Was there a particular wine or moment that reeled you into a love for wine?
For me, it was the first winery I visited on my honeymoon in Italy. It was an Antinori vineyard in Chianti Classico, and I was blown away by how beautiful it was. From the barrel room to the tasting table, I was hooked.
Can you tell us how DML Vin came about with Franco d’Anna of Hoddles Creek Estate and Sam Middleton of Mount Mary?
On return to Australia from our honeymoon, I wanted to learn more. I subscribed to the Halliday magazine and read a comment James had written about the 1er Pinot Noir from Hoddles Creek, saying that if you can find it, buy as much as you can. I couldn’t find any, so I got in contact with Franco via Twitter and our friendship was born.
Do you see wine differently now you’ve been involved in its production?
How complex winemaking is. At each stage, so many questions pop up, like when to pick and press and what barrels to use. Depending on what you choose, it will affect the final wine. Hopefully, with the help of Franco and Sam, we had a couple of wise heads to choose the best outcome!
What’s your favourite part of the winemaking process?
Barrel tasting and seeing how the wine can change from week to week, or how the same wine tastes from a new barrel compared to an aged one.
Are there unexpected similarities between winemaking and footy?
I see a lot of parallels between the two. The winemaking process is a lot like an AFL pre-season, where most of what we do is done away from prying eyes. Then once the wine is released, or when the AFL season comes around, the critics have their say.
What’s your all-time favourite wine and food experience?
I was recently in King Island and had fresh local crayfish paired with a bottle of Jacques Selosse Initial Blanc de Blancs. That was pretty special!
What are your favourite wine regions?
At home, I stick to the Yarra Valley, Mornington Peninsula, Macedon Ranges, Tasmania and Hunter Valley. Overseas, I like Oregon, Chablis, Burgundy and the lighter styles from Chateauneuf-du-Pape.
How do you keep your wines?
Some are at home, and I've also just started storing others at Pentridge Cellars – the converted D block of the old jail.
How would you describe your wine collection?
It’s very Australian dominant. I’m starting to buy more pinot from Oregon as I’ve found a few producers that don’t come to Australia, but make delicious wines. I’ve also started to buy some Burgundy. A lot of it is out of my price range, so you have to read and find the producers that have good holdings, but not the exorbitant price tags.
Have you had any cellaring disasters?
Not yet, thankfully. My biggest fear is that my wife Lucy will grab one of my prized possessions – like a bottle of Raveneau – to casually open with her girlfriends while I’m playing interstate!
Which wine regions are on your bucket list to visit one day?
For me, it’s Burgundy and Champagne.
What drinks or wine styles are you loving right now?
Grower Champagnes like Selosse, F&R Miniere and Eric Rodez, and also Chablis. Apart from the likes of Raveneau, Chablis still seems underpriced, but no doubt that will change.
Is there a particular wine or style that you crack for the big wins?
You can’t go past Champagne, closely followed by pinot.
Do you have any special wine traditions?
Not really, but I do love it when wines are served blind. Not only is it great to see experts get it wrong, but it’s also great fun.
What’s the oldest wine you’ve tried?
It was a 1969 Best’s Great Western Pinot Meunier. It was still holding on, too!
What’s your best-ever bargain wine?
Hoddles Creek Estate, made by my good mates the d’Anna boys.
Your all-time favourite food and wine match?
Grower Champagne with oysters – there’s not much more you could want in a combo. Except perhaps for corn chips and pinot!
Do you have any guilty pleasures when it comes to wine or drinks?
Well, sometimes I might choose a few cans of Peroni Red over a couple of glasses of Champagne.
Is there a wine that isn’t great, but you love anyway?
After being involved in the winemaking process, I know how hard it is to make great wine. You can do everything right and even then you’re not guaranteed of success. So even if I try a wine that I don’t like or is not to my taste, I’ll still drink it and appreciate the effort it took to get that wine into the bottle and on the table in front of us.
Are there any wines you never used to like, but now love?
Plenty. When I first started drinking wine, I preferred the bigger styles like Barossa shiraz and didn’t fully understand the nuances of wines like pinot noir. Today, it’s the opposite. It’s the perfume, complexity and structure of pinot that I really love. While I still like drinking bigger styles, they’re not what I gravitate to on a regular basis. And if I do want to drink those styles, I save that for my mate Roughy [former Hawthorn teammate Jarryd Roughead], whose palate is still stuck in the dark ages!
Has there been a wine that’s taught you a lesson?
Any wine that makes you think teaches you a lesson. Wine is one big journey of learning and it’s by drinking bottles that challenge you that you learn the most. Probably my biggest recent lesson was a bottle of CNP Rayas at [Melbourne restaurant] France Soir. Who would have thought grenache could reach the quality levels that Rayas achieves? It taught me not to write off a grape variety.
What food and drinks would you serve for your ultimate meal?
Oysters and Selosse, scallops in saffron sauce with Raveneau, and wagyu steak with any bottle of Domaine de la Romanee-Conti.
You’ve just announced your retirement from AFL. Do you have any special bottles set aside for your final game?
None in particular. My cellar is still quite young. I’ve been collecting ’15s and ’17s for my children, and I’ve put them away, so they’re not to be touched for a long time. I’m lucky to have some old Mount Mary. It might be time to enjoy some of those.
The inaugural release from DML Vin is the 2018 Mornington Peninsula Pinot Noir ($60). Visit dmlvin.com.au for more information.