Robyn Piper & Steve Attkins

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Steve Attkins and his wife Robyn are the owners of Great Lakes Winery – a beautiful estate just near Cooloongolook. It is such a luscious winery that we reccomend a visit this month, not only if you are a visitor, but also if you live locally.

How was 2010 for the wine industry?

There is an oversupply of fruit and wine in Australia, which is gradually diminishing as growers remove vineyards in regions where oversupply is hitting hardest. Small boutique wineries are impacted by the oversupply to a lesser degree, as we are not dependent on bulk sales through liquor outlets – wine drinkers continue to seek out smaller wineries doing things a little differently, offering a quality product and an experience rather than a cheap drink from the bottlo!

> People have an exceptional liking of wine – not only because it makes you feel happy, but because it is extremely versatile. Explain why that factor alone is so interesting …

The experience of drinking wine can be simplistic by just enjoying a cool glass of your favourite wine on a hot summer day with friends.

But there is also the option to deepen the experience of wine by experimenting with food and wine matching. Foodies are taking over the world at the moment, and what better way to enjoy food than to sip on a delicious glass of quality wine that makes the food taste even better!

Food and wine combinations are endless, so this can develop into a passion that will carry on for the rest of your life …

> Tell us the process from beginning to end for making wines at Great Lakes Winery.

Winemaking is an ongoing cycle which presents different challenges every year. We’ve been here at Great Lakes Winery for 10 years now, and we can honestly say no two years have been the same. The beginning of the growing season kicks off in September, when budburst occurs … the vines start to flower and miniature bunches appear on the vines. Each vine is lovingly cared for and managed throughout the growing season, which continues from September through to harvest in February / March. Weather is our daily fascination … our kids know to be quiet when the weather report comes on.

Deciding when to harvest is one of the biggest decisions we make each year. Once we make that decision, we get out there and hand pick – and our kids get in there with us too – sometimes we wish we’d had 10 kids!

Once the fruit comes in, the crush and winemaking process begins. It’s a relatively short process for white wines, but the reds require a longer period of time to fully develop their characteristics.

When we believe the wine is ready, it’s time for bottling. And when the bottling is complete, we have product ready to be tested in the cellar door and shipped out to restaurants and wine club members.

And back in the vineyard while all this is going on … pruning happens June / July. Then we are ready to take a well earned rest and store lots of carbohydrate, ready for the cycle to begin again in September.

> The Manning and the Great Lakes is a gorgeous place – why is it such a good climate /environment for growing wine?

There are many people who visit us who are still stuck in that mindset of wine can only be produced in the Hunter, South Australia and other traditional wine growing regions. The truth is, you can grow grapes in a variety of climates.

Something you might be interested to know is that Nabiac was covered in vineyards in the 1800s.

This region offers good rainfall and sun filled summer days, which are essential for the ripening process. The cool afternoon breezes offset the humidity, and at Great Lakes Winery we have also have wonderful soil. All these elements combined allow us to produce excellent quality fruit which is the essential ingredient to make a good wine.

> What brought you to the region?

Our desire to raise our children in an environment where we are able to be together as a family, leaving the corporate culture and time restraints of our Sydney lifestyle behind. We still work very hard, but we can share our working life with our children in a healthy environment where they are being exposed to a wonderful variety of people and experiences our previous lifestyle wouldn’t have provided.

> Why should people make the trip to visit, and what can they expect?

Funnily enough, Great Lakes Winery is not all about the wine. We genuinely enjoy the time we spend in our cellar door – we get to meet great people every day and talk about just about anything. We like to educate, chat, drink and share the experience of our lifestyle choice with anyone who is interested.

Our herd of Angus beef cattle, plenty of local produce, a variety of functions and a great space to muck around in are all on offer at the winery.

So expect an experience like no other winery … personable, choice, quality, a range of options in an environment that is guaranteed to relax you!

> What makes Australian wines such a standout on the international market?

Australians are good innovators and don’t feel bound by tradition or irrelevant beliefs, which helps make Australia stand out. We are fresh and young with new ideas and techniques that make traditional markets frown … the results are there, with Australia producing some of the most outstanding wines in the world. Australia is blessed with a climate that grows great fruit and a heritage that is knowledgeable and nimble.

> When you drink wine, what do you drink?

We drink a lot of Great Lakes Wines, but also enjoy exploring wines of the world. Many bottle shops offer the same old wines, so when we are serious about stocking our cellar, we order direct from favourite wineries. We prefer Australian wines with the occasional Italian wine for a little international flavour.

> What are some quick tips for novice wine buyers?

Visit us at Great Lakes Winery, is what we recommend you do. You don’t need any previous experience to come in and try wine. Learners are very welcome. Wineries give you the opportunity to try the wine, get advice on food and wine matching and give recommendations on what to look for when buying wine.

Many new wine drinkers like something a little sweet – a Rose could be a good place to start.

> And what should we be taking to a summer BBQ this season?

Great Lakes Verdelho – if you’re sharing wine with a group of people, it’s a crowd pleaser!

> Last but not least, what is your New Year’s resolution?

Something we always try to live by: life is too short to drink bad wine!

> Thank you Steve and Robyn.

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