The definitive guide to Australian Wines
Words Patrick Haddock
*Note: Gwyn Olsen has since moved on from McWilliam’s to Briar Ridge Vineyard, also in the Hunter Valley.
Picture this: it’s vintage in the Hunter Valley and the Mount Pleasant winery is ablaze with winemaking activity. Grapes arrive constantly, all night and all week. When the heat gets too much for winemaker Gwyn Olsen, she rigs up a primitive slip-and-slide using three tarps and a powerful hose. The whole vintage crew jumps in and yeehahs along the wet tarps.
Gwyn – along with Scott McWilliam – is the new face of this old and trusted family winery. It’s here she’s been charged with various projects of interest, including chardonnay and the hallowed pinot that Maurice O’Shea, the legendary founder of Mount Pleasant, used for his blends. You could easily rename Gwyn ‘Grin’ as her infectious energy is punctuated by a beaming smile. While having fun is clearly important, at the heart is a very serious winemaker hell-bent on making her mark.
The day before we meet, she tweets – the new 140-character press release – that the marketing department has given her the green light to develop new wines at Mount Pleasant. It shows a level of trust in her in a short period of time.
“It’s inspiring,” she says. “It’s a great opportunity to work with some of the greatest vineyards in the Hunter. Pinot noir [as well as chardonnay and shiraz] off one of the original blocks in Australia is both intimidating and inspiring. These vineyards are part of Australian wine history and I have the ability to try my hand at creating my own interpretation of wines off the same sites.”
New wines are afoot, including a field blend of different varieties (semillon, chardonnay and verdelho from the famed Lovedale vineyard, matured partially in both new and used oak), an extended skin-contact semillon, a whole-bunch shiraz and ‘funky’ verdelho. Crucially, new super-premium releases from the estate’s most prized, and oldest, shiraz vines are also planned. These are the most exciting developments at Mount Pleasant in years.
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