5 minutes with Adrian Sparks, Senior White Winemaker for McWilliam's Wines
Winemaking was a natural calling for Adrian Sparks. At the age of just 35, he carries the experience of 17 vintages and is already one of McWilliam's leading winemakers. His talent was recognised recently when his 2012 Armchair Critic Chardonnay was awarded best wine at the 2013 Citibank NSW Wine Show.
Q: How early on did you know you wanted to be a winemaker?
A: I started in the cellar as a university job, completely uninterested in wine. I remember walking into the barrel store and told the current winemaker it would be easier if we only had one barrel type, instead of the 40 or 50 staring me down. He said that each barrel was a unique wine and each contributed its own piece of the puzzle when it blended. Since then I've never stopped asking questions and being excited about the possibilities. This day stands out as the time when I thought, “this is what I want to do."
Q: Is there a style of wine you really love to make? Why is it special to you?
A: Chardonnay. Without a doubt. There is so much to do with Chardonnay, so many options and, I believe, still higher goals to be achieved. I love drinking it, making it, tasting the grapes before deciding to pick, and staring at the vines wondering how good we can possibly make the wine from them.
Q: How has the role of the winemaker changed since you began your career?
A: Spending time in the vineyard has been the greatest change and the most positive one. Without great fruit you cannot make great wine, and working with the grower for a common outcome is the most important aspect in creating a wine. This also gives you an opportunity to understand regions and how the wine you create should look from particular areas.
Q: What is special about winemaking in Griffith? What challenges and opportunities does the region present?
A: Griffith is a great place, a vibrant community that pulls together when it needs to. The only down side is the distance to our non-Riverina vineyards, as I spend more time spent travelling than at the winery during vintage. There is always the opportunity for people who want to increase their learning at McWilliam's, as we pull in fruit from nearly every wine region to Griffith.
Q: If money and time were no issue, is there a particular wine you would love to make?
A: I would love to try and make wines from new areas and regions that haven't seen a vine yet. There has to be somewhere in the world that is a completely untapped resource for winemaking, a region that suits a particular grape variety perfectly. To be able to find this region, plant vines and make the wines would be a great pleasure.
Q: Fast forward ten years. Where are you?
A: Still at McWilliam's, still learning everything I can in the short amount of time available to us all. And hopefully taking Driver off the first tee at St. Andrews...
Q: If you could drink one wine for the rest of your life, what would it be?
A: Toughest question of all. Probably a Chardonnay, as it covers Burgundy and Champagne, plus the great Australian Chardonnay that is so underrated!