At only 31, Courtney Treacher is Senior Winemaker at Brookland Valley in the Margaret River region of Western Australia. She admits that while she ventured into winemaking not really knowing what to expect, that feeling was quickly overturned once the art of turning fruit into wine became a reality.
And she ventured earlier than most, starting her degree in viticulture an oenology (a fancy word that covers most aspects of wine production) straight out of high school! Traveling through wine regions on family vacations, along with a keen sense of building a career with a difference led to her decision at the end of secondary school that a career in winemaking was for her.
When, why and how did you first enter the wine industry?
I commenced my journey into the wine industry straight out of high school studying viticulture and oenology at Curtin University. In 2002 I did my first vintage as a cellar hand at Redgate Wines in Margaret River.
Where has your career taken you so far?
Initially to Margaret River, followed by a brief stint in the Hunter Valley, back to Western Australia to Houghton Wines in the Swan Valley and most recently to my role with Brookland Valley based back in Margaret River.
You’re currently the senior Winemaker at Brookland Valley. What is the philosophy behind Brookland Valley? And how does it fit with your own personal winemaking philosophy?
Of course we are always trying to make the best wines that we can with the fruit resources that we have available. Our philosophy is to best promote the flavours that we find in the vineyard – we are not trying to introduce too much artefact but are basically trying to take what we find in the vineyard and deliver that to our customers in the bottled wine.
What grape varieties do you make wine from at Brookland Valley? And where are they sourced from?
We make wines from Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon, Chardonnay, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. They are sourced from across the Margaret River region however as we move up the price points and quality levels we are honing in on the Wilyabrup sub-region and the Brookland Valley vineyard itself.
What are your personal favourites from those you produce, and why?
Every winemaker loves making their top wines. The fruit flavour and intensity is better and there is opportunity to use different oak barrels and winemaking techniques. I have also really enjoyed the creation of the Brookland Valley Unison range, from creating the wine concept through to designing the wines and packaging and introducing the wines to new consumers.
Does your technique or approach change depending on whether you’re making entry level wines or high-end single vineyard wines?
Ye, the techniques do change quite a lot. At the entry level, the wines are normally fruit driven and the winemaking techniques are all about fruit promotion. At the high end we usually introduce additional complexities through different fermentation tools, oak maturation, barrel stirring and malo-lactic fermentation.
Tell us more about the new Unison range from Brookland Valley. Why have they been created and what’s the story behind them?
With the Brookland Valley Unison range we could see that there was a gap within our product portfolio that meant it was difficult for the consumer to transcend from the Brookland Valley Verse 1 wines to our Estate range of wines. This created an opportunity for us to introduce the new Unison range. We decided to focus the range on what the Margaret River region does best – Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon blends, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. We then went out and sourced parcels of fruit that displayed the characters within these wine styles that are distinctly Margaret River.
Recent studies have shown that West Australians love drinking West Australian wine. Why do you think WA wine lovers are so loyal to their home state?
I think that all wine drinkers are somewhat parochial. Maybe even more so now as trends towards local produce drive this further.
What is your absolute favourite wine and food pairing? And what should people keep in mind when matching food and wine?
I find this a really tough question to answer because I love tasting different wines and flavour combinations. But I do love Chardonnay, so I would probably say Chardonnay and oysters for pure indulgence or equally as enjoyable with fish and chips and a good view at sunset. You really need to look for wines that are complimentary in flavour to your food.
As a young woman in the wine industry, have you faced any particular challenges where your age or gender have ever been an issue?
I think it was probably a little more difficult when I first came out of university being a female and being a graduate who had moved directly from high school education immediately prior to university study.
In your experience, do women think about or talk about wine differently than blokes do?
As a generalisation, perhaps female consumers are more perceptive.
What’s your number one tip for tasting wine?
If there was one thing you could tell the sisterhood of wine-lovers out there, what would it be?
There is no right or wrong when it comes to wine tasting it is all about your personal tastes.
Courtney Treacher will be appearing at the upcoming Perth Fabulous Ladies Wine Soiree on September 26th, where she’ll be talking us through the Brookland Valley Unison Range as we share these wines over a delicious four course menu at Pure Bar, Subiaco.