'Young guns' are the new trailblazers of Canberra’s wine industry

09 July 2018
Written By Brad Wtts

Innovative young guns Nick Spencer and Hamish Young are enthusiastically driving Canberra’s emerging wine sector forward by raising a glass to the future.

Continually pushing the oenology envelope, these talented winemaker wunderkinder are trailblazing a new path to help lead the wine region forward by embracing new varieties and techniques.

Nick Spencer – who started Nick Spencer Wines in 2016 – said 10 years ago there was only a handful of Canberra winemakers’ who “pioneered” the local industry.

“But now it’s very exciting as there are 30 to 40 local wine brands.

Local consumers and visitors are really looking to taste our wines, including at local restaurants and buying them from retailers,” Mr Spencer said. “This demand is customer driven – so there’s a perfect storm brewing.”

Hamish Young, from Mada Wines, a recent finalist in the 2018 Young Gun of Wine Awards, said it was vital to have an “influx” of young wine producers in the Canberra region.

“There has been an incredible influx of new and exciting producers in the past few years for such a small wine producing region,” Mr Young said. “I think this arrival of talent is hugely important.

“Every industry and profession gets extra energy and fuel from youth,” said Mr Young, who worked closely with Mr Spencer at Eden Road winery to perfect their premium, small-batch winemaking skills.

“I had the opportunity to work with Hamish at Eden Roan and it was fantastic – it was pretty amazing working together and being creative with the wines – we had free reign,” said Mr Spencer, who remembers the thrill of winning a coveted Jimmy Watson trophy in 2009 for an Eden Road Long Road Hilltops Shiraz, beating over 890 entries.

His major focus is producing “great and memorable wines” and experimenting with new, less mainstream varieties. Among his flagship wines are lesser-known varieties including Sangiovese and a mind-blowing red blend featuring Touriga and Tempranillo.

“My Gundagai red blend is a modern day take on the old 1970’s claret – it’s all about capturing the wine region in a bottle,” he said.

Mr Young – who has produced a number of unique wines including a Sagrantino with an eye-catching label – shares a similar innovative philosophy: “I want to produce truly great, thought-provoking wines.

“I want to portray to people that I’m having fun and enjoying working with incredible [local] growers to produce generous wines.

“I’m content in building on what I have started, especially as the response to my wines has been overwhelming. I have quite intentionally created a wine brand that gives me a lot of freedom to explore and change.”

However Mr Young said because wine is “so personal”, there was bound to be “plenty of people that aren’t into my style.”

Mr Spencer agreed, but said the biggest challenge is “getting these new wines into people’s mouths to try”.

To address this issue, Mr Spencer is looking to establish a virtual cellar door by engaging with regular customers online and sending them sample packs with a video link explaining his wines.

“This will create a whole new cellar door experience and engage digitally-savvy people,” he said.

While the future is bright for this new breed of winemakers, Mr Young also paid tribute to time-honoured winemakers of the Canberra region.

“Ten years ago, these well-known producers all stood where we now stand and they still make incredible wines,” Mr Young said.

“So it gives me great confidence that they are continuing to make significant investments in our region’s future.”

This article was written by Brad Watts and published in The Canberra Times.