Ultimate Winery Experiences Australia

Meet the Winemakers: Drew Tuckwell, Printhie Wines

Drew Tuckwell is living the dream. Printhie winemaker since 2008, Drew has played a big part in Printhie Wines' evolution, with a new Cellar Door and restaurant set to open at the end of the year. Find out how Drew went from designing winery ads to creating the real thing, and why choosing a favourite variety is like asking him to choose his favourite child. 

Where did your passion for winemaking originate?

In a previous life I was a graphic designer and spent a fair bit of time working with PR and marketing agencies which had some wine clients. In the end I found wine magazines more interesting than graphic design magazines and had a mid-life career crisis at 25 years old, left my city job and went to the Hunter Valley to do vintage at Brokenwood in 1993. As they say, the rest is history – I was hooked.

What do you love about working at Printhie?

Printhie has always had the philosophy of cherry-picking the region for the best variety, grown in the best site, by the best grower. We don’t grow everything in one place. No Cabernet next to Pinot next to Sauvignon Blanc. With the elevation variation in the Orange region I feel this is a really crucial asset to getting the best out of each variety and each site. Additionally, I have always had the freedom to steer the style direction and make the best wine that I can from each vineyard and each vintage delivers to my door.

How does the regional climate factor in to your winemaking technique? 

Elevation is a game changer. What we lack in southerly latitude we make up for in elevation above sea level. So the climate, the meso-climate, of a vineyard will change across the elevations. Higher vineyards are cooler and wetter than lower vineyards. You can’t ripen cabernet where we grow our sparkling base. On a broader scale, you have to be sensitive to the character of the fruit your vineyard delivers. We cannot grow shiraz with the fruit profile of the Barossa, but then the Barossa can’t grow shiraz with our fruit profile. You embrace the regional characteristic and make the most of it. For example, oak handling has to be very sensitive as we don’t have the fruit profile to make thumping big reds, but we make fragrant, elegant, complex, freshly fruited wines.

Do you have a favourite variety?

Are you asking me if I have a favourite child? I have a great love and passion for making sparkling wine. So I could easily say Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, but I really love Pinot Meunier. It is often the poor relation in the sparkling wine trio but I love its character and individuality. But then Chardonnay… I also really love making into table wine. It allows for very individualistic winemaker expression while still respecting the vineyard. And watch this space for table wine Pinot Noir as we are embarking on a whole new phase of Pinot Noir at Printhie and it could easily rocket to favoured child status in a couple of years!

What’s on the horizon for Printhie in the year ahead?

What’s not happening in the next 12 months? We are emerging out of Covid, Printhie will have a new cellar door and restaurant, we have new premium single vineyard wines to release, the disgorgements of Swift Sparkling wines continues to roll through, and there is another vintage around the corner. There is the eternal quest for improvement, refinement, educating and giving experience for the next generation. The great thing about wine is that every year is different!