A couple of weeks ago, I had the wonderful opportunity to chat with one of Australia's most famed winemakers, Chris Pfeiffer. Not only did he pour me tastes of his wonderful wines — the Muscat was my fave — but he also gave me a whole new perspective on Australian wines.
With 30 years of winemaking under his belt, Chris is incredibly knowledgeable without being pretentious. He takes pride in his homeland, the Southern Australia region known as Rutherglen, and has created a distinct style of wine that he refers to as "refined restraint." Unlike more traditional, big and rich Australian wines, Pfeiffer's are beautifully balanced. To see what Chris had to say on a recent trip to San Francisco,
A pfun-loving — a running joke at his winery is changing any "f" to "pf" — family man, Chris enjoys working at his winery with his wife and daughters. When he discusses his desire to help people look at Australian wines in a new light, he quickly mentions his exceptional Riesling. With its fresh, clean mineral taste and palate-whetting briskness, it's very different from the sweet variation most people are used to drinking.
PartySugar: What trends are emerging in the wine world?
Chris Pfeiffer: I'm concerned about the alcohol level in wines getting too high. I prefer a more restrained wine and feel that we as winemakers have to accept our social responsibility. People might not be aware that they are drinking a wine with a very high alcohol content and could get in a car and drive after a glass or two. It's something we need to be conscious of and possibly change.
PS: What advice do you give to a young wine drinker who doesn't know much about wine?
CP: You have to really taste and make a journey with the wine. Try different things, drink a lot of wine. Read magazines and try and taste the wine you are reading about. Don't read about it if you can't taste it. Or if you drink a wine, look up what people have to say about it online. Get together with friends and share a more expensive wine together. Once you start tasting more and more wines, you'll develop a better palate.
PS: As a winemaker, what is your biggest fear?
CP: Not being able to sell my wine. I understand that growing grapes for wine is a fatalistic approach. I can't control the weather; we are in the middle of a horrible drought right now. That's why it's so important; the ability to sell your product is critical.
PS: What did you have for lunch today?
CP: A quintessential American experience: a hamburger with sweet potato fries and an espresso milkshake.