Craig Stansborough – Premium Winemaker for Accolade Wines
In this interview, Craig Stansborough, Group Premium Winemaker in Australia and New Zealand for Accolade Wines, shares a little about what makes Hardys wines so special, and some exciting stories from behind the scenes.
What do you do?
I am the Group Premium Winemaker in Australia and New Zealand for Accolade Wines.
How did you get into the industry?
I landed a job at the historic Seppeltsfield winery in the Barossa. It was not my intention to start a career as a winemaker. After a shaky start, I became more and more intrigued, and within a few months, I had a clear goal and plenty of determination to make wine and pursue a career in this wonderful industry.
Share with us a story from behind the scenes.
We have some heated discussions in the tasting room. Egos and strong opinions are the norm, all intending to create the best wine possible. All is forgotten once we leave the room.
What food memory from your childhood or travels stands out?
I have a couple. Firstly, my Nana’s pasties. She did everything from scratch, no recipe, of course! I have never been able to match this. Also, I fondly remember my Dad and a couple of his brothers always taking me crabbing. We’d cook the catch on the beach – they were so fresh and sweet.
What’s the best/ worst part of your job?
One of my favourite parts is walking through a vineyard early in the morning, tasting fruit on the vine. It’s so peaceful. I also get a kick from watching people smile when they have tasted something you have put your heart and soul into making. The worst is standing by and watching the weather destroy a crop after months and months of hard work. Additionally, budgets and endless emails do not put a smile on my face.
Tell us a little about Hardys, the terroir, the people, and the style of winemaking.
The company is 170 years old and has its roots in South Australia, mainly McLaren Vale. However, we make wine from many regions in Australia, from Western Australia to Tasmania, so we work with many terroirs. We have many talented winemakers within our team, some that have been part of the winemaking team for decades, some new to the team; in reality, the brand is stronger than any individual. We are really only custodians of the brand. The style of winemaking is quite varied depending on variety, region, style and price point. It is important that as much care and attention goes into your entry point wines as it does at your very top end.
What are some of your favourite food and beverage pairings?
Fine Chardonnay and oysters. Tassie Pinot Noir with smoked duck. Italian fennel sausage ragu with Shiraz.
What’s one of the craziest things you’ve seen behind the scenes?
The industry went through a craze using Roto fermenters, a little like a tank on its side that you can rotate. One Saturday morning, my colleague rotated the fermenter without closing the door, and hence, around 10 tonnes of Shiraz found its way to the floor. We laugh about it now, but at the time, we spent the whole day with shovels. The beer tasted pretty good at the end of that day.
The perfect day off would be …
With the family. We generally spend our Christmas holidays on the coast. Weather permitting, we head out fishing in the morning, catch some fish, head back to the shack, clean the fish over a beer or two, clean up and cook the fish and sit on the deck with a few bottles of wine overlooking the water on a very balmy warm summers night.
A day in the life of Craig Stansborough is …
Never the same.
What does Craig Stansborough do for fun?
I love sports, so I enjoy going to football (AFL) with my son. We have property, so I really enjoy growing food. Apart from being healthy, it is very relaxing and satisfying. We have numerous bush walking tracks near us, so my wife and I do this regularly.
Overseas, at least in Malaysia, Hardys is often thought of as a cheaper wine found in supermarkets. Is that the whole story, or does Hardys have much more to offer?
It is a little annoying that the brand is viewed that way. We have some of the most well-respected and premium wines in Australia. The Eileen Hardys range of wines, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Shiraz, are some of the very best wines we make.
What would you like guests to know about Hardys?
It has an amazing history and has been a leader in the Australian wine industry for 170 years. Hardys has nurtured some of Australia’s finest winemakers.
How have you grown in your profession? What are your key learnings from your start in the industry until now? Any misconceptions?
Absolutely, of course, I have grown; I think this is no different to life in general. My focus has shifted to the health of the soil and quality of the fruit as the most important part of winemaking. Some people would say this has always been the case, but as a young winemaker, you think you can do anything and make great wine no matter what the source. This is a rubbish. You cannot make great wine from poor fruit; you can make poor wine from great fruit! This is where the winemaker plays an integral role. Our job is to get the very best from the fruit we crush. This requires attention to detail, imagination and gut feel.
What do you want people to know about being a winemaker as a profession?
Unlike many other beverages, you get one chance yearly to make wine and get it right. The other is a true combination of art and science.
What’s your view on the wine industry scene in South Australia?
It is a little tough now. The Chinese tariffs on Australian wine have had a negative effect on our industry. You cannot take away our major export market and expect no consequences. This has affected every facet of the industry, from family grape growers to large corporates.
What practices do you currently implement or hope to implement to work towards social responsibility and sustainability in the future?
Our company is very proactive in this area. We have numerous programs to deal with mental health, welfare and inclusion. Similar to sustainability, we have many programs in place, from reverting to lightweight bottles to recycled glass and paper for labels to water conservation to alternative energy. We have a department dedicated to sustainability.
What can guests look forward to in the upcoming months?