Kate Laurie has built a reputation as one of Australia’s finest winemakers at Deviation Road in the Adelaide Hills. She is renowned at home and internationally as a brilliant sparkling winemaker having leant her trade in Champagne. She is renowned at home and internationally as a brilliant sparkling winemaker having leant her trade in Champagne. While it was love not vines that convinced her to leave her home and the family vineyard in Western Australia, it is a wonderful twist of fate that this love led her to one of the finest sparkling wine regions in Australia.
‘I was attracted to the wine industry as It encapsulates every aspect of life I enjoy – the physical, intellectual, creative AND the social!’
From Manjimup to Champagne
While she had dreamt of becoming a winemaker, it was more by fortune than design that Kate Laurie found herself studying in Champagne at the age of 19. Many young Australians pack their bags and head overseas after completing high school or their first year of University. Kate was no different in this respect and headed to France after deferring her studies in agriculture. But she did have one point of difference: her parents were passionate wine lovers turned Australian wine pioneers who had recently planted vines in the emerging region of Manjimup in Western Australia.
‘I decided to study in Champagne because I thought it was a method that I thought would be more interesting for me to bring back to Australia’
Once Kate arrived in France she was offered the opportunity to study oenology in Bordeaux, Burgundy or Champagne. Rather than choose a region known for Manjimup’s key varieties of Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, Kate chose Champagne. She believed that it would be a great asset to learn the traditional method of making sparkling wine and bring this knowledge back with her to Australia. So after completing her studies at the Lycée Viticole d’Avize, Kate returned home to Western Australia to help develop her parents’ fledgling winery, Stone Bridge Estate.
A cool climate quirk of fate?
Kate Laurie’s story could have easily continued with a highly successful and rewarding career at Stone Bridge Estate. But our old friend fate wasn’t finished with her just yet. Through encounters at Australian wine community events, Kate met vigneron Hamish Laurie and they soon became a winemaking couple. Hamish came from a long line of wine folk. His great, great grandmother was South Australia’s first female winemaker. His vineyard is one of the oldest and highest in the Adelaide Hills and produces exceptional fruit for both sparkling and still wines. Before long it was time for them to choose where they would settle their winemaking talents. Was it a difficult decision for them? We asked Kate about this life-changing choice.
‘When we were choosing whether to settle in Western Australia or the Adelaide Hills, for me it was an easy decision. The cool climate of the Adelaide Hills is just perfect for sparkling wine. So we set up the winery using the fruit from the family’s high altitude vineyards, which are critical to the style of wine we make.’
Sharing of knowledge in Champagne
This decision has worked out well for Kate and Hamish. Over the last fifteen or so years they have built Deviation Road into a successful and highly regarded winery in the Adelaide Hills. With the business thriving in 2013 Kate, with Hamish and the kids in tow, headed back to Champagne to live and work for six months. It was a chance catch up with old friends and refresh her knowledge of growing and production methods in the region. But Kate wasn’t just going to refresh her knowledge on this trip, she was going to share it. No sooner had she arrived than she was assailed with questions from local grape growers and winemakers. Climate change has presented new challenges in Champagne. As a result, natural acidity levels have been dropping and sugar levels have been on the rise. Kate had plenty of knowledge in this area as she experiences these challenges every year in the relatively warm climate of the Adelaide Hills. She was able to share her knowledge with the local winemakers on retaining natural acidity and controlling sugar levels in the vineyard. It was yet another wonderful example of Australian’ innovation impacting even the most traditional of the world’s wine regions.
Adelaide Hills: fruit purity and a sense of place
The future looks bright for Kate, Hamish and their family in their beautiful corner of the Adelaide Hills. Just like Hamish’s forebears, they are building a legacy for future generations. A popular cellar door and events venue compliments the growing reputation for Deviation Road’s wines in Australia and in key export markets such as the UK. And the rise (and rise!) in popularity of cool climate Australian wine styles will help to ensure that this reputation will continue grow for many years to come.
The Artisans Tasting: meet the makers, share the passion
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