IN 2000 Aaron Mercer began his wine industry rise in less-than-star-studded fashion doing cellar door sales, scrubbing tanks, tending vines, driving tractors and picking grapes at the Scarborough family company at Pokolbin.
The young Mount View High School graduate and son of a Cessnock coal miner took the part-time job while studying for a Newcastle University environmental science degree.
Fast forward, Aaron is now a senior winemaker at Tamburlaine Wines and last week was declared the Rising Star of the Year at the 2018 Hunter Valley Wine and Tourism Awards.
There’s a happy coincidence in his job because, in his first university year majoring in environmental sustainability, biological farming and ecological management, he did a case study on sustainable agriculture at Tamburlaine – little knowing that 16 years on he would have a senior role there. Tamburlaine is one of Australia’s largest producers of organic wine and Aaron is proud of the way it is pushing the boundaries of organic production. He’s also proud of its tally over the past year of eight wine show trophies and 13 gold, 15 silver and 17 bronze medals and, having previously had a 100 per cent male workforce, it now has a 50-50 gender balance.
Aaron treasures the start he got at Scarborough in what became a nine-year stay with Ian and Merralea Scarborough as mentors. During that time he acquired winemaking skills, honing them with stints at Tyrrell’s and Brokenwood and with vintages in Ontario, Canada, Gaillac in France and Mosel in Germany.
In 2010 he moved to South Australia to complete a University of Adelaide post-graduate degree in winemaking and worked in McLaren Vale, the Adelaide Hills and Beechworth. Returning to the Hunter at Brokenwood in 2012, he won the Alasdair Sutherland Scholarship, which encourages young winemakers’ show judging expertise and honours the late much-respected Hunter winemaker. In 2012 Aaron and his wife Alison moved to the Californian Central Coast where he made Bien Nacido and Solomon Hills wines from grapes from Monterey to Santa Barbara. He and his family returned to Australia in December 2015 and he joined Tamburlaine in 2016.
Also in the Hunter Wine and Tourism Awards were: Greg Walls (Living Legend of Wine), Robert and Sally Molines (Living Legends of Tourism and Hospitality), Stuart Hordern (Winemaker of the Year), Neil Stevens (Viticulturist of the Year), Margan Wines (Cellar Door of the Year), Drayton's Bellevue wine label (Wine Industry 2018 Heritage Award).
THIS beaut Elbourne 2011 Hunter Valley Shiraz is from one of the vineyards managed by Viticulturist of the Year Neil Stevens. It has 13% alcohol, ruby hues, cassis scents and juicy plum front-palate flavour. The middle palate has blueberry, licorice, spice and vanillin oak and the finish minty tannins. It’s on firstname.lastname@example.org. PRICE: $40, DRINK WITH: osso bucco. AGEING: 12 years.
RATING: 5 stars
WINEMAKER of the Year Stuart Hordern and his team crafted the Brokenwood 2017 Beechworth Pinot Gris, which is green-tinted straw and has jasmine scents and zingy kiwifruit front-palate flavour. The middle palate shows pear, lemon curd and mineral characters and the finish has gunmetal acid. It’s at brokenwood.com.au, the winery and shops.PRICE: $30, DRINK WITH: quiche. AGEING: three years.
RATING: 4.5 stars
FROM Beechworth in the foothills of the Victorian Alps, the Brokenwood 2016 Beechworth Pinot Noir is cherry red and has 13%alcohol and scents of violets. Lifted raspberry flavour displays on the front palate and bramble jelly, cloves, anise and savoury oak integrate on the middle palate. Ferric tannins feature at the finish. PRICE: $36. DRINK WITH: roasted duck ravioli. AGEING: six years.
RATING: 4.5 stars
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