Drinking Victoria: Nick Brown

Published on 16 September 2021

Photo: Nick Brown, fourth generation winemaker (Photo: Kristoffer Paulson)

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

Growing up surrounded by grapes, Nick Brown was always destined to continue his family's rich history of winemaking. Now a fourth-generation winemaker, Brown, together with siblings Eliza and Angela, release their first vintage this week since acquiring the Rutherglen’s historic Mount Ophir Estate in 2016. The 2019 Mount Ophir Estate shiraz is the embodiment of Brown’s passion and philosophy for winemaking, a culmination of the many years he’s put into growing and producing at his family’s All Saints Estate and St Leonards Vineyard.

The last three delicious things I drank were… I can’t not say it: our very own 2019 Mount Ophir Estate shiraz. This is the first release of this wine since my sisters and I bought the beautiful Mount Ophir Estate property five years ago. It’s about as handmade as a wine can get, from the planting of the grapes to the harvesting, sorting and crushing. It’s an elegant, medium weight style with soft, fine tannins. We just bottled it a couple of months ago and there’s only 700 bottles so I’m trying my best not to drink too many.

I recently discovered Pipan and Steel Nebbiolo made by Paula Pipan and Radley Steel in Mudgegonga, near Myrtleford in the Alpine Valleys. They’re a lovely couple who tree changed from Sydney to the cool climes of Victoria on a quest to find the perfect site to plant a Nebbiolo vineyard. Their wines are made from three clones of Nebbiolo each with their own beautiful Italian personality.

Finally, the thoroughly slurpable Barbera from my friends, the Dalzottos, in the King Valley. Barbera is an incredibly versatile varietal, but theirs is by far the most moreish.

As far as I’m concerned, the defining place to get a drink in Victoria is our local, the Thousand Pound Wine Bar in Rutherglen. The wine list is heavy on local, family-owned vintages and it feels like a bit of Melbourne in the country. 

If I were to choose a Victorian drink purely on the strength of its label, I’d go forFowles’ Are You Game? There are a number of wines in the range, each with their own eye-catching, quirky, game animal-themed labels. It’s super fun.

When someone hands me a wine list in a restaurant, I usually pass it on to someone else (who I trust!). Winemakers are often given the wine list but I prefer to see what others choose and why.

The Victorian spirit I’m loving most right now is Reed and Co Distillery’s gins. They produce a range of beautiful spirits using botanicals sourced from around their home base in Bright.

There’s no better value on a wine list or in a bottle-shop in this state than Rutherglen’s muscats and muscadelles. They’re massively underappreciated. Many have been lovingly crafted by multiple generations and are always high quality and beautifully decadent.

My favourite place to buy booze is South Melbourne’s Prince Wine Store. They have a great selection of wine varieties and styles and I always leave with something new to try.

I’d love to see us planting/brewing/distilling more… Much of our state is yet to be discovered in terms of what can be produced, and where. There are so many untapped opportunities.

My guilty pleasure in the drinks cabinet is… Did I say I love Rutherglen fortifieds? The younger wines can be enjoyed on their own or used in (or as) dessert in the warmer months. The older wines are perfect for winter in front of the fire.

The best or most important change to the way we drink in Victoria in recent years has been travelling around our own state and discovering new places, people and their produce. By exploring our own backyard we open our eyes to the possibilities of what we can grow and make.

For me, the most inspiring person in the Victorian drinks world is anyone who can keep getting up every morning to grow, make, market and sell wine and keep smiling in the face of all the challenges. Our drinks industry is amazing in that it attracts great people, personalities and creativeness, so, the more, the merrier.

Register your interest in the 2019 Mount Ophir Estate Shiraz on mountophirestate.com.au/shiraz-waitlist, releasing Thursday 16 September. Follow @mount_ophir to learn more.

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