doubt my favourite wine to make. The fruit comes from 2 outstanding single VY sites in the Adelaide Hills, Echunga & Kenton Valley. The fruit is handpicked, crushed and pressed (via tank) straight to barrel as dirty juice – it literally looks like muddy water at this stage. Technically, I would call it an “oxidatively handled full solids barrel ferment.” The wine is fermented in 100% Tonnellerie Chassin tight grain French Oak hogs’ heads of which 20% to 30% are brand new. Once dry it is immediately topped and sulphured and spends approx. 8 months barrel maturation. Wine is racked straight out of barrel to bottling and receives zero additions. I just love this wine, and these two vineyards have always delivered amazing fruit despite some recent vintage challenges. It is ironically the only wine I make that sees any brand-new oak."
97+ – 98 Stuart McCloskey “What an explosive and heavenly bouquet filled with candied peel, citrus oil, sea spray, fennel seed and confit lemons. The sweet and alluring scent of jasmine creeps in with more aeration. Take a sip, swallow, sit back and enjoy the complexity. The palate feel is simply glorious, expansive, richly textured, powerful (without being heavy), multi-layered and almost endless. Crystal-like definition kicks in and provides structural finesse along with mouth cleansing acidity (more confit lemon than searing grip). There’s pristine detail on show and the finish goes on for many minutes. Again, we finish with sea spray, confit lemon and mineralité. In summary, this is perfectly balanced, a joy to drink today but has the structure to evolve for another 6-8 years and delivers waves of textural finesse. Very, very, very good indeed. Do not overchill. Served using Zalto Bordeaux glassware.”
97+ Points – Magdalena Sienkiewicz “Immediately, the vibrant perfume oozes and fills the surroundings with an abundance of ripe citrus, sweet figs and yellow peaches. Rich notes of sea spray and salty minerals frame the plentiful fruit beautifully, while a whiff of white flowers, beeswax and vanilla add exuberance. I keep coming back to the glass admiring this rather flamboyant perfume. Honeyed pears emerge with aeration and those elegant floral elements prevail. So much energy without losing its composure. The palate is equally rich and layered, laced with grapefruit, confit lemon, minerals and a creamy chalkiness. Superb weight with nutty complexities and mouthcoating texture. This is lip-smackingly delicious! Drinking amazingly now, but it certainly has the structure to evolve over the next 6-8 years. Sampled using Zalto Bordeaux glassware after 30 minutes of decanting and again on the next day.”
£24.95 per bottle
Coulter Wines C4 Experimental
Syrah Eden Valley 2019
Chris’s notes on his 2019 Syrah: "When I see this wine, I think of 1 word – “concentration.” 2019 was extremely dry in the Eden Valley resulting in low yields and concentrated fruit (as a side note, this particular vineyard yielded 50T in 2017, 35T in 2018 and only 11T in 2019). The fruit was picked on a 42’C day and was crushed into open vats to undergo primary ferment. Once dry and pressed, after 8 days, it was matured in tank with zero oak contact and bottled after 4 months maturation, which, at the time would have been best described as a raw and youthful wine and that was exactly what I was trying to do in anticipation of long-term varietal retention in bottle. The wine displays typical Eden characters, perfumed, silken, spiced and unctuous. I am soooo happy with this wine and I love drinking it on a cold Barossa evening. Eden Valley is a region I will be exploring again in the next few years!"
97 Points – Stuart McCloskey “The fruit was sourced from the Eden Valley and picked on a very hot day (42 degrees). No oak, only stainless steel which I like as it provides some freshness to the fruit component. The bouquet requires a little time to open (I suggest 1-2 hours in a decanter) – earthy, sweet beetroot juice followed by mocha / coffee, blackcurrant and blueberry. The wine is approachable now and will age for 6-10 years. In truth, I am in two minds as to how this wine will develop and when ‘best’ to enjoy it. Today, it provides joyous flows of blue / black fruits wrapped in crushed velvet, it’s incredibly charming and overly pleasing. Blueberry / blackberry compote dominate with a swish of liquorice. This is one of those voluptuous, seamless, velvety-textured charmers that creeps up on you without you knowing. Sampled using Zalto Bordeaux glassware”.
97 Points – Magdalena Sienkiewicz “So aromatic! Lavish perfume filled with sea spray, blueberries, blackcurrants and awesome notes of seaweed and beetroot. Some lovely spices mould into a hoisin-like character. Incredibly radiant, it accomplishes a wonderful aromatic blend of minerals, fruit, earth and spice with admirable detail and harmony. This wine sees no oak maturation whatsoever, which also manifests on the palate. It retains superb freshness and purity and it is laced with delicate nuances. Savoury, mineral flavours flow seamlessly forming a velvet-like texture. It is very different to the rest of our range, super aromatic and joyous. One to enjoy in its youth. Samples using Zalto Bordeaux glassware after one hour of decanting.”
£24.95 per bottle
Only 108 bottles available
Coulter Wines C5 Barbera
Adelaide Hills 2019
Chris’s notes on his 2019 Barbera: Barbera is a wine I was coerced into making initially in 2017 by a friend of mine. I never really enjoyed the variety, finding it polarizing as a wine - soft and juicy but highly acidic. Over time I have grown to love the variety and I always look forward to this late ripening variety entering the winery. Depending on vintage conditions the fruit normally arrives in mid/late April to early May. Handpicked and always in pristine condition when it arrives (the grower is amazing and has great pride and attention to detail). Crushed and fermented in picking bins due to the tiny allocation I receive – 2T at absolute best. It is a vigorous fermenter and always fly’s through ferment. Post ferment the wine is pressed and racked straight to 4 year old French Oak hogs’ heads for 8 months maturation. Again, zero adds pre bottling and looks highly aromatic in the few months after bottling. Always popular and the wine is gaining a nearly “cult” like status. I am extremely proud of this wine and regularly thank my mate for his unsolicited advice. Unfortunately there is no 2020 version due to the fires we had in the Adelaide Hills.
95+ - 96 Points – Stuart McCloskey “Blue and black fruits in abundance, gift-wrapped in a velvety robe of sweet spice (black liquorice too). Like the Shiraz, this is another charmer and will please all those seeking textural richness, generosity and fun. On a serious vinous note, this maybe quaffable, but the wine has a serious edge. The lasting fruit flavours impress, there’s ample texture and acidity that is always an important component to a good Barbera (but not too much). Harmonious in a word… Decant for an hour. Served using Bordeaux Zalto glassware”
96 Points – Magdalena Sienkiewicz “A vibrant medley of red and blue fruits dominates the perfume with a good dusting of sweet spices and vanilla. The palate is more plush than I was expecting and lacks the harsh acidity often associated with Barbera. The sweetness of its ripe fruit is quite delectable and the texture bright and super smooth. This is dangerously easy-drinking and perhaps the perfect wine to have alongside easy, fuss-free suppers like pizza or sausages and mash. Perfectly enjoyable in its youth. Sampled using Zalto Bordeaux glassware following one hour of decanting.”
£19.50 per bottle
Only 66 bottles available