Scout gets some industry insights from the expert team at Fowles Wine.
While you’re unwinding over a bottle of wine with friends on a Friday night, chances are you haven’t put much thought into the story behind the bottle. Dedicated wine connoisseurs and wait staff are often more concerned with flavour profiles than the farm-to-table journey, and the day-to-day operations of a winery are a bit of a mystery to most of us.
With this in mind, Scout speaks to the team at Fowles Wine, a family-owned vineyard in Victoria’s Strathbogie Ranges making specific blends to pair with game meat, and focusing on sustainable farming and experimentation in the kitchen. With 360 acres of vines, free-range farms and a team comprising a former lawyer, engineer and graphic designer, the Fowles Wine crew is perfectly placed to unpack what it’s really like to work on a winery and the stories behind their wines.
Formerly an aeronautical engineer with the Benetton Formula One team, Victor Nash takes a measured and calculated approach to winemaking.
“We don’t just make generic reds or whites. They’re technically correct, clean wines that are progressive in style and all quite modern,” says Nash. “They’re wines that we’re constantly evolving to stay at the leading edge of winemaking in Australia and perhaps the world.”
Fowles houses all its facilities on-site; something Nash says is uncommon for wineries.
“We do everything completely in-house. We grow the grapes on our own vineyard, make the wine on-site and have our own bottling facility – which is definitely not the norm in the industry,” says Nash. “From a winemaking aspect, it’s 100 per cent quality controlled.”
Co-founding the brand 13 years ago, Matt Fowles knows the inner-workings of the business better than anyone. “I’d definitely say we’re a progressive winery – you can see that in our wine labels and our approach to winemaking,” says Fowles. “We’re very open and there are no egos, we always try to promote from within and give people career paths.”
Previous work as a lawyer helps Fowles take a less-conventional approach to winemaking, and he says it gives him a fresh outlook on the industry.
“I spend time outdoors and I’m not working until midnight every night, but the biggest difference is being rewarded for products and ideas – in law you’re being rewarded for time, and time is finite,” says Fowles. “There’s a level of creativity, artistry and craftsmanship that exists in wine that doesn’t exist in law.”
The Strathbogie Ranges sit about 90 minutes outside of Melbourne, making the winery both remote and easily commutable for employees based in the metropolitan area.
“You really get the best of both worlds,” says Fowles. “You can duck into Melbourne and go to the theatre or a sporting event, then next thing you know you’re back out here in the countryside.”
Leading the kitchen team and designing a menu to pair with wine has been Adele Aitken’s focus for 11 years at Fowles, and she’s still enjoying personal growth with the business.
“Being here, experiencing the site and what it offers is special – there’s always a new challenge being put in front of you.”
Aitken designs dishes using both game meat and more traditional ingredients. She says the freedom and creativity Fowles offers its chefs gives them room to spread their wings.
“It’s a chance [for chefs] to expand in their career. I look at what it’s done for me in 11 years and know that there’s certainly a great opportunity here,” says Aitken. “Seeing how the business has grown has been pretty incredible, too.”
In contrast to Aitken, Michael Coggan joined Fowles seven months ago in a role designed to drive growth for the brand.
“Fowles is a great story for a regional town and it’s very exciting to be a part of,” says Coggan. “A lot of times you hear about local businesses that are going backwards – this business is going forwards leaps and bounds, which is why I was attracted to the role.”
Coggan’s goal is to take Fowles’s sustainable winemaking philosophy global.
“It’s always a work in progress to explore the pairing we have with wine and game meat here. We’re really pushing hard to see if we can become a benchmark or a leader in that style of food and wine pairing.”
Allan Ille manages Asia-Pacific sales for Fowles and says his role with the brand has allowed him to form lasting client relationships.
“Working for a direct winery, you get to know the products better and work with people more closely,” says Ille. “It’s more intimate than other sales roles.”
Ille also travels both domestically and abroad to spread brand awareness for Fowles – an important part of building a successful wine company that consumers often don’t see.
“Even though it’s for business, it’s fantastic to see other cultures and experiences,” says Ille. “You meet great people and make connections with different wineries, both domestically and internationally, so those contacts are fantastic to have.”
As part of a rapid growth phase, the Fowles team has just opened a new restaurant and cellar door. Ille says being involved in the brand’s constant evolution has helped him feel at home.
“I’ve just loved my time here, you feel as though you’re a part of it all,” says Ille. “It’s been a great experience to grow as the business has grown.”
If you’re considering a shift in your hospitality career, looking to move into a more rewarding sales role or you’re after a tree change, Fowles Wine has some great opportunities available.
This article is sponsored by Fowles Wine.
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