At Bloodwood Winery in Orange, central NSW, pioneers Stephen and Rhonda Doyle find a sense of humour helps make a good vintage.

Story By Sheridan Rogers

It’s vintage time at Bloodwood Winery in Orange, central NSW, and there’s a wonderfully yeasty smell in the air. Winemaker and owner Stephen Doyle has just wandered inside after checking the grapes and is looking a little fretful.
“The Cabernet are hanging in the balance,” he remarks. “The Shiraz are beautiful. If it doesn't rain for the next six weeks, I reckon we’ll get some reasonable reds, but if we get any wet weather it’ll split the skins and wash out the flavour.”
It’s ironic that in one of the worst droughts ever he’d be worrying about the effects of rain. “We both worry,” says wife Rhonda, who is busy taking an upside-down apricot cake from the oven. “But we do it in a different way. I raid the fridge and he doesn’t sleep.” “I haven’t slept since 1983,” adds Stephen cheekily.
It’s been a difficult vintage at Bloodwood, not just because of the drought but also because the birds have been getting in under the nets, the tractor split in half and the power washer (which cleans out the barrels and tanks) broke. The Doyles, however, remain resilient and manage to retain their delightfully dry sense of humour.
“You have no control over what’s going on,” muses Stephen. “In the 2000 vintage it started raining and we said 'we'd better pick some grapes'. It didn't stop until November. The reds were awful. So we picked what we could out of it and I made it into rose, which was about all it was good for, and we explained to people it was a pretty dodgy wine, but it's the best we could do, and we called it Big Men in Tights.” Originally called Rose of Malbec, Stephen decided to rename it after the very wet 2000 vintage. “I thought it needed a bit of help,” he says grinning. “And people love it though sometimes it makes them think we’re not so serious about our winemaking.”

This story excerpt is from Issue #53

Outback Magazine: June/July 2007