G’day. I’m Phil.
And I’m the least likely person to be involved in the wine industry.
For a long time, I was a public servant. In a sense, anyway. Most of my adult working life was building websites, analysing websites, writing social media policies, developing user journey maps, and a whole bunch of other boring web stuff. I was the quintessential IT geek, contracting for various departments in the Australian federal Government, earning a fairly decent wage doing so, but ultimately not happy.
My wine story starts much earlier than this, however.
I have an uncle who was a wine buyer at a country club in Canberra, Australia’s capital city. The day I turned 18, and therefore legally able to drink, was the day he decided it was his life’s mission to expand my palate. It was, not coincidentally, the same day I decided to let him do just that.
So from a very ‘early’ age, I was drinking some pretty good booze. I was also drinking a ton of ordinary booze because, to use Chris’ expression, I had no right to learn about the great white Burgundies without knowing what Chardonnay was really about for most people – so here’s a glass of Jacob’s Creek. This also taught me the value of spitting out wine.
Fast forward a few years, and I’m a complete wine tragic. I’ve completed an introductory wine making course through the Canberra Institute of Technology, I’ve enrolled in a Bachelor of Wine Science at Charles Sturt University, I’ve transferred out of that degree into the Bachelor of Technology (Wine) at the University of Southern Queensland (yes, that’s not a typo and it makes sense, trust me), but I’m still a public servant. In a sense.
In 2015, I have that contract – everyone who has ever been an IT contractor has had ‘that contract’. The one that doesn’t quite pan out the way it should. The project that you toil away for months only for the rug to be pulled out at the last moment. In my case, the entire project got canned at the end of the financial year and as a contractor, I was on my own. Hand your pass in at the door, see you later.
Luckily, I was getting paid monthly in arrears. As I mentioned, I was getting paid a fairly decent wage, which hit my account a few days into July 2015 – we didn’t need to think of money for a small period of time.
What I knew at this time was that I was unhappy. What I didn’t know was what would make me happy.
After bumming around the house for a few weeks doing, really, not that much, my wife suggested that I’ve never really given this ‘wine thing’ a fair crack, and maybe I should throw myself at that.
We refinanced the house to give us capital, and I just threw myself at this ‘wine thing’. Come mid-August 2015 I find myself working in a winery, part-time, in the Hilltops region near Young, NSW. By November I’m also working in a liquor store. I survive my first vintage whilst making a ton of mistakes and, as fate may have it, get let go from the winery in Young I was working at.
Four days later, the Cellar Door Manager job at Glenguin, a small boutique winery in Australia’s Hunter Valley, opens up. It takes me four further days to apply. Had I not been let go, there’s almost zero chance I apply at all. The way I had figured it, there’s 1001 people in the Hunter Valley working in the wine industry already, why the heck would they want some idiot from Canberra? Little did I know.
I applied for the job in March 2016, got offered the job in April 2016, moved myself to the Hunter Valley in June 2016 and then moved the family at the end of August 2016. To say those few months were a whirlwind would be massively understating the scenario. Pure craziness.
I was at Glenguin for four years until the cellar door was closed and the operation scaled back in June 2020 – in part because of the Covid-19 pandemic, in part for a bunch of other reasons – buy me a drink one night and I might tell the full story, but that’s not for here.
Since the move to the Hunter in 2016 I have graduated uni with a degree in winemaking and viticulture (not quite the final degree I wanted, but it’ll do for now) as well as WSET certified to the Diploma in Wines (the WSET’s highest qualification and the stepping stone to the Master of Wine). I also run my own wine distribution business, Turallo Wine Distribution, and still occasionally write for various publications and websites. I love what I get to do for a living and I hope to be doing it for a long time yet.
That’s my story, but what I really want to know is: what’s yours?