Charley May won her first shooting (yes, you read that right… Shooting!) trophy at age nine, but harboured no particular aspirations of working in the wine industry until she moved from the UK to Australia and popped into her local bottle shop to grab some wine for dinner. What she found was the Ladies who Shoot their Lunch range of wines, and like Paul on the road to Damascus, her new career path was laid clear!

Charley now works as Communications Manager for Fowles Wine who produce the “Ladies who Shoot” label, and are the first winery in the world to craft wines specifically blended to match with wild game.

Here’s her fabulous story!

When did you first enter the wine industry & why?

I entered the wine industry in 2011 in a rather unusual way! I’d just moved to Australia after packing up my life in England and was struck by the most eye-catching wine label I’d ever seen at my new local bottle shop. There she was, gun over her shoulder, dog by her side striding confidently through a field and all she stood for instantly enthralled me; I am of course talking about Ladies who Shoot their Lunch – wines crafted by Fowles Wine to match wild game meat.

I have a long-standing passion for shooting (I won my first shooting trophy when I was nine) and significant experience leading campaigns for leading UK rural affairs organisations, so the affinity I had with the concept behind Ladies who Shoot their Lunch seemed uncanny. With this in mind, I got in touch and introduced myself…

Initially I was told there weren’t any opportunities…sigh. However, a couple of months later… well, suffice to say Matt Fowles and I started some very constructive meetings and I have never looked back since stepping up to the role of Communications Manager at Fowles Wine.   

What does your current role involve?

At the strategic level it encompasses building brands and increasing awareness of them in our domestic and overseas markets to drive consumer engagement and sales.

Day to day I work closely with the management team and lead the development and communication of brands and events, author publications, manage our online and social media presence and increase brand awareness through media outreach and consumer engagement.

The role is very hands on and varied which I love. One minute I could be writing tasting notes and the next minute I could be formulating a strategy to launch a new website! I’m very lucky to work with such a dedicated, talented and kind team and I’m always amazed by the quantity and quality of work we crank out given our small size. 

ladies who shoot

From where/what regions do you source your grapes?

The majority of our fruit comes from the elevated slopes of the Strathbogie Ranges – a cool climate wine region in Central Victoria. We also source fruit from other select regional vineyards including fruit from the Yarra Valley and the Goulburn River. 

What’s the philosophy behind Fowles Wine? 

Fowles Wine produce some of Australia’s finest cool climate wines and are also advocates of sustainable food and forging greater connections with the people and places behind our food.

We’re unique in that we are the world’s first winery to craft wines specifically blended to match wild game – Ladies who Shoot their Lunch – and a range of wines to encourage more thought around the origins of food – Are you Game? Both these Food Wines are inspired by Matt Fowles’ love of Real Food – wild meat and home grown vegetables from the Strathbogie Ranges.

Our ‘Real Food Real Wine’ ethos not only inspired the development of our Food Wines, it also guides our approach to wine more generally (especially in the vineyard) and the hospitality we offer at our Cellar Door Restaurant. For us, Real Food is about celebrating provenance and flavour, so we catch or grow it ourselves or call on our food-producing friends in the region’s gardens and paddocks so we can offer everyone who eats and drinks with us a real taste of place.

From the range of wines produced by Fowles Wine, what are your personal favourites?

Now that is a hard one because there are many! I think the easiest way to approach this is to pick a wine for each meal of the day because all our wines are exceptionally food friendly. So with this in mind I’d start with a glass of our 490 metres 2011 Frizzante – refreshingly effervescent with a delicious sweet grapeyness; perfect with a light breakfast on a day of celebration and a real pick me up after a big night.

For lunch I’d sit down with our Ladies who Shoot their Lunch 2010 Chardonnay and a good Charcuterie platter. This particular vintage is long gone (sadly) but I still remember it’s intense aroma, delicious fruit and full, complex and layered palate – all of which would work well with the different flavours and textures of meats and pates.

Then comes dinner and I’d be pulling out the big guns to go with my roast leg of lamb stuffed with rosemary and garlic…The Exception 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon. This big beast is product of exceptional fruit and patience. We gave the wonderfully intense fruit extended barrel and bottle maturation resulting in a wine with great savoury complexity that is full of Christmas fruits, spice and grainy tannins – perfect with the rich, delicious chewiness of roast lamb.

What’s your all-time favourite food & wine match?  

Pan fried wild teal (duck) breast with roast beets, goats cheese and lambs lettuce matched with Pinot Noir. I came up with this recipe after shooting my first wild duck in the Dee Estuary in Cheshire, England – an experience that still sticks in my head.

There is nothing quite like sitting in near darkness on a freezing cold marsh, listening to the distant calls of ducks as the first rays of light break to evoke an immense gratefulness to be present and taking wild food from such a dramatic and beautiful environment.

Such special food deserves an equally special varietal and for me that is Pinot Noir. While Pinot presents itself in a range of styles, the earthiness and naturally high acidity of this varietal I think works wonders with flavours of wild duck.

If you had to describe yourself as a wine it would be….

A tricky one because personalities, like some wines, are complex! We approached this very question at a rather boisterous Fowles Wine staff event and someone piped up and said I was a Riesling. Despite being hesitant about the answer I asked them about their choice and this is what they said: “Understated and very interesting, with steely determination and a healthy dose of refreshing acidity”. I guess it could have been worse!  Besides, my partner’s favourite wine is a Riesling so perhaps I’m onto something.

Favourite way to while away a Sunday afternoon?

If I was in England it would be walking my beloved springer spaniels across my family farm followed by a few pints by the fire at my local pub.

In Australia, you’ll find me walking or riding along the Yarra River before cracking open a bottle of something lovely and cooking up a traditional Sunday roast for friends and family.

Flats or heels?

Flats – I have a particular penchant for brown leather brogues!

If there was one thing you wish you could tell the sisterhood of wine lovers out there, what would it be?

Pay no attention to those who patronise you or your palate. Keep exploring, questioning, sharing and enjoying wine because like life, it is a journey of discovery.

You can meet Charley in person and try the wines from Fowles Wine (including the Ladies Who Shoot Their Lunch offerings!) at our Women, Wine & Shoes events in Melbourne on 18th April and Brisbane on 23rd April. For more information about these exciting events, and to purchase your tickets, CLICK HERE.

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