Jody Pagey began studying winemaking when he was only 22 and has travelled across estates to perfect his craft, ultimately bringing him to the role of head winemaker at Mount Michael Wines.
“The world of wine is so enormous that there is always something new to discover,” said Pagey. Working in vineyards across Tasmania, Oregon and France, Pagey has been influenced by each country’s unique approach to the craft. Now based in Central Otago, he allows the physical landscape to influence the characteristics of his wines.
“Central Otago is the southernmost grape growing region in the world,” he said. “This gives the wines beautiful natural acidity and fruit intensity. The whites have energy and minerality while the Pinot Noirs are a unique combination of power and elegance.”
It is not only the stunning landscapes which have influenced Pagey’s craft. There have been winemaking mentors throughout his life who have guided him in the right direction.
“In 2014 I was lucky enough to work with Francois Millet in Burgundy, and he has been the single biggest influence on my winemaking career,” explained Pagey. “Working at one of the top estates in Burgundy with an absolute legend of a winemakers was a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
For Pagey, asking what makes a great wine is like asking what makes a great painting; each painting and each bottle provides a unique experience. “For me, it should reflect the vineyard and season, be balanced and have personality. Wines are not like whiskey or beer; every year should have subtle differences.”
To achieve this personality and unique flavour, Pagey applies a minimalistic philosophy to his winemaking. “My approach is based on getting the fruit from the vineyard into the bottle with as little outside influence as possible. All with the goal of the finished wine being as true a reflection of the vineyard and the season as possible.” Doing as little as possible to the wine is the key to good winemaking for Pagey and is the best piece of advice he could give to anyone moving into the discipline.
With only four years as a head winemaker, and just under a year in the role at Mount Michael, Pagey spoke humbly about his experiences, but within these few years the vineyard has experienced their fair share of tribulations. Intense weather with colder and more frequent frosts, strong winds and long dry spells can make managing a vineyard a challenging venture. “2017 was very difficult. It was the year I decided to walk away from the job I had tried hard for six years to get. But it was also a great learning experience and taught me a lot about what’s important in life.”
But with the lows came the highs, and the vineyard has seen great success following Pagey’s determination, and the vineyard has continued to turn out stunning wines with their signature flair. “It’s been amazing to see what the team at Mount Michael has been able to achieve in our first year together. I am looking forward to seeing us grow this little brand and continue to make great wine.”