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as the tannins settle in
preparation for the Canberra
district Wine Harvest Festival,
dIONe VaN-Heer chats
with local winemaker Brad
Schafferius to find out where
the local industry stands.
Brad Schafferius reckons he was
a closet farmer since the age of
three, but he only decided to “come out” 14
odd years ago.
Well-established in a managerial position
for a lucrative Canberra firm, in the early-90s
he started looking into different farming
“In Canberra in particular it makes sense
because it’s one of the places where you can
have a day job, yet live completely out in the
country,” he said.
After methodical consideration, wine-
making won out.
“The local wine-making industry seemed
to be gaining momentum,” he says.
“It’s not a mature market but it’s a growing
market... It was a very pragmatic decision.”
“Pragmatic” is the word for the astute,
carefully-worded businessman. But at the
end of the fast-paced day, the suit comes off
and Brad can be found standing among his
12,000 vines at Tallagandra Hill.
“I know them all by name,” he says.
As the 2011 Canberra District Wine
Harvest Festival approaches, it’s a chance for
locals and visitors alike to taste what Brad
says is the new black in Australian wines.
“Canberra has become a flavour of the
month in terms of what’s being produced,”
“The reputation is soaring and seems to be
centred of Shiraz and Reisling – and we have
some of Australia’s top producers of those
wines right here.
“ We also have many commercial growers
here, they don’t make the wine they just
grow the grapes and they’re in hot demand.
“A lot of wine-makers in the country want
For him, the harvest festival is a time for
Canberrans to open their eyes as to the hat
in the feather of the nation’s capital – its wine
“I don’t think Canberran’s know what
they’ve now got on their doorstep. I don’t
think they know when they’ve got the most
reputable wine writers in Australia saying
Canberra is hot,” he says.
“And here’s an opportunity to go and taste
what they’re writing about.”
This year in particular is also a time
to reflect on what has been a particularly
challenging year for the region’s wine-
makers, due to an unseasonable amount
of rain affecting fungal disease in what is
normally a largely untouched part of the
“The rain has made it steamier, and it’s
also been hard to get the tractors out to spray
for diseases or work in the vineyard because
they get bogged,” he says.
Brad predicts that as a result, the 2011
vintage, which will be released next year, will
be low in volume, but high in quality – and
“So many people worry that this will not
be a good year to buy wine from Canberra,”
“I think there’s a lot of sensitivity in the
wine business to that and I think you’ll see
a lot of business will not make anything or
make very little. For us, we’ll probably make
less than third of what we normally make.
It’s a business that takes you 10, 14, 15 years
to create a reputation, and one bad year to
“The local industry has matured enough
to know that you cannot make sub-standard
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