At the beginning of each year, wine regions all over Australia are taken over by an influx of enthusiastic young winos – from all walks of life – looking for wine industry jobs and ready to ‘have a go’ at just about anything that comes their way on the cellar floor.
More affectionately known as “vintage casuals”, they’re the lifeblood of the wine industry.
Working 12 hour shifts, both days and nights, vintage casuals come from far and wide to assist winemakers during the busiest period of the season – vintage.
Starting out as a cellar-hand himself, Dalrymple Vineyards’ vigneron, Peter Caldwell, knows how important hands-on experience is for budding young winemakers, and takes on two to three casuals each year to assist him in creating his awarded Tasmanian Pinot Noirs.
Sydney-born wine science student, Lewis White, is Peter’s newest recruit, and while he’s had some experience in the wine game, he says the size of Dalrymple has made it the perfect place to learn…
How long have you been involved in the wine industry?
What sparked your interest? I worked for a company that sold wine over the phone – it was my job to organise tastings for the staff, so they knew what they were selling.
After speaking with a number of winemakers I realised I was on the wrong side of the business, but wine industry jobs aren’t easy to get without experience, so I signed up to study wine science at Charles Sturt University in Wagga Wagga.
Where else have you worked in Australia?
I’ve worked in the Hunter Valley and McLaren Vale – both of which were excellent experiences. Now that I’ve finished studying I plan to go north for a second vintage this year.
Do you remember the first wine you ever tasted?
Sparkling as a kid, I think? Ha-ha!
Tell us how you came to work at Dalrymple.
Many of my friends have worked at Dalrymple Vineyards. Peter is very keen to provide people, who are quite early in their careers, an opportunity to make great wine in a desirable location.
What is your role at Dalrymple Vineyards?
I’m a cellar-hand, but I’ll pretty much have a go at anything – whatever Peter needs an extra set of hands for.
How is Dalrymple different to other wineries you have worked at?
I think the size of the winery is most striking. It’s just Margaux (our other vintage casual) and I working with Peter in the winery, which gives us plenty of opportunity to learn.
Having said that, there are quite a few more people working in the vineyard, which says a lot about the condition of the vineyard and the care taken in producing the fruit. I’ve never seen vineyards anywhere near this immaculate.
What is your favourite wine variety and why?
Frankly I think it depends on the temperature and my mood – but I should probably say Pinot Noir right?
When you’re not in the cellar, what do you enjoy doing around Tasmania?
Looking for good cafes and bars mostly, but I think after vintage I will have to go for a few decent hikes, the hiking spots in Tasmania look excellent.
What excites you about the Australian wine industry?
Oh jeez! Probably how much it will change by the time I retire. Australian wine has changed so much over the past 20 years – imagine what it will be like in 20 to 40 years from now!?
What are your plans for the future?
To make more Pinot Noir, go overseas to do a vintage, and take up another degree to look at how climate change will impact viticulture and winemaking in the future.