90 seconds with Winemaker Will Gilbert

Will Gilbert is the sixth generation in a family of winemakers, the Gilberts originate from the Eden Valley and his great great great grandfather Joseph Gilbert planted the original Eden Valley vineyard in Pewsey Vale back in 1847. After completing his Oenology degree at university Will spent the next three years chasing an endless harvest, doubling up vintages between Australia, Niagara & Okanagan in Canada sharpening his winemaking skills and broadening his knowledge before heading home in 2014. It wasn’t long before Will set off again, but this time it was to work alongside Burgundy’s golden boy Benjamin Leroux.

What has surprised you about being a winemaker? Although I grew up surrounded by it, I didn’t realise the collaborative nature of the industry. Everyone in the region and other regions I've worked overseas with have been so supportive, encouraging and are always there for advice and guidance…..with a lot of banter and beer in hand though!

Who do you most admire in the world of Australian wine, and why? Cant single them out, however: Timo Mayer, Mac Forbes, and Michael Dillon…. their wines are varietally very very true and a strong reflection of where they are grown, the farming practices and overall approach to the whole minimal process from budburst to bottling. Always striving to make the best wines possible whilst pushing the boundaries and seeing what they can do next! A huge fan of their wines!

Recently you introduced concrete eggs into the winery, what piqued your curiosity?

The curiosity came from us tasting some great chardonnays throughout Australia and we were impressed with the weight, structure, and texture of these wines. The underlying trait was that a component of each of them was fermented and matured in concrete. So we thought we would jump on in and get one! It has taken a few years to understand what does and doesn’t work in regards to the level of solids as juice and how best to manage the maturation of the wine.

We first purchased a Concrete Egg for the 2012 vintage and then again after being so happy with the results for the 2017 vintage. These vessels are unreal!! They allow the micro-oxidation whilst giving great freshness, texture, an amazing line, and length with a chalky minerality. There is also a unique reduction that always pops up on the bench come blending time. I have generally fermented and matured components of our Chardonnay from a high elevation vineyard in Orange in there, however, I am soon going be ordering a ceramic egg to add to the line up for a component of our 2019 Riesling….pretty excited about playing around with ceramic as well!

Stockinger, Austria’s cult cooperage. Your Chardonnay spends time in these barrels, how do they influence the wine?

Being a long, deep, light toast with very tight grain the barrel doesn’t overpower the wine at all. It lets the wine itself do the talking with very subtle wood influence. I have just been playing around with the barriques at the moment with some Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, however, a foudre would be fantastic! A New Riesling Pet Nat is about to arrive, how’s it looking? Still ticking the last of it’s sugar out! Very happy with it….got great natural acidity, but, being Pet Nat who knows how it will turn out! What goals in winemaking are you still working to achieve? A vineyard! One day the dream is to primarily be an estate based winery practicing sustainable farming with the varieties that make up our Gilbert range at the moment and a few other interesting varieties. Any special wines we should watch for from you this year?

We will be releasing our 2016 small batch Chardonnay later on this year after some blended tank maturation and bottle age. It is made in a fresher more austere style of Chardonnay from a 1000m vineyard in Orange. 70% fermented and matured in the Concrete Egg and the remainder in old Oak. Wild Yeast. Reasonable solids as juice. Minimal stirring through ferment, no stirring through maturation. No Malo. A style we are continuing and will push further and further.

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