Kym Milne’s career in the wine industry began when he graduated from Roseworthy Agricultural College in 1981. In 1991 he obtained a prestigious Master of Wine qualification. He has worked extensively through New Zealand and Europe, as well as consulting in a variety of other wine regions around the world.
What brought you back to Australia after working & travelling abroad for 20 years as a winemaker and consultant?
I left Australia in 1983 and returned 2003. I spent 10 years in New Zealand as Chief Winemaker for Villa Maria Wines, and then 10 years in Europe, based in the UK running winemaking projects worldwide for International Wine Services. After IWS was sold and with three young boys we decided to move nearer to family so they could get to know their grandparents more. My original plan in 1983 was to gain experience overseas for a couple of years and return to Australia, but by the time I did that I had a New Zealand wife and three English sons.
How did your professional life change and what opportunities arose after becoming Australia’s second Master of Wine in 1991?
Initially I did the MW out of interest to broaden my understanding of wine. However having both a winemaking qualification and an MW is not that common, and I am sure it helped open doors and opportunities in general around the world.
What originally sparked your interest/passion in wine?
My first taste of wine as a young teenager sparked some initial interest. A combination of enjoying science at school as well as having been raised on a farm lead me to look for something that combined outside work as well as science. I looked at food technology amongst other things, but decided wine was much more interesting than milk powder.
What would you be doing if you weren’t a winemaker?
I have not really considered anything else. International cricket commentator would certainly appeal as I’m a bit of a cricket tragic, but playing for the Mylor A4’s was unlikely to get me there!
There has been a shift towards Italian/Spanish varietals by the Australian consumer – why do you think this is, and how has Bird In Hand capitalised on this trend?
Whilst still a small part of the market it is a very exciting part of the market. We have concentrated mostly on Italian varietals, partly because of my experience of 10 years of running winemaking projects in Italy, and because the Adelaide Hills are very suited to some of these varieties. At Bird in Hand we are now making an Arneis, a Nero d’Avola and a Montepulciano and this year we made a very small quanitity of Sagrantino that looks exciting. On the non-Italian side we have made our first Gruner Veltliner this year, a white variety from Austria.
How do Adelaide Hills wines compare to wines on the international stage? What makes them distinct?
Hills wines fit very well in international markets. The distinctive nature of the Adelaide Hills comes from the cool nights. Day temperatures are often two to three degrees cooler than Adelaide, but the night temperatures are often 10 to 14 degrees cooler. This leads to slower ripening, fresher varietal characters in the whites, and more elegant, firmer structured reds than the warmer regions.
BIH has built up an impressively large and diverse range of wines in its portfolio. Do you have any particular favourites to drink or ones you’re most proud of? I believe Chardonnay and Shiraz are our flagship wines, and varieties that do extremely well in the Adelaide Hills. I also particularly enjoy our Nero d’Avola as something different.
The BIH Nest Egg 2010 Shiraz was awarded the World’s Best Shiraz a few years ago. What sets the Nest Egg range apart from other BIH wines?
Our Nest Egg range is a selection of the very best fruit/wine we receive from the vintage. We only bottle it if we are completely satisfied with the quality – it is not always made every year. We keep all parcels of our grapes separate, even separate picks in parts of some vineyards, age them separately, evaluate them throughout barrel ageing and then select small volumes of the best parcels only for Nest Egg.
What tips would you give someone wanting to become a winemaker?
Ensure you have a passion for the product.
What’s your favourite food and wine combination?
Too many to choose one. Chardonnay with creamy dishes, lamb with Cabernet, and Spanish Jamon Iberico with Manzanilla sherry.
How do your kids feel about wine and do they aim to follow your footsteps into the industry?
One of my three sons has caught the wine bug. He is currently in his third year of a winemaking degree at Adelaide University as well as doing stage 3 of the WSET exam to broaden his world wine knowledge. He also seems to have a strong interest in the consumption of boutique beers!
Kym Milne will be hosting a Bird in Hand wine masterclass at Fassina Liquor Somerton Park on September 14 from 7.30pm. For more information or to join the Fassina Liquor Wine Club Mailing List, visit the Fassina website.
We value local independent journalism. We hope you do too.
InDaily provides valuable, local independent journalism in South Australia. As a news organisation it offers an alternative to The Advertiser, a different voice and a closer look at what is happening in our city and state for free. Any contribution to help fund our work is appreciated. Please click below to become an InDaily supporter.