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Winemaker Insights – An interview with Angela Meaney from Bundaleer Wines

Winemaker insights – an interview with Angela Meaney

This week we have Angela Meaney from Bundaleer Wines chatting to us about all things vino. Angela is breaking ground producing some amazing wines from the Southern Flinders Ranges and Clare Valley. For those that don’t know the Southern Flinders Ranges region is just north of the Clare Valley and whilst relatively new region for wine, Anglea’s wines have been getting people pretty excited recently. We pick her brains about what makes Bundaleer Wines one of James Halliday’s ‘10 Dark Horse’ wineries of 2015 and such an exciting prospect in the coming years…

About the wine…

So tell me a little about Bundaleer Wines.

Bundaleer Wines was an idea conceived over a few bottles of red by two old school friends – Graham Spurling & my Dad. Graham was returning from spending 10 years working in the US & our family had a wheat and sheep farm in the mid north. Both of them were heading into semi-retirement and decided planting a vineyard would be a great project, with me being a winemaker & Graham’s daughter, Cate, into marketing. So they found this small piece of land for sale behind the Bundaleer Forest and planted Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes – this was in 1998. We harvested our first crop in 2001 and Bundaleer Wines was born. We now produce Shiraz, Cabernet, Sparkling Shiraz & a Rose from the Bundaleer vineyard and purchase Riesling and Pinot Gris grapes from Clare Valley to complement our range.

How did you get into winemaking?

It was by accident really – growing up on a wheat & sheep farm in the Southern Flinders region of SA we didn’t have much exposure to vineyards or wine as kids. I started off with seasonal work in the laboratory at Hardys, Tintara not really even knowing what ‘vintage’ meant! Later, while managing the laboratory at a contract bottling facility, Brian Light offered me a position at Normans Winery at Clarendon & I was quickly promoted to assistant winemaker. I suggested I should obtain some formal qualification as Brian had just assumed I had a science degree or similar – he hadn’t asked at the very informal interview, so I had no need to mention it either! So then while working at Normans I obtained my Wine Science degree from CSU at Wagga part time via correspondence. Not sure now how I had time to study & work, especially during vintage. 

What do you think has been the highlight or your greatest achievement in winemaking so far?

Without a doubt the highlight would be winning the ‘Wine of the Year’ at the SA Wine of the Year Awards in 2008 with our Sparkling Shiraz. Then we backed it up again in 2011 with the same wine. But I still always get a thrill if I see a bottle of Bundaleer on a table at a restaurant being enjoyed by strangers. Or one of those lovely random emails from someone telling me how much they enjoyed a wine I have made. Being named as one of James Halliday’s Dark Horse Wineries in the 2015 Wine Companion & achieving the coveted 5 Star rating was also very exciting as it was a complete surprise.  [Editors note: You can also read a great review on the Bundaleer Sparkling Shiraz here]

Favourite grape to make wine with?

Tricky question – I don’t really have a favourite as every year the different varieties can throw you a new challenge.

Are you experimenting with anything a little unusual or outside the box?

We have made a Montepulciano from 2014 which has been fun. We only have one barrel we are about to bottle but there is 4 barrels from 2015 vintage so I hope everyone likes it! As it was such a small volume it was certainly made in the traditional way being foot stomped etc. Working vintage in Italy a few years ago exposed me to some of the great varieties and wine styles they have there. Their wines have beautiful tannin structure, are lighter bodied but great food wines.

Who else within the wine industry do you admire or like?

Small is good – I admire people like Drew Noon from Noons Wines & Tony Brady from Wendouree. They are able to sell all their wine via mail order without having to go through the painful process of retailers. A great business model if you can achieve it. I am not much of a marketer as I don’t like talking about myself! Also Coopers – they are not wine industry but their product is a very important part of the wine industry! 

What is your biggest challenge in the current Australian wine market?

Getting a small, relatively unknown brand like Bundaleer into the hands of the consumers – once they taste our wines they love them but that means lots of public tastings, wine dinners etc. We don’t enter a lot of wine shows as they are expensive & there are often volume restrictions for small producers so it is difficult to get the accolades. That makes it more difficult to get your wines into a distributor or retailer interstate when we don’t have awards to back us up.

Are you targeting any International markets?

Yes, we have dabbled a bit in China which has been good on a small scale but not consistent. Since we were listed as one of James Halliday’s 10 Dark Horse Wineries we have picked up an importer in Taiwan and also got in to the LCBO in Ontario, Canada via a private importer so that is very exciting news for us.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years time?

Retired! That would be nice but I would love to be travelling to some of the less visited places around the world & getting into their local culture. And drinking some of the great wines the world has to offer with their local cuisines. It might take longer than 10 years before I can afford it but you can always dream….and plan!

About you… 

What’s your favourite cellar door to visit?

I haven’t been to a lot of late but I love Somerled & Hahndorf Hill in the Adelaide Hills.

Outside of winemaking what do you love doing?

I love my vegie patch & trying to create new dishes from what I grow. A lot of them don’t taste that great but every now & again I get a keeper. Most of my spare cash goes on travel, eating and drinking!

Favourite Game of Thrones character?

Game of what? Bit out of touch there I guess – Is that a TV show or video game? Unless its on ABC or SBS I wouldn’t have seen it.

What tunes are currently listening to?

I have always been a fan of Van the Man, Bernard Fanning, the Hiptones & similar. But my IPod has a huge range of songs (15,000+) & music styles – my friends are often using the skip button when its on as they find some of the music a bit different. But I am not very good at knowing who is singing what song so don’t have me on your team at the Trivia quiz!

Finally, for those uninitiated to your awesome wines, what do you currently recommend them trying and why?

Of our range I would recommend the Cabernet at the moment – it is always so much better after some time in the bottle & 2012 vintage is the current release which was a cracker year. For some reason Cabernet seems to be the poor cousin to Shiraz in SA but I love a good Cab with some hard cheddar or slow cooked lamb. I had a bottle of the Bundaleer 2009 Cabernet the other night & it has aged very well. So if you can put some down……………. 

What’s this crazy pic you sent me all about?

Absolutely nothing to do with wine but a big part of my growing up – I recently paid a visit to the farm & area where I grew up at Appila, SA. This is the ‘green fridge’ in the corner of the paddock where ours & surrounding neighbours  paper & bread were delivered! Could be good for a wine fridge now! Angela Meaney in a fridge   Many thanks to Angela for taking the time to share some insights into Bundaleer wines and  her life as a winemaker. You can find Bundaeer Wines here: https://www.winecloud.com.au/shop/bundaleer-wines/  
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