In the winemaker’s words…

Wine / Wednesday, July 20th, 2022

As promised (in the lead-up to Rob’s big birthday), let’s ask him a few more questions about his long and successful career in winemaking…


Has a Somerled wine ever come out completely different to what you had planned?

Not really, except if you think about the very first Fume Blanc (from 2009). I barrel fermented and put four barrels through malolactic fermentation with the intention of blending it back into the Sauvignon Blanc. The idea was to give the Sauvignon Blanc more character and richness.

The ones in barrel, though turned out so fantastically that I had no other option than to bottle them. I can still remember the aromas when I opened those barrels!

Other, than that, I can’t really think of anything else that turned out wildly different from what I planned. It’s really important to have a pretty clear endpoint in mind when you start making wine.

So, the fact that Rob only has one example is a testament to his skill as a winemaker – being able to create the wine he had in his mind time and time again.


How much did you know about wine before you got a job at Penfolds?

Obsoletely nothing! I liked the image of the industry. And with Heather’s father being a very keen wine man it just seemed like a very stimulating thing to do.

I wasn’t even much of a wine drinker as Mum and Dad weren’t keen on wine. We’d perhaps have a celebratory Sparkling Burgundy every now and then.

It’s fair to say that Heather had a lot to do with Rob’s interest in wine. Thank goodness for Rob and Heather meeting, I say!


Which wine that you have made should have received a lot more attention than it did (Somerled or otherwise)?

The Reserve Chardonnay is a wine that I thought people would sit up and take notice of more than they have. I think it has a lovely complexity and richness. I think people were already a fan of the regular Chardonnay – if that wasn’t on the list then it may have made more impact.

It really is amazing. Why not grab yourself a bottle of our 2022 vintage today?!


If “The Advertiser” thinks your shiraz is as close to Grange as you can get, do you agree? How do you rate it? Do you think it’s even better?

It’s a bit embarrassing, isn’t it? I think it’s really nice that Tony (Love) said that. Grange is consistently the best wine of that style – and still my favourite (of that style). We don’t claim to be as good as, but what we can say is that the style is very similar. What I like to think is that the complexity of flavours is along the same lines as the Grange style.

Oh, come on Rob! We all know it’s better.


Which country has the best wine outside of Australia?

I’m not a very good judge of that. You need to be able to taste a lot more and a bigger range of wines than what I have tasted. But in terms of the wines I have tried, I have seen a lot more good Italian wines than other countries. But that could be just a fluke!

Having said that we saw some lovely Champagnes in Paris and some consistently good wines during our 3 weeks in Spain.


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How long are you going to keep making Somerled wines for?

I can’t see any deterioration in my ability to taste wines and really, apart from having reasonable mental capacity, that’s all you need (because I don’t have to push pumps and do all the physical labour). You still have the desire to want to make wines and that certainly hasn’t diminished. It’s a fantastic industry to be in from a production point of view – the people involved in making wines and growing grapes are all terrific.

I get a great deal of satisfaction from making wines. And I also enjoy being at the cellar door. It’s a nice place to be – especially when there is a buzz around.


I like all the wines in your range and I don’t usually do that with wine brands – why is that?! What is the special touch?

Three things…

  1. We’re very fortunate in having high-quality growers with high-quality fruit.
  2. The range of wines is limited – we’re not trying to make a large number of styles.
  3. I have such a lot of confidence in the guys doing the physical part of the winemaking and bottling process – they are highly skilled and good people.

That all goes hand in hand with making consistently good wines. Not just wine-makers wines but those with universal appeal with an emphasis on softness.

What does Rob mean by “wine-makers wines”? When it comes to reds Rob would probably prefer wines that are higher in acid and tannins than would be commonly accepted. However, he is always thinking about the people coming into the cellar door. What would THEY like to drink? Would this be a bit much for them?

Well, we love them all Rob. So, keep doing what you’re doing… for as long as you possibly can!


Club room update

Nope… you’re not getting anything more out of me!

All I’ll say is that it is almost complete. We’re putting the final touches on the room and some very strict conditions of entry (at this stage it looks like I won’t be allowed in!)!

We can’t wait to share what we’ve created for you. Stay tuned.

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