Meet the Winemaker: Dwayne Cunningham
Meet Dwayne. You’ll be getting to see lots of Dwayne; at the winery, at events, at our cellar door and of course, on our socials. Dwayne moved from Coonawarra to Victoria in 2020 and not only adapted seamlessly, but adapted seamlessly during 2020. He’s a mad keen Brisbane Lions supporter, attending plenty of games in the Sunshine State and puts on a mean staff BBQ when the winery has some down time. He’s loving getting down to the beach during his spare time and loves the people he’s been able to meet. If you see Dwayne around, say hi, tell him your story and convince him to have a wine with you.
To give you some insights into Dwayne, we asked him a few questions about his life as a winemaker to date. Here goes.
Please tell us about your career so far, including your education, work experience etc.
I grew up in Coonawarra and began working in vineyards and wineries as a teenager. I loved the region and consequently became a huge fan of Cabernet, the complexities and technical aspects involved in growing grapes and making wine. My career began in working at Wynns in the Coonawarra as a 17-year-old before moving to Adelaide to complete a Bachelor of Oenology/Viticulture at the University of Adelaide. I worked in the Adelaide Hills, Barossa Valley, Langhorne Creek, Rheinhessen in Germany and Marlborough in New Zealand. After a stint working and travelling, Most recently, I was a winemaker at Paxton Wines in McLaren Vale and made organic, biodynamic wine before moving on to my next challenge; predominantly making pinot and chardonnay in the Moorabool Valley for Austin’s Wines.
What do you love most about being a winemaker?
I love seeing the evolution in the vineyard over the growing season, working with Craig (our Vineyard Manager) and his team, striving to produce the highest quality wine possible. Blending is always fun, seeing the influences of winemaking direction, oak impact and terroir. The Moorabool Valley has such a unique terroir with its tough limestone and basalt base, and so far the fruit quality has been superb so I can’t wait to see what we can do in the winery to enhance that.
What is your favourite wine, and what food do you typically pair it with?
I love a GSM blend (for those at home – GSM stands for Grenache, Shiraz/Syrah and Mataro); the balance of weight from the shiraz and tannin from the Mataro really compliments the pretty fruit-forward style of the grenache. For me, herb-crusted lamb French cutlets with a delicious GSM is a great pairing for a mid-week dinner. You can’t go wrong!
Is there a specific process you follow when developing a new wine?
When developing a new wine, I firstly try to understand what you can expect from the vineyard and work your way forward. I am always trying to create wines that are representative of the vineyard. For example, if I love the brightness of a certain block and the tannin structure and weight of another block stands out, blending both together creates an intriguing style that includes aspects of both.
How does the local climate/soil affect the wine you make?
In the Moorabool Valley we have a very cool, yet dry climate for growing grapes. We always want the vines to be in a healthy growing condition with soil moisture, however it is quite easy to deliberately put stress on vines at times when you want to. Together with our Vineyard Manager, Craig Blake managing irrigation and canopy growth allows us to ensure the vines are in balance and the fruit produced will be concentrated with flavour, retain acidity and tannin, resulting in a style we are striving for.
Which of your own varieties do you typically indulge in?
The Austin’s Pinot Noir is a perfect weekday wine for me. It is so versatile, as its supple tannin profile, combined with bright raspberry and strawberry flavours, make it such an easy drinking wine that you can open at any time. When friends or family are over my typical go-to is starting with an Austin’s Riesling with a cheese board and salami, before moving to an Austin’s Shiraz once we have finished grilling.
What wine are you most excited about from the 2021 vintage?
I’m tipping the Austin’s Chardonnay is going to be a winner. The Moorabool Valley has the perfect growing conditions for making beautiful, unique Chardonnay and the fruit in 2021 was exceptional. Amazingly bright, with the depth of flavours looking incredible. Some spiced pear and homely warmth showing already. Cannot wait to see how it develops over time.