Meet the maker… Mike Farmilo

Meet the maker… Mike Farmilo, McLaren Vale SA.

Mike Farmilo is the un-sung hero behind both Monterra Wines and Colab & Bloom, the funky McLaren Vale brand he and his business partner, Norm Doole established in 2015. Indeed, Mike Farmilo has flown under the vinous radar for four decades despite an extensive career that began at Angove after he graduated from Roseworthy College in 1977. A stint at Seaview saw Farmilo fall in love with McLaren Vale, an affair that’s remained ever since. Farmilo was recruited from Seaview into the challenging role of Group Red Winemaker with the industry giant, Southcorp — now part of Treasury Wine Estates.

It was at Southcorp that Mike’s talents came to full fruition with the responsibility for the benchmark red wines of Penfolds, Lindemans, Seppelt and Wynns. Farmilo was deeply involved with crafting Penfolds’ iconic Grange and instrumental in winning two Jimmy Watson trophies, the highly prized Melbourne Wine Show’s ‘Top Young Red’ trophy. To cap off his Southcorp career, Farmilo was crowned McLaren Vale Bushing King in 1994 as maker of the Championship Wine of the Show. Retiring from Southcorp in 1997 wasn’t for Farmilo, so he turned his focus to numerous projects that have kept him busy over the last 20 years including vintages in Germany, California, France and Chile. Mike has judged at dozens of Wine Shows across the country, including chairing the Australian Small Winemakers Show in Stanthorpe.

While the Monterra portfolio includes traditional French shiraz, cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay and pinot noir, it’s Italianate grapes that are catching Farmilo’s attention with pinot grigio and nero d’Avola adding spice to his winemaking endeavours. Under the Colab & Bloom banner Farmilo pushes well beyond the boundaries of corporate winemaking with tempranillo and garnacha (aka grenache) shining. Farmilo is back in the zone and loving it — enjoying the fruits of his labour.

Check out our Mark Farmilo wine picks: 

Monterra Reserve Black Label Shiraz  

Colab and Bloom Grenache

Willunga 100 Tempranillo

Isn’t Shiraz.. just Shiraz??

SHIRAZ IS AUSTRALIA’S MOST IMPORTANT GRAPE VARIETY – AND HAS BEEN FOR OVER 180 YEARS.

The key to its success is mainly shiraz’s versatility and willingness to reside in a wide variety of climates, from cool sites like the Great Southern, Grampian and Canberra districts to the temperate climes of the Clare Valley, Heathcote and Mudgee. Shiraz also thrives in our warmest regions like the Hunter & Barossa Valleys and McLaren Vale. Tasmania is the only state without any significant plantings of shiraz.  That said, the much lauded Jimmy Watson Memorial Trophy of 2011 went to the 2010 Glaetzer Dixon Mon Pere Syrah – much to the embarrassment of the Barossa boys that year.

But not only is shiraz viticulturally versatile, but it clearly reflects the dirt in which it’s grown, with an incredible range of flavours and styles — from the rich earthy flavours of Hunter shiraz to the litheframed, pepper-and-spice styles of the Frankland River area.

The traditional home of shiraz is the northern Rhône — its epicentre the famous hill of Hermitage where James Busby collected his seminal vine cuttings in December 1831. Busby’s plantings at Kirkton Park in the Upper Hunter spawned the remarkable legacy that has seen shiraz/syrah planted across the nation. The shiraz/syrah confusion has now been settled with DNA evidence proving they are the same grape variety. The research dates syrah back a millennia with its birthplace near Lyon. The myth that shiraz/syrah came from the Persian (now Iranian) city of Shiraz has now been laid to rest.

Nowadays shiraz generally flies solo in Australia, however historically it was often paired with cabernet sauvignon. The premise given was that shiraz gave rich, juicy flavours while the cabernet sauvignon gave structure, power and length. The introduction of merlot to Australia in the 1980’s saw cabernet sauvignon merlot replace the traditional ‘cab shiraz’ blends, although Penfold’s Bin 389 and Yalumba ‘The Signature’ still carry the flag.

Shiraz is also grown in the southern Rhône, and is one of the thirteen acknowledged varieties of the Cote du Rhône (and more celebrated, Châteauneuf du Pape) appellation(s). However, grenache is king in the warmer sites of the southern Rhône. Australian wine makers follow a similar path with their GSM blends (grenache, shiraz, mourvèdre), sometimes swapping the dominant grape to make a SGM or even MSG. Whatever the blend these lush, plush reds make perfect partners to pies, pizza, pasta or anything off the barbecue.

Shiraz takes on a sophisticated guise when a splash of viognier is added – a la Cote Rotie, one of the revered appellations of the northern Rhône. The local icon is Clonakilla, with Tim Kirk creating a whole new genre of shiraz with his slinky, subtle, spicy-laden take on the variety. Just 5-10% viognier is all that’s necessary — the results are astonishing.

Shiraz will remain at the top, not because we all love dense, warm blooded, high octane styles but because of its adaptability to different climates, different soils and most importantly to different winemaking philosophies. Viva la difference — be it shiraz or syrah.