DESPITE being a local boy in the Yarra Valley wine-growing region in Australia, Paul Bridgeman never harboured any intentions of joining the wine industry.

“I was playing music and I was into agriculture. I actually use to drink beer. A lot of beer,” he said with a laugh.

Bridgeman, 41, now the Yarra Yering winemaker, was recently in Malaysia to host a wine-tasting session at the Le Meridien Kuala Lumpur.

“I was working in an orchard and one of the sons of the owners had planted vineyards. He started making wine and I would stay back to help him and I thought that was kind of cool. That’s probably where my interest started,” he said.

Graduating with an associate diploma in Farm Management, he then had the opportunity to work for 18 months in a winery in Washington state, USA.

“I had a lot of fun there. At that time, the Yarra Valley was starting to grow and I came back to work for three and a half years. I then got the opportunity to work in France, in the southwest area. The experience was feeding my interest in wines and it slowly expanded into a full passion,” he said.

E5316B73BCC24638B7F9AB18821BC526Smooth one: Starters like fresh oysters and smoked salmon is paired with white wines like the Chardonnay.

In 2008, Bridgeman returned to Australia when Yarra Yerring owner Dr Baily Carrodus appointed him as the winemaker after a series of interviews and blind tastings but the owner passed away shortly after.

Bridgeman explained that Dr Carrodus had planted the vineyard in 1969 and owned it until his death but had no family and no one to pass it on to.

“It was put up for sale and bought over by a business interest based in Singapore who have a sister winery in Barossa Valley. They have a long-standing love for Yarra Yering and did not want to change how it was run,” he said.

To Bridgeman, Yarra Yering was an iconic Australian vineyard that makes wine that is very true to the farm where the grapes were grown in.

“We just try to let vineyard speak through the wine. We have a diverse variety growing in the same area. We have some chardonnay growing next to some pinot noir with merlot and shiraz above.

FE5C52F156344E4DB9307657D7903304Sampling the spread: Bridgeman displaying the wines at the tasting session.

“When you have a vineyard with different varieties, it’s rare that you have all of them performing at high standards. It normally shouldn’t work but it does for us” he said.

Having a background in agriculture came to be an advantage to him as a winemaker.

“You not only make wine but you are running a vineyard. You need to know the problems, the area that are not performing as good as it should, the timing of different operations. You need to have a presence all the time so you can see the changes in the vineyard. If an action needs to take place, you need to know it.

“With the harvesting of grapes, your window of best opportunity can be very small. I’m lucky that we have a dedicated and committed team on the vineyard who lives, breathes and loves Yarra Yering. When I can’t be there, they are my eyes and ears,” he said.

Bridgeman explained that their wines were quite atypical of Australian wines.

“They are elegant, structured and restrained. They’re held back rather than pushed forward and have a feel of wines that are comfortable within itself and speak well for where it’s grown,” he said.

Historically, Bridgeman said that their signature blends were their Dry Red Wine No.1 and Dry Red Wine No.2, which guests at the tasting session got to sample with different red meats from a buffet spread.

“We also have the Chardonnay and the Pinot Noir which I’m also very excited about.

“Our wines are made with a very European mindset where they should not only drink well by themselves but they should also be able to match very well with food. They are handmade in tiny quantities with precise attention to detail,” said Bridgeman.

For more information about the Yarra Yering wines, contact distributor Straits Wine Company Sdn Bhd at 03-7842 6363.

This is the writer’s observation and not an endorsement from StarMetro.

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