Virgil Kerr

Virgil Kerr

“I’ve always had a fantastic taste memory and I discovered it way back as a teenager making honey” 

Born in New Zealand, 1974, I moved to Australia with my Mother and sister aged 3 or 4. Don’t have any recollections of New Zealand and for all intent and purposes I grew up in North Queensland as an Aussie. North Queensland was as far from grapes as I could imagine but in my early days I wanted to be a brewer. At 13 I became fascinated with my apiary, tending to about 13 hives with a mate of mine. At the end of a good season we had significant volumes of honey left over after storing and swapping what we could. The logical choice was to turn the honey into booze........I found that I enjoyed the process and it all seemed logical to me. I can still remember the resulting mead which was bone dry and underwent a secondary ferment in the bottle, resulting in an exquisite sparkling mead. From there I found that it was relatively easy to go to the supermarket and purchase the homebrew beer kits even though I couldn’t go to the bottle shop and buy a carton of beer. I finally got busted with about 100 tall bottles of beer under my bed which was confiscated by my uncles who had to chastise me on one hand and congratulate me on the other because the beer was surprisingly high quality. At this stage I then wanted to be a brewer and even organised a school project for myself that ensured I got to go to CUB Brewers in Cairns for a guided tour. 

Not long after this phase however, I found wine. While I enjoyed beer, I fell for the complexity and range of wine. I finally made up my mind to go into the wine industry after a string of mediocre jobs that I struggled to get find satisfying. I reasoned one day that I would probably always have to work for a living and that I should do something that I loved. I worked one full season in a vineyard in WA and one vintage at Houghtons to make sure that It was what I wanted to do. I loved the whole year and applied for uni. (Roseworthy) I arrived in Adelaide with $50 in my pocket and a backpack. I worked solidly for 4 years about 15 to 18 hours a day (like any broke student) and finally graduated in 2005. 

"I moved to New Zealand in pursuit of Pinot Noir as I hadn’t found any Pinot in the Southern Hemisphere that matched the quality of what I was tasting from New Zealand" 

My first vintage ’05 was at Oyster Bay and in the off season I worked the vineyards. In ’06 I scored a job at Matahiwi Estate as Assistant winemaker. I then moved on to Borthwick Estate and Mebus Estate, working in vineyards or restaurants. During the vintage with Mebus estate I rented space and equipment to start my own contract winemaking company. I pulled in 11 tonnes in the first year and all was looking good and the wines were kicking goals. People are still raving about my wines* The recession and a time of overproduction in NZ means I things in NZ are on hold for the moment. 

Now I am at Tasmainian Estates but I made regular trips across the ditch to check on the progress of the Pinot Noir M Wine. (* We can attest for this we tasted a fabulous Sauvignon Blanc at the Martinborough Hotel that Virgil had rescued from a pretty tough, botrytis affected crop, very very good indeed...M) We had planned to plan to age it for up to 18 months in barrel, however I after tasting in December 2011 I found the colour to be astonishingly good and the flavour and aroma was developing well. This may only need 9 months or so of barrel aging which allows us more bottle aging time before the planned release in March 2013. I think it will be at its best between 5 to 15 years.

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