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A thirst that even a good Riesling can't quench

It's ironic that the impact of wine can be compared to a grapevine with the tendrils of my obsession finding their way into almost every part of my life. Wine may not define me, but through the rich experiences it has already afforded me and future opportunities it's not too far off.

I'm not a 30 year industry veteran, I wasn't born into a wine family, I’m not a sommelier, but I have been on my own journey over the last decade that has been fuelled by curiosity, enthusiasm, and a little bit of hard work. This story is not about climbing mountains or overcoming adversity, its one about the evolution of an obsession and the joy that it can provide.

As an eager 18 year old I began what I thought was just a part time job whilst at University, it was at Joseph's restaurant in the historic Werribee Park. It soon became clear that the hospitality caper was serious business, with the restaurant at the time striving to reclaim the hat that was lost the previous year. There was your typically driven chef, professional restaurant manager and the not so typical sommelier; it was the latter that had a marked impression.

I didn't know a Shiraz from a Chardonnay before I started and through steady tutelage and the opportunity to try wines from what was an excellent wine list my knowledge grew. The defining moment for me was waiting on a private business function when copious amounts of 1996 Barossa Valley Estate E&E Black Pepper and 2001 Moss Wood Cabernet were being poured. I was invited by the host to have a glass of the 1996 E&E which become my early reference point for how good wine could be.

I spent many a tasting at Shadowfax wines that adjoined the property, developing a love of Matt Harrop's finely crafted Chardonnays and single vineyard Shiraz from Heathcote. I had the opportunity to go to a myriad of trade events and barrel tastings with some of Mornington's most celebrated producers such as Paringa Estate and Stonier. My time at Joseph's came and went so it was up to me to find more opportunities.

It was only logical I would look to source wine for my own collection; it was 2005, prior to the complete proliferation of online wine buying. I was amazed when I realised there were Melbourne based auction brokers that dealt only in fine wine. This meant two things, access to quality-aged wine, and a business opportunity. The opportunity came by the way of making a tertiary market to sell wine through eBay. 

I may have been one of the only 20 year old's to apply for a liquor license. The police came to my house to do a character check, asking the question  'am I allowed to do this?' After explaining what I was planning to do they seemed confused but accepting. The more entertaining part was my parent’s comment of expecting the police to come to our door for my brother and not me. I happily sold wine for a number of years, which enabled me to access some great wines when most of my friends were still on bourbon and coke!

I thought that through my growing experience I knew a thing or two about wine, I could provide recommendations to friends on wines to try, but I couldn't express stylistically the difference between an austere Chablis and an early 2000's Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay that was brimming with buttery goodness. I looked up to wine writers such as James Halliday and Jeremy Oliver and thought I would give it a go. That was close to 1800 reviews ago. The reviewing of wine opened up great opportunities to spend time talking to Australian winemakers about their wines and allowed me to build a growing network of passionate and supportive producers.

I couldn't help but assert that to understand a wine, I needed to have an appreciation of how to make it. The first vintage looked like something out of a typical Italian backyard in March with Demijohns all over the place and very archaic equipment. I had read a book and found somewhere to buy grapes, fast forward 5 years and the annual production is closer to 2500 bottles and I have some idea based on practice and the ever-present support of other makers and growers.

No great wine journey is complete without a trip to France, my now wife described me as an excited kid at Christmas walking the white picket fenced streets of Epernay, or standing mesmerised at the iconic cross at Romanee Conti. Even taking in what were only a few days was enough to give me more perspective and open my eyes more widely on the vinous world outside of Australia; it also has an ongoing impact to my hip pocket as only Burgundy can. 

I often meet people with just as much passion for wine as me, and it is was for them that I committed my brief story to paper. There is nothing worse than being stuck in a skin where you can't express yourself beyond your day-to-day commitments. I have been fortunate to find ways to grow and enjoy the world of wine alongside everything else, with the ability to shrink and grow my involvement based on opportunities and timing. It has taken effort and drive, but there is nothing unique about me, so go for it.

I hope my journey has more twists and turns, with the people, places and flavours already transcending the physical form of what in the end is just a drink.