When Beck isn’t thinking up new ways to further the cause of women in the wine industry, or climbing a rock, she is pretty involved with creating new and fascinating wines for Irvine Wines.
Her passion is pushing the boundaries of what we think is possible for wine and her direction lies in innovation and experimentation. In her winemaking career thus far the portfolios she has managed have won over 500 awards and trophies both domestically and internationally! Pretty fabulous, eh? Here’s Beck’s story.
When, why and how did you first enter the wine industry?
At the age of 14 I was down in the Caves of Champagne Tattinger, it was then I decided that I wanted to be involved in the industry. There was such a rich history and the feeling of being part of something really fascinating.
Where has your career taken you so far?
All over the world. I have been very fortunate to work with some amazing brands such as Jacob’s Creek, Korbel, Gallo and Domaine Chandon. In all of these roles I travelled extensively and got the opportunity to live for extended periods of time overseas. I spent seven years making wine in California and that has certainly had an impact on the winemaker I have become.
You are the Winemaker at Irvine Wines. Can you tell us the story of why, when and how this happened?
In mid 2016 I decided after 22 years in the industry and over 10 with Jacob’s Creek it was time for a mid career hiatus. A chance to contemplate my belly button and make sure I was doing what I loved. I had around five months off and in this time was fortunate enough to have some casual conversations with the owners of Irvine Wines. We had very similar philosophies for both where the brand could head and how we liked to work. So really, it just fell into place.
What is the philosophy behind Irvine Wines?
It is all about taking the wonderful vineyards we have and making stylish and elegant wines showcasing a different perspective on the Barossa regionality. Neither the owners, nor myself are afraid to take risks to make sure the wine we make is a good fit for our end consumer.
What grape varieties do you make wine from at Irvine Wines? And where are they sourced from?
Merlot is our key variety, but we also make Shiraz, Cabernet, Zinfandel, Chardonnay, Riesling and Pinot Gris. Most of our wines are sourced off vineyards in Eden Valley or Barossa Valley with the only exception being Springhill Merlot which is multi regional.
What are your personal favourites from those you produce, and why?
It is hard to say. Give me a few more years in the role and I will get back to you!
Within the business – what’s a typical day like for you?
There is no typical day for a winemaker, thank goodness. My job ranges from being in the vineyards, to tasting at the winery, working on our marketing strategy, leading tastings for our customers and so many more things it is impossible to mention them all. Suffice to say the range of fun things I do keep me constantly learning.
How does your overseas experience translate to your day to day work?
Having spent almost half my career overseas it strongly influenced all that I do. It has given me a broad range of experience to draw from as well as an understanding about the global landscape of not only winemaking but also consumer trends. It has also made me realise, there is no ‘right’ way to make wine and that as long as you stay true to your beliefs, those wines will always resonate.
What is your absolute favourite wine and food pairing? And what should we keep in mind when matching food and wine?
Champagne with anything! But really it depends on my mood.
As a woman working in the wine industry, have you faced any particular challenges where your gender has ever been an issue?
Absolutely. Unfortunately we are still a long way behind on evening up the gender balance in winemaking. Much of the bias is very much unconscious, which of course makes it all the harder to change. We are working on it though and Irvine Wines are proud supporters of women in the industry.
In your experience, do women think about or talk about wine differently than blokes do?
Yes. As the group winemaker for a very large company I tasted almost exclusively with men every day. So often my thoughts and approach to the wine was diametrically opposed to all others in the room. The nice thing is now, as I mingle with a wider range of female winemakers I notice there is more agreement on how we taste and talk about wine.
What’s your number one tip for tasting wine?
Drink what you love, and don’t let anyone tell you what your palate is like.
If there was one thing you could tell the sisterhood of wine-lovers out there, what would it be?
Enjoy every glass of wine you have, preferably with great friends.
As well as winemaker for Irvine Wines, Rebeckah Richardson is a valued advisory board member of the Australian Women in Wine Awards. The 2017 awards are now open. Entries close 1 August and winners are announced 26 September 2017. For more info click here.