Your guide to what’s in the glass from the people in the trade.

Emily Kinsman was a Collins Street lawyer until 2019, when she farewelled the hustle of downtown Melbourne to indulge her passion for making things: in this case, excellent Victorian wine.

While working as an assistant winemaker at Hanging Rock Winery, Kinsman and her husband took over a small vineyard in central Heathcote on the northern banks of Lake Eppalock, where they would grow shiraz organically. She also works as a négociant producer under her ECK Wines label, sourcing fruit from an established network of Central and Western Victorian sites.

Here’s what she’s drinking now.

As far as I’m concerned, the defining place to get a drink in Victoria is Marion – it’s a class act. Great support of Victorian producers as well as international morsels that are always interesting. It’s so easy to sit down just after noon, the hustle and bustle of Gertrude Street trundling past your seat, and all of a sudden, it’s 6pm. 

The last three delicious things I drank were…
Cullen 2021 Diana Madeline. Vanya Cullen is an inspiration to me, and I hope to reflect her passion and love for biodynamics and winemaking in my own wines.

The Minim 2021 Shiraz Pet Nat. We sat down to a bottle at Boom Town’s cellar door the other weekend and it was just delicious. Light on its feet with a fun spritz and well-balanced acid. It went down a treat – thanks Tim, it’s a beauty.

The Laherte Frères Blanc de Blancs Brut Nature NV. I’m always partial to a glass of bubbles, and I loved the vibrancy, elegance and lightness of this grower Champagne.

When someone hands me a drinks list, I hand it to my husband. He is a frustrated and tortured creative running a business independent of mine. He takes quite a methodical approach when handed the list. Region, price, producer, typicity and breadth of palate exposure all weigh in on his decision-making criteria, and we end up drinking very broadly, which I always enjoy.

As a négociant producer I enjoy exploring different varietal expressions with him, always looking to improve my palate and my own wines. I enjoy the time-honoured traditions of winemaking, lineage and respect for the lessons of the past, but I keep an open mind to more nouveau ideas, varieties and techniques. I don’t want to re-create the Old World in Australia – I want to respect the place it occupies, take inspiration from it and take it to new exciting places that inspire and excite.

The Victorian spirit I’m loving most right now is… Hands down the best gin I have ever drunk is made by a beautiful couple in the Macedon Ranges, conveniently five minutes down the road from our property in Newham – Big Tree Distillery. Catherine Crothers and Gary Jago have energy and exuberance, which you can taste in the product they produce; it cannot be beat. For the uninitiated, start with the Elegant Dry Gin and explore from there.

There’s no better value on wine list or in a bottle-shop in Victoria than Patrick Sullivan’s suite of chardonnays out of Gippsland. I’ve never opened a dud bottle; every wine tells a story and has a life that is delicate and nuanced. His wines have an elegance and year-on-year consistency that I strive to emulate in my own wines. While they won’t be the cheapest wines on the list, they’ll most certainly be the most impressive, rivalling the best of Burgundy and Loire with a subtle New World energy.

My favourite place to buy booze is Winespeake in Daylesford. Such a fun and vibrant place, which always has a buzz (even mid-week). And with its incredible position on Vincent Street roundabout, you can prop in the window and taste a glass of something local and fun while enjoying a slice of some unique cheeses. It’s very easy to walk out of here with a mixed dozen of local and international wines equally weighted to established producers and bright up-and-comers.

I’d love to see people in Victoria planting more gamay in the Macedon Ranges. Although Beaujolais has perhaps not been taken as seriously for as long as Bordeaux, Burgundy, Piedmont et cetera, there are some delicious wines coming from the region that are as serious as they are fun to drink. The best of Beaujolais is bright, funky, deep, complex, and suited to Australia. I’d like to think I have something to add here too, with my own dream to plant gamay (alongside a few other varieties) at our property in the Macedon Ranges before this decade is out.

My guilty pleasure in the fridge is Billecart-Salmon. Still family-owned, just like my humble little winery. Still as delicious today as the first glass I drank in my late teens. There’ll always be a special spot for this classic in my life.

The best or most important change to the way people drink in Victoria in recent years has been embracing little producers with big hearts and heads full of ideas. Reflecting on how far we have come in terms of wine production and consumption in Australia since the mid-20th century is quite incredible when you stop to think. Gone are the clarets and generic cuvées and here we are pining for the latest release from a low-volume producer making a single-site wine out of a tiny tin shed. My, how far we have come, and how exciting it is to think where we will go. Don’t forget about those mid-century clarets though – there was something in them then and there will be something in them in the future. Watch this space.

For me, the most inspiring person in the Victorian drinks world is Rob Ellis, chief winemaker at Hanging Rock Winery. He’s an incredible winemaker and has been one of my biggest mentors since I embarked on this winemaking journey. He’s also the reason I have been able to create the quality of wines that I have been able to produce in such a short time. Rob keeps his head down most of the time but his passion, dedication to his craft and comprehensive winemaking knowledge is both very impressive and awe-inspiring. His Hanging Rock wines are consistently amongst the best wines in Victoria and you would do well to get to their cellar door in the Macedon Ranges and taste the range – you won’t be disappointed.

ECK Wines,