Meet the makers

Neil Doddridge, Black Wattle

Blackwattle was one of the first vineyards established in the Mount Benson region of South Australia, and remains one of the region’s most highly awar…

Blackwattle was one of the first vineyards established in the Mount Benson region of South Australia, and remains one of the region’s most highly awarded wine producers.

Similar conditions to Bordeaux create outstanding wines

Mount Benson lies in the rugged Limestone Coast of South Australia, which also encompasses the regions of Coonawarra, Padthaway and Robe. Mount Benson has similar summer climate conditions to Bordeaux in France, which led to the first vines being planted in the late 1980s. The climate is harsh and cold (frost decimated Black Wattle’s first plantings in the early 1990s) but the benefit of a cool climate is that grapes ripen slowly and evenly, creating wines with refined, elegant and pure varietal characters.

Neil Doddridge

V8-power saves the grapes

Black Wattle vineyards are only three kilometres from the sea and this proximity to the Southern Ocean creates moderating effects. Despite this, frost is one of the greatest risks to grapes. To counter this, the vineyards feature giant, V8-powered frost fans, which are activated in freezing temperatures to help circulate the air around the vines and prevent frost damage. Gas guns also dot the vineyards, emitting loud bangs during vintage to scare birds away from the ripening grapes.

Rich soil, clean air, pure sunshine

Soils in Mount Benson are of red terra rossa loam over free-draining limestone gravel. Black Wattle vineyards grow on a two-wire vertical trellis, with vines hand pruned and shoot thinned to ensure low yields and consistent fruit quality, evident in the award-winning quality of Black Wattle wines.

Meet Blackwattle Winemaker Neil Doddridge

Winemaking History

In 1973 fresh from High school I worked in the lab at Leo Buring with John Vickery and Moss Kaesler (making Sparkling Rhinegold!). Then in the early 1980s worked at Seppelt as a fitter and turner while studying to make wine. I started at Mountadam as winemaker with David and Adam Wynn where we made Australia’s best Chardy and Pinot at the time. In the ’90s I moved to St Hallett as senior winemaker – Old Block Shiraz with all the trimmings is perfect stuff! In the 2000s I worked with Pat Tocaciu in a purpose-built winery we designed for Ben Tidswell in the Limestone Coast.

Neil’s favourite wine moment

I was at Mountadam, and Tony Bilson gave me a bottle of 1982 Corton Charlemagne Burgundy (I don’t remember the maker, I think it was 1986), for finding his wedding ring. He’d only been married a week or so and was honeymooning at the winery and had lost it in a tank of fermenting Pinot. Still I think the most memorable white wine I’ve ever had. It was my first taste of real Burgundy. Amazing – a revelation!

Neil Doddridge and Dog

Neil’s winemaking philosophy

1. Find the very best vineyards and growers to supply me with fruit.

2. Spend the time in those vineyards so I can arrange to pick that fruit when it will make the best wine possible.

3.Have a great winery crew to make the wine the way I want it.

“After 40 years in wine I know the one thing wine drinkers love is quality and my aim has always been to deliver the best quality wine possible.”