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Future Leader at home in McLaren Vale

RD&A News | February 2021
12 Feb 2021
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When you’re good at math and science at school, engineering seems the obvious career choice. But what happens when you love drama and art as well? Then what?

‘I very nearly chose engineering, but in the end oenology won out and I’m so glad it did. Winemaking combines science, creativity and art, and I love that I am able to combine all three when I craft wine’, says Dowie Doole’s Chief Winemaker and Managing Director, Chris Thomas, a Wine Australia Future Leaders alumni.

Chris was born a city kid, but always knew his future would lie somewhere between the city and country.

‘I was brought up in the Adelaide suburb of Malvern and went to Concordia College. We were a small family – just me, my parents and brother, but we had lots of cousins and holidays were always a big family affair.’

On the weekends, Chris would often accompany his parents on trips to the wine regions around South Australia.

‘We went to the Barossa Valley, Adelaide Hills, Clare Valley and McLaren Vale, and I loved these trips. It was the late 1990s and the wine sector was booming. There was a real vibe and buzz around cellar doors. It was a fun place to grow and learn.’

But it was the small, laid-back community of McLaren Vale – coupled with its beautiful wines, Mediterranean climate and proximity to the sea – that captured Chris’ heart.

‘I always knew I would end up there’, he said. ‘I love the sense of community in the Vale; it feels like one big family.’

Chris graduated in oenology from the University of Adelaide in 2003 and went to work at wineries in McLaren Vale, as well as in Burgundy, France. He joined Dowie Doole in 2011 and, in 2015, purchased the winery with a group of like-minded shareholders.

Chris’s winemaking style is to produce elegant fruit-driven wines that encapsulate the essence of the vineyards in which they were grown and the vintage in which they were produced.

‘In short, I aim to capture each wine’s sense of place in a bottle’, Chris said.

In 2019, Chris graduated from Wine Australia’s Future Leaders program and says what he learned during the program has been invaluable.

'The main thing I learnt from the program is that nurturing myself and becoming the best version of “me” helps me become the best leader I can be – and is just as important as having good work ethic and commitment. 

‘The program also helped me to realise that empowering my team to become the best versions of themselves is my most important role as a leader.’

Before COVID-19 hit, Chris spent a third of the year travelling the globe and showcasing ‘the amazing quality and breadth of the Australian wine sector.’

‘We truly have world class wines and it is an honour to showcase them alongside the top wines from other wine regions.’

Applications for Future Leaders 2021 close on 15 March 2021. Visit for more information and to apply.

This content is restricted to wine exporters and levy-payers. Some reports are available for purchase to non-levy payers/exporters.

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This content is restricted to wine exporters and levy-payers. Some reports are available for purchase to non-levy payers/exporters.