Prior to establishing Ottelia John served a 30‐year apprenticeship in wine making.
It started as a 17 year old growing up in Bathurst, NSW. Despite not having a strong connection to wine making, though his parents were known to bottle their own Mudgee red on occasion, he knew he wanted to be a winemaker.
A few years and a few detours later, he was studying Wine Science and working as an assistant to the esteemed Italian wine maker Carlo Corino, considered one of the best in the game.
A move to Coonawarra followed where John worked as a winemaker for 20 vintages, and then as a winemaking consultant.
He knows the Limestone Coast well, its wine growing regions of Coonawarra, Wrattonbully, Mount Benson and Mount Gambier, their different soils, their climates. That’s the background, the knowledge and the enthusiasm John brings to Ottelia.
ABOUT THE VINEYARD
It was only ever supposed to be temporary. John and Melissa moved to the iconic Coonawarra region 25 years ago intending to, in John’s words, “stay a little while”.
They bought a parcel of land ringed by tall Red Gum Eucalypts, and with natural wetlands dotted with Ottelia Ovalifolia, a native waterlily. All these years later John and Melissa are still there.
Together they have spent nearly half a lifetime in the Limestone coast region, John working as a winemaker and consultant across its unique wine growing regions, and Melissa establishing a restaurant.
Their lasting connection to the region and infatuation for wine has produced Ottelia, drawn from the best vineyards of the Limestone Coast.
Ottelia Ovalifolia is the horticultural name for the waterlily that blooms with white and purple flowers on John and Melissa’s property, it hosts a chorus of native frogs at night and provides the namesake for John’s fascination, his wine label Ottelia.
Historically the hardy native grew abundantly across the region; borrowing the name for the wine seemed fitting given the years invested in working in the area’s vineyards.
At the beginning of my winemaking career, I had the privilege to work as assistant winemaker to the late Carlo Corino for five years. Carlo was a highly qualified and respected Italian winemaker whose influence in Italy and Australia will endure. As well as the exceptional overall learning experience I gained from Carlo, he has instilled within me a fundamental winemaking philosophy that I have continued with, and built upon over my career.
Firstly, this philosophy is to allow what Carlo described as the ‘vinous quality’ of the wine to be retained and to show through in the finished product. Secondly, that the structure and flavour of these wines must be considered as an accompaniment to food and not as an individual component. In essence, use very good quality fruit and spend time in the vineyard, continually tasting the fruit for optimal flavour and textural ripeness. Get this right, and there should be no need to interfere with the natural balance and structure of the wine by adding tannins or excessive oaking of the wine. My approach is to focus upon the true and optimal fruit flavours, the vinous quality, and the natural empathy that these wines will have with food.
A comment that has been used quite often is “that great wines are created in the vineyard”, something that I totally endorse as I believe that my philosophy cannot be put into practice without a fundamental presence in and an understanding of the vineyard. The winemaker’s role is to capture and manage the fruit quality from the vineyard through to the finished wine. The vineyards that I work with are all managed in a sustainable way to produce fruit that is of optimal quality and flavour. These vineyards minimise the use of sprays and concentrate on maintaining a healthy environment and vineyard. While not organic, they adhere to the fundamental principals of low input and sustainable viticulture.
A natural product is a chemical compound or substance produced by a living organism—that is, found in nature. Quality wine is a natural product, where good winemaking practices preserve and encourage the pure and delightful flavours of the grape through to the finished wine. A winemaking approach I am fully committed to.