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Five things you didn't know about Ben Portet

Publish Date: 08 Jun 2017

Authored by: Casey Warrener

Get to know the winemaker at Yarra Valley winery Dominique Portet, famed for classic reds and dry-style rosé.

He comes from a long line of esteemed winemakers

“I’m a 10th-generation winemaker. My father, Dominique Portet, was the winemaker for Taltarni. Bernard Portet, my uncle, started a winery called Clos du Val in the Napa Valley in the 1970s. My grandfather was at Chateau Lafite in Bordeaux and my cousins are one of the larger distillers in Cognac for Hennessy. There are just all these connections with my family and wine.”

He’s well travelled

"I’ve been fortunate to work all over the world, which for me wasn’t necessarily about learning to make wine differently, but more about the cultural perspective. I was 18 when I first went to work in the vineyards and wineries of France. I spent some time in Champagne working with Jean-Baptiste Lecaillon, the head winemaker at Louis Roederer, and in Bordeaux with Philippe Blanc, the winemaker at Chateau Beychevelle. I worked with a couple of guys in California and learnt a lot there too."

Cabernet sauvignon is close to his heart

“It’s a bit old hat, I know, but I’ve grown up with it. People grow up in Burgundy and they drink Burgundy their whole life. I’ve grown up with cabernet sauvignon. That’s what we’ve always had at home and that’s what we get pleasure out of, so it’s part of my make up. It does so well in the Yarra Valley. It was icons like Mount Mary and Yarra Yering that inspired our move to the region – that’s why we’re here, because of the quality of the wines that those guys produced and the ageing ability that they had.”

The Portet family were pioneers of the current style of rosé

“We’ve been making rosé in the same dry style since 1993. We were 20 years ahead of the curve with that wine and back then that was a problem. But dad has always been good at sticking to what he knows and now it’s caught on and is very fashionable.”

Dominique Portet has French foundations and an Australian heart

“Our philosophy is about balancing Australian innovation and winemaking style with that French sensibility. Our French heritage is something we’re proud of and having those classic foundations is important to us, but we’re first and foremost Australian winemakers who draw on the local soils.”

This is an edited version of what originally appeared as 'A French sensibility' in Issue #34 of Halliday Wine Companion magazine. Get your copy to read the full profile. 

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