By Elisa Cirene
A love of wine, a bit of research, a good deal of naivety and a hell of a lot of hard work led to the establishment of Amherst Winery.
Norman and Elizabeth Jones, along with help from their 16-year-old son Luke, planted the first Shiraz vineyard in Victoria’s beautiful Pyrenees wine region in 1989. Fast forward to 2009, Luke took over the winemaking duties and in 2013 he eventually bought out his parents, holding on to the family’s rural heritage.
Luke had already spent 15 years working in wine, hospitality, retail and wholesale sales when he completed his Diploma in Oenology. Armed with a clear strategy, he set to broaden the range of Amherst wine production while respecting the tradition of high quality, small batch winemaking.
Over the years, Amherst has gained a reputation for elegant, cool climate, hand crafted wines that have delighted wine lovers and critics alike.
The vineyard is set on old alluvial goldfields dating back to the 1850s. The gold mining activity over the last 150 years has turned over the top soil many times creating an unforgiving landscape that is perfect for growing premium wine grapes.
The vines need to work hard to produce small berries which have thick skins that give the reds deep, rich colour, fine tannins and concentrated flavours and aromas. Hand pruning, minimal irrigation and hand-picking to remove any imperfect bunches ensures that only the finest grapes make it into the bottle.
Luke loves tackling the different tasks and challenges each season brings. From the frenetic period of vintage in March/April, to winter pruning and spring budburst, each season brings a specific focus. As a seasoned farmer, Luke is used to facing the normal challenges of frost and drought, but these conditions have been exacerbated by climate change.
“We’ve had to make changes to adjust to the changing climate. For example, the past 10 years has gradually seen us bring forward our average harvest time by a month,” said Luke.
From grape growing, winemaking, bottling, wholesale and sales direct to the public – Luke is involved in every step of the process but still finds time to focus on other things that are important to him. “I’m a husband, father and winemaker, and as hard as I work, the business gives me flexibility to spend quality time with my boys,” Luke tells us.
Find Amherst Winery at the Slow Food Melbourne farmers market in Spotswood on the 4th Saturday of the month.