Meet the Winemakers

Updated: Jan 17

With the State of New South Wales in lockdown where we can't operate our tours, we are taking this opportunity to capture Mudgee through a new Series, "Meet the Winemakers." Our region is well known for fabulous wine, and behind the scenes are hard working winemakers and their teams. We thought it would be fun to find out a bit more about these extraordinary people and also to give you the opportunity to stock up on their latest releases. With cellar doors only allowed to do on-line and take out purchases their businesses are struggling like the rest of us...

Skimstone - Jean-Francois Esnault

Skimstone Wine in Mudgee
Skimstone in Mudgee is nestled in the hills.

As you wind your way along the Castlereagh Highway to Mudgee from Sydney you will find Skimstone about 15 kilometres out of town. Nestled at the foot of rolling hills and bordered by the Cudgegong River, Skimstone is one of our favourite wineries and we always enjoy taking our guests to the beautiful landscape and ambience it has to offer. Enjoy sitting around the outdoor fire pit whilst you taste their delicious wines or play Chess on their large outdoor setting. They recently added a generous deck which captures the vineyard from all angles. Jean-Francois Esnault is the winemaker at Skimstone and we recently asked him a few questions about his journey and why he became a winemaker.

Mudgee wine
Jean-Francois Esnault, winemaker at Skimstone.

What made you decide to become a winemaker?

I started as an apprentice 20 years ago. I didn’t know then that I wanted to be a winemaker, I just wanted to learn a trade. Being from Bordeaux which is an extremely famous wine region it was logic to learn in the wine industry. After two years of my apprenticeship I was in love with product and the industry.

What year did you become a winemaker?

I believe I officially became a winemaker in 2010 but since then, the journey has been one of everyday learning from vineyards in France to Australia via New Zealand.

Which grape varietals do you grow at Skimstone?

At Skimstone we grow Italian and French grape varieties. Barbera and Sangiovese for Italians and Chardonnay, Shiraz, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon for the French.

What is the most interesting part of your job?

The constant challenge of growing fruit in this region because of Mother Nature. I also love the feeling of relief that comes once the fruit you’ve grown is finally harvested and safe from weather, birds, anything. What comes after that is more related to the human factor and technically is more under control.

Mudgee wine
Pruning shapes the plant ahead of the coming season.

What is your favourite season in the winemaking process?

In the winemaking season my favourite part is at the end of fermentation, when you really see the future profile of your wine.

In the vineyard season I believe I prefer the pruning as you are shaping the plant ahead of the coming season.

Has your job changed over the last 10 years?

Indeed, 10 years ago I was winemaking in Burgundy, France and so of course my work has changed because it is a very different part of the world with a different approach to viticulture.

In the past 6 years I have been with Skimstone I have noticed a change of direction in viticulture and winemaking. People are working towards more precision and quality.

Skimstone wine tasting
Wine tasting at Skimstone

What is your biggest challenge you have met along the way?

Adapting my skills and knowledge from France to the very different Australian procedures and climate for grape growing. For example, growing grapes in drought.

What is the best wine you have ever drunk and why?

There are so many and it is hard to pick one amongst them all. I do drink wine often, I wish I could say it is for professional purposes but a lot of it is more for pleasure because I do love wine.

It is important to know how to appreciate a great wine. Many people can afford expensive and excellent wines but cannot appreciate them.

I have drunk many great, good and expensive wines and I am glad I did. But thinking about it now, I clearly remember the quality of the moment more than the wine itself. It is a story and the wine is one of the characters. I remember the wine but also the people I was with, the food on some occasions. You look at the whole picture.

What do you think is the biggest myth about drinking wine?

A wine is your story, your feeling. I am not going to say that you are wrong on a wine because it is a very personal approach. It is your nose and your palate talking. Not mine.

You might listen to the winemaker or the sommelier or any friends who “know” about wine but that doesn’t mean you’ll like or dislike the wine.

Wine is freedom.

Regardless of cost, what do you think makes a good wine?

Good grapes make good wine. Starting the winemaking process with top quality fruit is an easier path to success. A balanced, full of flavour and healthy fruit make it easy to reach a good final product.

Start with a fruit of poor quality and you might reach a reasonable wine but the journey will be very hard.

What is your favourite varietal or blend you enjoy drinking the most?

I am from Bordeaux, home of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon and those are the varieties I love the most. As a single or in a blend with one another.

Outside of Mudgee, what is your favourite wine region in the world?

I love many wines and from many regions in the world. But again I’ll stay where my heart is and will say Bordeaux for reds and Burgundy for white.

When you look into the mirror, what do you see?

A passionate man who looks older everyday.

Mudgee wine
Wine is available to buy from their Online Shop.

To purchase Skimstone Wine head to their online shop here . They currently have a Winter sale with great savings on offer and they also ship Australia wide.

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