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The Master Winemaker 100: Adam Eggins, chief winemaker, Wakefield Wines

The drinks business recently published a guide celebrating the talent of the winemakers who have scooped the highest accolade of our  Global Masters tasting series, which is judged almost exclusively by MWs. Each week we profile the winemakers behind these medal winning wines – the creatives, scientists, mavericks and dreamers who are at the pinnacle of winemaking.

Adam Eggins, chief winemaker, Wakefield Wines

Growing up in Oberon close to the Hunter Valley, Adam Eggins’s graduated top of his class from Roseworthy in South Australia before gaining vintage experience at Seppelts Great Western in Victoria and Eaglehawk in the Clare. He joined Heemskerk/ Louis Roederer in Pipers Brook, Tasmania, gaining sparkling experience doing vintage for Roederer Estate in California. His roles included assistant winemaker, then winemaker of Yellowglen Wines in Ballarat Victoria and group sparkling winemaker at Mildara Blass in the Barossa, as well as four years as winemaker and manager at Rothbury Estate in the Hunter Valley. In 1999 he was approached by Wakefield Wines to become senior winemaker in South Australia’s Clare Valley and after a tough first vintage due to drought, he started producing exceptional, award-winning wines. He has twice won the trophy for the World’s Best Cabernet, and his Wakefield Jaraman Shiraz 2014 took the title for the World’s Most Awarded Wine from the World Association of Wine Writers and Journalists World Ranking of Wines & Spirits in 2017.

What or who inspired you to become a winemaker?
My father, who had a love of wine, so we were exposed to it as an everyday part of meal time and the table from an early age. Andrew Pirie must get a mention too. One of the early pioneers in the pursuit of cool climate perfection in Australian winemaking.

What’s your favourite part of the job?
The ‘Optimus Prime’ factor. The transformation of everyone’s belief, hard work, knowledge, team work, seasonal variation and vision to make truly memorable, great wines.

What’s the hardest part?
Mother Nature. Sometimes heat, sometimes rain, sometimes frost, sometimes hail, sometimes disease. Setting the agenda for the future of weather – the season that is yet to come.

What’s your go-to drink at the end of a long day?
Depends on the day. Summer – Chardonnay, very good Chardonnay, or Provence Rosé. Winter – good Pinot Noir or Shiraz.

If you could give your younger self advice when starting out as a winemaker, what would it be?
Travel more and taste as widely as you can. Find the global benchmarks, then go taste them at their cellar door to get a feel for the region.

What was your greatest winemaking mistake?
There haven’t been any major disasters but there was an attempt with Viognier which didn’t result quite as planned – I find Viognier can be ever so powerful, so it’s difficult to find its grace with our heat potentials and soils. It can be beautiful, but I prefer it from regions like the Yarra Valley or Hunter Valley, and I am a huge fan of Condrieu.

What wine-related achievement are you most proud of?
Winning the ‘Best Cabernet’ trophy three times. Two from the IWSC and once at the Concours International des Cabernet in France.

Who is your inspiration in the wine world today?
I’m a sucker for the classics, so I study various producers regularly through their wines. Frank Sinatra and Bono from U2 is the music I relax with when I study Vasse Felix Chardonnay, anything from Henschke, Howard Park and Tyrrells. Am also excited by what’s happening locally, particularly the Rieslingfreak guy (John Hughes). I have a soft spot for French Cabernet and Merlot. A French friend insists the greatest
wines of France are in Saint-Emilion and the Loire Valley, so I must visit them both next.

Where would your fantasy vineyard be?
A long vineyard in the Adelaide Hills running from Eden Valley to the hills of McLaren Vale would do it. Or somewhere in Oregon, but more for the good trout fishing.

If you weren’t a winemaker, what would you be doing and why?
I would be in aquaculture for many reasons. Assisting to create premium produce that can help feed the world and service many market categories. I love the ocean and fishing so that might drive this choice as well.

Which wine (grape/style) do you find it impossible to get along with?
An old mentor once said ‘love them like your children,’ so there is no grape that I don’t really find impossible to work with. Crouchen* (aka Cape), however, is a moody, teenage brat with the temper of a redhead that will oxidise at the sight of sunlight. So probably Crouchen.

To download a copy of The Master Winemaker 100, please click here.

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