Burke & Wills Winery is a small family run business in the Heathcote Wine Region, owned and operated by winemaker and music entrepreneur Andrew Pattison and his wife Heather McCormack. We produce a wide range of quality wines with a focus on premium wines from our home vineyard.
Andrew Pattison, founder of Melbourne's famous 'eighties music venue The Troubadour, former owner of Lancefield Winery in Victoria's Macedon Ranges is nowadays owner and winemaker at Burke & Wills Winery in the famous Heathcote wine region. Andrew is also a music festival director and music promoter, who keeps The Troubadour flame alive by running a mobile version of the venue as a prominent but intimate marquee venue at several of eastern Australia's top folk festivals. Read more about Andrew's music history here on the music page.
Heather McCormack is the "other half" of Burke & Wills Winery, and takes the role of pruner of our home vineyard, general vineyard work, running the necessary lab tests and accounts and off sides Andrew as and when needed. Luckily she loves the outdoor work and lifestyle and is the caretaker of the farmyard of animals, with special care and love for the equine parts of the Burke & Wills Family, especially one extra special equine, "Clomp".
"Clomp", or unofficially "Mr Burke", or officially "some long, hyphenated and registered, clydesdale name that we've forgotten"........ is a special member of our equine herd and has been a part of the establishment since 2003 - (a 40th birthday present for Heather actually - not that we are letting on how old Heather is of course......).
"Clomp" (thank Bernard Bolan for his nickname!) has been a part of everything, helping picking (at least until he worked out how edible - and reachable - the contents of the buckets hanging from his pack saddle were....), and pruning (of his own keeping always having the cart perfectly placed for Heather to put the prunings straight over her shoulder into), choosing the grapes for and advising us in general in regards to "his wine", Mr Burke's Favourite Big Red", meeting and greeting all of our customers (with or without carrots....) and always the leader of our small herd. These days he is semi retired, always ready to do meet and greet and spends his time keeping the herd in order and you up to date with his gossip column in the newsletter.....
The Winery so far....
In May 2004 Andrew Pattison sold his established Lancefield Winery to move 15 kms. north onto the Burke & Wills Track and into the slightly warmer Heathcote wine region. The new Burke & Wills Winery, on rich red volcanic soil, continues the Lancefield Winery tradition of quality boutique wine at affordable prices with the Burke & Wills, Dig Tree and Pattison labels, and becomes home to occasional concert events and the annual March festival, (once the Lancefield Winery Folk Festival now the Burke & Wills Folk Festival.)
History of the wineries.
Andrew Pattison's first vineyard was planted between 1982 and 1984, four kms from Lancefield on the Woodend Road. The winery was licensed as Lancefield Winery and opened for business in 1985, making it the seventh licensed winery in the Macedon Ranges, Kyneton and Sunbury regions, an area which now has over thirty wineries.
In 1993 the property was sold, and has become Glen Erin Vineyard Retreat. Meanwhile Andrew Pattison relocated the Lancefield Winery business to a new site deep in the secluded bush and boulder country ten miles north of Lancefield, at Emu Flat, between Baynton and Tooborac. A vineyard of Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Noir, Shiraz and Merlot was established there on northerly slopes of granitic sand soil, and being one of the most northerly vineyards in the Macedon Ranges, and over The Divide, it was one of the region's warmer sites, with spectacular ripening results. In the meantime Lancefield Winery also managed an unirrigated red volcanic soil vineyard on a steep northerly slope at Pipers Creek, near Kyneton. The Emu Flat vineyard was sold in 2004 (to become Wili Wilia Winery) and Andrew relocated his winery to establish Burke & Wills Winery on the Burke & Wills Track, just in the southern end of the Heathcote wine region. The planting here at the home vineyard began in 2004 and includes Shiraz (of course), Gewurztraminer (because we love it!) and the Cabernet family (Cab Sauv, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot - because great Cabernet blends are Andrew's passion).
I am certain that great wines are made in the vineyard rather than in the winery.
So the most important thing is to grow the grape varieties you want in the right place … the right ‘terroir’ as the French call it. It’s all about having excellent fruit.
Terroir involves climate, soil, aspect and more. We chose our site because of its volcanic basalt soil, good and well drained but not too deep and rich, and a climate that is just a notch above a very cool climate. The best wines are made in the coolest climate that can fully ripen the grapes, and different grape varieties ripen slower or faster than others. Our climate is ideal for Shiraz and the Cabernet family, and is working really well for Gewurztraminer too. We are probably a touch too warm for Pinot Noir or Chardonnay. Forty kilometres further north in our own region it is probably a touch too warm for Cabernet… they can still be lovely wines, but they don’t have as much distinctive varietal character.
In the winery I see my job as making sure nothing goes wrong, and letting nature take care of most of the winemaking. If we have the right fruit, minimal intervention is our preference. The less additives, such as tartaric acid, diammonium phosphate, tannin, etc. the better. To achieve this the vines do not want to be stressed by overcropping or lack of water, and the canopy of leaves needs to be open enough for sunlight and air to be able to get in with ease. And the grapes need to be picked at the right time. It is all a delicate balance.
We prune by hand and we let our vines grow at the speed that they want to, so it takes many years before we are getting full crops. And even then we are only growing between one and two tonnes of grapes per acre. (Cheaper commercial wines often come from heavily irrigated and fertilised vines cropped at anything from 4 to 15 tonnes per acre.) We don’t use chemical fertilisers or pesticides, and our weed control is almost entirely by hand, with a whipper snipper, mower and sheep, because the more natural the biology of the soil, the more worms and microbes that live in it, the more healthy are the vines. We pick our grapes by hand too, so we can carefully monitor every bunch.
As a winemaker, particularly a red wine maker, I still have to make decisions, with a certain amount of intervention, such as how long to let the grape juice soak with the skins before the ferment starts, when to press the juice off the skins, how long to leave the wine in oak barrels, and which type of oak, etc. But we smaller winemakers produce unique wines that are totally identified with the terroir of the vineyard in which they grow, and the climatic variations of each vintage, as opposed to the big commercial brands that attempt to style their wines to taste the same every year; hence the term ‘industrial wines’.
Many people make good wines. But to survive in a very competitive industry, where the big companies have economies of scale that allow them to sell good wines much more cheaply than we can, we small winemakers have to strive to make wines that are both distinctive and great. As the singer Paul Anka once said, good is the enemy of great.