Winemaking is a physical, dirty and arduous job, especially during harvests, a period which demands lengthy hours, most of which are spent outdoors baking under the scorching sun. Many have perceived to be a man’s job, but that’s hardly deterred winemaker Kate Goodman – Winemaker of the Year 2018 by the Australian Women in Wine Awards, beating out the ever-popular Penfolds – who is a veteran in the business.
We sat with the amiable winemaker to take in the 401 on winemaking, find out more about her eponymous wine label, Goodman Wines in Yarra Valley (90km east of Melbourne), and learn how she keeps her head high in the male-dominated industry.
What made you decide to pursue winemaking?
I was studying microbiology at university but soon realised the confines of a laboratory were not for me. There loads of work around fermentation technology (before it was fashionable) that led me to discover the wine industry. It sounded fantastic, and my instincts were correct. It was the perfect balance of science, creativity and a connection to nature.
And that opportunity to create something new every year? Irresistible.
Where did you learn winemaking?
I enrolled at Charles Sturt University by distance education but also supplemented my degree by working as a cellar hand. It’s such a practical field that on the job training was essential. There are only so many things you can learn from a classroom. I got a real crash course on time management and organisation, and it has served me well through my working life, particularly during the chaos that is harvest season.
What do you think you can do as a woman making a name for herself in such a male-dominated industry?
Winemaking is not influenced by gender and rather by the personality of the winemaker and the terroir. What makes a good wine is having an open and enquiring mind. I personally believe women have different conversations about wine and are generally less competitive.
But it’s not an easy job. The pressure of harvest can also make juggling family life difficult.
But you know, this is not unique to the wine industry. What keeps me, and the rest of my female compatriots going, is the strong community of women making it easier for us to share, learn and acknowledge the challenges faced. At the end of day, we all want to make it easier for the next generation of female winemakers to forge ahead with a successful career.
Tips for women who want to follow in your footsteps.
This is an awesome job, but you’ve got to roll up your sleeves and be prepared to get down and dirty. Find yourself a mentor, ask questions, taste as much as you can and, most importantly, never stop learning. I look forward to the day where winemakers are just winemakers, not women winemakers.
On that note, tell us about your senior winemaker role at Penley Estate. [A role she has taken on since January 2016.]
It’s been a great project to push the boundaries of winemaking and what a region can make. One of the first trial wines we made was a spring release Cabernet franc. Fruit-driven, fragrant and delicious, it was so successful that it is moving into the core range this year.
And your own wines?
The 2017 Goodman Chardonnay, to start, is a perfect example of the region’s Chardonnay varietal. Driven by a framework of juicy acidity, white peaches, fig nougat and just a touch of French Oak, you’ll find this an ideal accompaniment to Hainanese chicken rice. Or, if you’re feeling adventurous, chilli crab. [Since you asked…] I have travelled to Singapore a couple of times as well as having old family friends from Singapore who have shared many dishes with me. I am also interested in food, and of course Australia is home to many diverse dining options.
The 2017 Goodman Pinot Noirs are made from handpicked grapes in small-batch open fermenters. This silky, perfumed pour comes with finely structured tannins with a hint of succulent acidity, berries and cherries. A complex earthiness rounds it off. I suggest a pairing with chicken briyani or Peking duck.
You can find Goodman Wines and Penley Estate in Singapore on vinomofo.com