An Interview With Payten & Jones
ABS Wine Agencies, Fri 17 Jan 2020
Come along to the ABS tables (47- 51) at Australia Day (More Info) and meet Troy Jones, co-owner/winemaker at Payten & Jones in Healesville in the Yarra Valley. See below for an insight into life at their Healesville winery and what motivates him and fellow winemaker Behn Payten.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THE HEALESVILLE LOCATION FOR YOUR WINERY, WHAT MAKES IT SPECIAL TO YOU?
Healesville is the heart of the Yarra Valley and as far as we’re concerned, the Yarra Valley is the heart of Australian Cool Climate wines. As we both grew up here and don’t get out much, it was the logical choice for us. We don’t know any better nor any better place! 50 minutes form Melbourne is a no brainer.
WHERE DO YOU FIND YOUR INSPIRATION TO CREATE NEW WINES AND WINE STYLES?
History, Artists, Brewers, Distillers, old Roman Emperors, Johnny Cash, Ricky Gervais, mates within the Yarra, Adelaide Hills and our friends pushing the boundaries in the Tarragona region in Spain. We stopped paying attention to the media, those considered the best at winemaking and trends a long time ago and now make wines that we find super interesting that reflect the vintage and that time at that place. It’s much harder to make a wine by doing nothing to it. So much more can go wrong. We got sick of being dictated styles by the shows and media. To quote David Brent: I don't live by "The Rules" you know, and if there's one person who has influenced me in that way of thinking, someone who is a maverick, someone who does 'that' to the system then it's Ian Botham. Drinking lots and lots over the years. Not being afraid to have a crack to try something a bit different or left of centre always appeals to us. Also being told that something cannot be done, we like doing what we are told not to do.
WHAT HAS SURPRISED YOU ABOUT BEING A WINEMAKER?
The adoring fans, the women and song. Loads of cash and lots of sitting around the pool. Did you know that Rolls Royce’s come with a champagne flute in the rear as a factory option? Oh and obviously the paparazzi are a nightmare.
WHAT DO YOU CONSIDER THE MOST CHALLENGING PART OF THE WINE BUSINESS AND WHY?
Winemaking is 50% brains; 50% Hard Graft and the rest is just good luck. After making wine for 18 years, the most challenging part now that we own and run a business employing 6 people and feeding 4 families is the Red Tape – Paperwork is the bane of our lives.
WE’VE OBVIOUSLY SEEN THE PICTURES OF THE DREADFUL BUSH FIRES IN AUSTRALIA, IS CLIMATE CHANGE INFLUENCING YOUR WINE STYLES AND THE WAY YOU ARE MAKING YOUR WINES?
Terrible times – hard to comprehend actually – our region went through pretty solid fires in 2009 with lots of homes, lives and animals lost, but the scale of these new ones on the east coast are literally incomprehensible. This isn’t necessarily changing our style all that much – if anything perhaps some of our new plantings. We are putting in Grenache and obviously Sangiovese is going places. We’ve always made our wines in a lighter more approachable style – a style that many are now associating with a changing climate to limit the tannin and alcohol levels and leave more fruit interest – but we’ve been doing this for years without paying attention to the climate – it’s a style we love drinking. Weirdly also, the last 6 years in the Yarra have proven to be relatively strong and stable for the varieties we make, allowing us to produce wines we’re pretty bloody proud of…
DESCRIBE TO US A TYPICAL (IS THERE SUCH A THING…) DAY OF VINTAGE AT P&J?
Wake up early – Check the bird nets for stuck snakes and Kangaroo made tears and holes. Repair. Make sure no deer have got their antlers stuck in them either. If so – get the rifle and add a couple of hours to the day for butchering purposes. Shoot at some birds and any foxes. Scare away any rogue Wallabies that have taken a shining to our Chardonnay. Go to the winery and taste and smell all the ferments. Reflect on who won the last Ashes test. Organise work for the day (picking / logistics / pressing / ferment work)… Do said work. Go home check the bird nets for stuck snakes and Kangaroo made tears and holes. Repair. Make sure no deer have got their antlers stuck in them either. If so – get the rifle and add a couple of hours to the day for butchering purposes. Shoot at some birds and any foxes. Scare away any rogue Wallabies that have taken a shining to our Chardonnay. Reflect on who won the last Ashes test. Eat. Sleep. Repeat. Lotsa Beer and or Whisky, helps at any interval in this routine.
IF YOU COULD WORK WITH ANY CHEF TO CREATE THE PERFECT MARRIAGE OF FOOD AND WINE, WHO WOULD IT BE AND WHY?
We have a couple. This is like asking your best song or movie!! So, a very quick response…. My personal is Fergus Henderson. He has been an inspiration for us for years. We have been eating food inspired by the whole nose to tail thing for 25 years now and every visit to the UK there is always a visit to the flagship in Smithfield. Simplicity is the key here, great ingredients executed flawlessly. Less is more approach much like our wine. Great produce handles simply and respectfully, great fruit handled simply and respectfully. Great results. At home each year we knock a couple of pigs on the head and make charcuterie for the year using everything, so a dinner with Fergus or his staff would be rad. Special shout out to Black Axe Mangal & Max’s Sandwich shop for the attitude and simply amazing left of centre ideas. In Melbourne Mo Vida is an institution that we have been hitting for 25 years and have honestly never had a bad dish. Just out of Melbourne is O.MY. A sustainable little fine dinner where they pretty much grow everything they use and put together a sustainable tasting menu. They are fun, young and a seriously talented crew that we have been working with since they opened. Also, we have to mention, probably our favourite bar in the world is Bar Cortijo in Tarragona. These fellas are bloody legends and the true essence of real hospitality. No fuss, no polish just genuine real food, booze and attitude. Who doesn’t want to be drinking orange wine washed down with some tuna spines cooked in tomato at 8am??
ANY EXCITING NEW PLANS FOR 2020 THAT YOU CAN SHARE WITH US?
We’ve been getting this dry grown, high altitude, bush vine Verdelho and making it like a red wine – it’s been going gangbusters and we’re gonna try and allocate some to the UK.. It’s big in Shanghai, so if we keep our total volume secret, we should be able to smuggle some over your way. Our special friend Scott features heavily on the label and $2 of every bottle sold goes to adopting an Orangutan in Borneo… Everybody wins. Oh, and like all winemakers, we’re gonna go early and call 2020 the vintage of the century (or at the least year anyway). Also making a whole new range of wines in Priorat. New school style comparatively to what’s currently coming out of there. Not better or worse just different. Made more like the wines we make over here, fresher, lighter brighter styles. Making the range with our mate Toni, should be released around September we think.