The wine industry's rock & roll family tree

The concept behind Makers and Muses at Melbourne Food & Wine 2017

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Oakridge Wines, Yarra Valley

Oakridge Wines, Yarra Valley

Produce to Platter Yarra Valley and the Dandenongs - De Bortoli Winery
De Bortoli King Valley


According to Max Allen, the Australian wine industry is a little bit like the music industry.

“You may have come across the Rock ‘n’ Roll family tree, and seen how one band will influence other bands that come after it. Or singers or songwriters from an influential band will go on to have solo careers, or join with other influential singers or songwriters".

“The same could be said about the wine industry. There are so many connections and influences today that you can trace right back to legendary winemakers in the early 20th century".

This concept is at the heart of the Makers & Muses event on Sunday 9th April, part of the 2017 Melbourne Food & Wine Festival. (See details below)

Wines and winemakers in Australia are connected by more than just the soil the grapes are grown in, our climate, or even our culture. It’s a big extended family in a lot of ways. Births, deaths, marriages and mentorships have resulted in deep-rooted connections that weave themselves (in surprising ways) all over the country.

You might bump into Allen as you wander the tables at this event, hearing the stories behind some of Australia’s most influential winemaking families, and enjoy tastings being poured by the winemakers themselves.

Putting together the Australian wine family tree is an ongoing and never-ending project for Allen, who is a historian as much as he is a wine writer.

For this event, he chose a mix of winemaking families to show the breadth of influence. One of his first picks was the highly influential De Bortoli family. Their winery has become known as an informal university in a lot of ways and has been a training ground for many winemakers working in the industry today. In the ‘90's and '2000's winemaker Steve Webber attracted a lot of winemakers who are now at the cutting edge of Australian wine.

Two examples: Dave Bicknell, now chief winemaker at Oakridge in the Yarra Valley, and William (Bill) Downie, who has made wine under his own label, and also collaborated on Save Our Souls. Both these winemakers cut their teeth at De Bortoli.

But the influences go both ways. It’s not just the younger winemakers learning from the older and more experienced. The styles of wine many young winemakers are experimenting with – natural, organic, minimal-intervention – are showing older and more conservative winemakers that, providing the wines are enjoyable, consumers are happy to drink wines that are a little imperfect.

Max believes that this is one of the best things about Australian wine at the moment – the fact that the industry feels new and energetic and dynamic, and combining this with the knowledge gained over 150-years of winemaking history.

“Once you get past the surface of this 'all new and cool and really great', you realise that there is this incredible multi-generational history there. If you know that Bill Downie has been making wine for 15 years, but that you can go to his backstory to find out what his influences were and the generation before that, it helps you to enjoy more what you’re drinking.”

And that’s the beauty of Makers & Muses - it’s like a crash course in Australian wine. The history, the personal stories, and of course the wine. The whole idea being like an intimate gathering. You’ll get to meet, discuss and taste with all the wine families involved. You’ll learn how their winemaking styles have influenced each other, and more than a few great anecdotes along the way.

About Makers & Muses - Sunday 9th April

Over 20 of Australia’s most influential and interesting winemakers come together to pour for this special event, curated by author and wine expert Max Allen. Sip and sample your way through the intricate family tree that is the Australian wine industry and see how the style and creativity of our iconic vineyards is shaping the future of winemaking. It really is just one big extended family.

This is a unique chance to chat directly to the winemakers, learn about their history and taste a wide range of varieties – from the classic and traditional through to the small scale, natural and experimental.

The fun will spill out into the House laneway, with unlimited tastings and a range of cheese and crusty baguettes available to purchase. See you there.

Book your ticket now »


  • Melbourne (VIC)

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