Ewen MacPherson, managing director, Symphony Hill Wines
Without over analysing it I just believed it would be a huge success ...
In 1996, the Granite Belt wine industry was still in its infancy and whilst Ewen Macpherson, at the time running a successful computer programming business, had reasoned that it would be ‘financially moronic’ to get involved, he decided to buy 40 acres of land and commence his studies to become a wine producer. Having grown up on acreage on the Sunshine Coast, Ewen, then 30 years old, dreamed of his children having the same experience. So after commencing a Bachelor of Applied Science in Viticulture, Ewen discovered he accidentally purchased one of the best vineyard sites on the Granite Belt, and furthered his investment with another 160 acres. Now with the rough and rugged beauty of the granite boulders and enormous grass trees as his backdrop, Ewen has realised his dream and specialises in premium wines made from cabernet sauvignon, shiraz, pinot noir, verdelho, chardonnay and viognier grapes proudly grown on the estate. The Weekend Edition caught up with Ewen this week to discover more about his take on the success of the Granite Belt wine region.
What inspired you as a young computer programmer to venture into the wine industry in Queensland?
I had grown up on acreage on the Sunshine Coast and absolutely loved that childhood experience. My first son was newly born and I had grown to find city life too crowded and restricting. I needed space around me and wanted my kids to experience country life. I also felt a great desire to go back to university and study something completely different to computer science. My computer programming business was very successful and had managed to form a joint venture with Pricewaterhouse Coopers, however I was still ready for my eventual rock change.
Can you give us a snapshot of the Queensland wine industry?
When I first started showing my wines to the top restaurants of Brisbane in 2004, the reputation of Queensland wine was very low and people had very low expectations. Thankfully, however, the wine quality we had produced at Symphony Hill Wines in its first vintage had won numerous awards, including top gold at the Royal Sydney Wine Show. This helped give us the street credibility needed for sommeliers to sit up and take notice of Queensland wines. Now all of the top restaurants in Brisbane have excellent Queensland wine on their lists and the serious professionals in the restaurant industry travel around Southeast Queensland to source not just top produce like zucchini flowers, but also to the Granite Belt to discover world-class wines produced in small quantities.
Symphony Hill Wines will be part of Southern Queensland Country comes to Eat Street Markets on April 17–18, what wines will be presented there?
We will be exhibiting our soft addictive 2014 pinot gris, which is served at ARIA and the Queensland Performing Arts Centre by the glass, as well as our big show-off wine – our 2014 gewürztraminer, which was awarded Australia’s best single-variety white wine trophy at the 2014 Royal Melbourne Wine Awards late last year! Our gewürztraminer is a dry white wine, which is the perfect match for any spicy food. It has jazz hands of Turkish delight and lychees that are incredible with musk and spice on the finish.
What is your favourite meal to serve and what wine do you pour with it?
When my wife is away I like to get a bottle of our wild ferment viognier and put one third of the bottle into the frying pan while I fry chicken breast with capers and garlic and spices and lemon juice. I drink one third of the bottle while cooking and then have the last third while enjoying the meal.
What innovation in the food and drink industry has caught your eye recently?
The alternative varieties of wine we now produce in Australia! Australia as a wine-drinking nation has progressed from drinking predominantly sweet wines up to about the 1950s, before enjoying wonderful dry reds and whites from common French and German varieties like shiraz, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, chardonnay and riesling. Australia has since impressed the world with how we make these varieties with certain wine regions like Barossa for shiraz and Clare Valley for riesling becoming iconic traditional regions for these varieties. Climate change is radically changing the grape growing climates of these traditional Australian regions to become less suitable for growing these varieties. However, the Granite Belt has never had a history of temperatures over 40 degrees as well as its variance of altitude between vineyards, making it a much better region for grape growing than some of the traditional hot wine regions of Australia. Wine enthusiasts are loving the new varietals we are producing like gewürztraminer, petit manseng and lagrein because they are world class and provide a totally new experience for the senses.