Interview with the winemaker - Q&A

Below is the original interview from 2020 with Young Gun of Wine, offering insight into Raquel Jones' fascinating journey into the world of winemaking. It provides a glimpse into her ongoing pursuit of mastering the timeless art of winemaking.

It is mind boggling to think that in 2014, we decided - as a family - to upturn our professional lives in Melbourne on a quest for a vineyard in country Victoria. Hugh and I were in pursuit of a dream we both had to make quality wine from vine to bottle! We spent almost every weekend in the lead up scouring the state.

Three hours out from Melbourne, near Beechworth in North East Victoria, we found our perfect vineyard - and after much due diligence, we turned the key to our forever home in 2016. Our first commercial offering of wine was from the 2017 vintage, and we established the 'Weathercraft' brand.

Fast forward to 2020, I decided to throw my hat into the ring for the Australian Young Gun of Wine competition for the first time. It was very exciting to be a part of this collaboration of emerging talent. In March of 2020, I was first shortlisted for the Top 50 winemakers and was interviewed by Young Gun of Wine.

UPDATE: Raquel was consecutively awarded a Top 50 finalist position from her first entry in 2020 through to her final year of qualifying in 2023.

How did your career in winemaking begin?

I come from a non-traditional winemaking background. While I did have some exposure to homemade wines while growing up, the idea of backyard winemaking was never the driving force behind our new venture. My journey into winemaking began with a solid foundation in chemistry and a significant amount of viticultural studies under my belt, all of which I had acquired before my husband Hugh and I purchased our vineyard four years ago. One pivotal decision I made was to seek out a mentor who shared my level of dedication and attention to detail, someone who could guide and teach me throughout my winemaking journey.

I firmly believe in the adage 'you don't know what you don't know'. Given that I was essentially diving headfirst into the world of winemaking, I wanted the guidance of someone with extensive experience. What mattered to me was finding a mentor who would not only lend an ear to my ideas and winemaking plans but also provide valuable guidance rather than simply dictating what I should do.

Before embarking on this winemaking journey, I had a successful career in the legal field, where I ran my own business for approximately a decade. However, I decided to go back to university after selling my business to pursue studies in nutritional bioscience and chemistry. Later on, I delved into viticulture and oenology, with the aim of transitioning into a second career as a vigneron. This diverse background has equipped me with a unique set of skills and perspectives that I bring to the world of winemaking.

Tell us more about your studies.

While my childhood was filled with memories of helping my dad grow vegetables and fruits, my path took a different turn after high school. My parents encouraged me to pursue a career in law, which led me to spend a decade in the legal and finance field.

After successfully selling my legal business, I decided to return to the world of education in my early 30s. I was always intrigued by biological solutions, so I chose to study nutritional bioscience and chemistry. However, as our pursuit of the perfect vineyard gained momentum, I shifted my focus toward viticulture and winemaking.

Currently, I'm deep into my Wine Science degree at CSU, albeit with a few exemptions. Juggling the demands of a vineyard, parenthood, winemaking, and off-farm business responsibilities has made progress a bit slower than I'd like. But in a vertically integrated business like ours, there's no substitute for hands-on experience across all aspects. It's this practical knowledge that truly cements one's understanding in such a dynamic field.

What are your winemaking philosophies and aspirations?

I have a passionate belief in the term ‘vigneron’, and the maxim that you can only make great wine from great grapes, holds true. Thus, I wanted to control the growing aspect, by owning the vineyard, to maintain fruit integrity through to bottle.

Hugh and I could have started our wine enterprise much earlier by setting up a winery and buying fruit, but this was not in line with our philosophy. So, we worked very hard for a few more years to save up enough money to be able to buy a great site, grow great fruit and make wine the way we wanted to.

Quality, for us, is paramount.

My family background is Spanish. In fact, I am the first in my family born in Australia. Naturally, I have a strong interest in all Spanish wines, though my true passion is for high-quality Tempranillo.

We are both fortunate enough to have spent quite a bit of time traveling around Europe. Our current wines are reminiscent of our European loves: Syrah (Shiraz) from the Rhone region, Tempranillo from Ribera and the great Chardonnays of Burgundy. My rosé is also made traditionally with minimal skin contact and time spent in barrel – absolutely no saignée!

Whilst there are some amazing examples of Australian Tempranillo and this country has many sites that suit the variety, in general, we feel Australian Tempranillo has a long way to go before it approaches the best of Spain.

My dream is to one day make a Tempranillo that rivals Spain’s best.

When we bought our site, I undertook considerable research on soil composition, climate, including diurnal variation and various other factors. From a meso-climate perspective, I chose a mix of three clones from the Ribera del Duero region in North Western Spain that perfectly suited our site. These clones are from the same region as Vega Sicilia and Alejandro Fernandez’s 'Pesquera' vines. We are one of the first in Australia to have fruit from these clones in bottle.

I couldn’t be more excited for our Tempranillo. Most clones in Australia come from Portugal if not Valdepenas, Rioja, or the Toro region of Spain. To have Ribera clones is very special.

Why did you choose to produce wine from your region?

I hold a deep-seated belief in the term 'vigneron,' and I wholeheartedly embrace the notion that exceptional wine can only be crafted from exceptional grapes. This belief led me to take control of the growing aspect by owning our vineyard, ensuring the integrity of the fruit from the vine to the bottle.

My husband Hugh and I could have launched our wine enterprise much earlier by setting up a winery and purchasing fruit, but that approach didn't align with our philosophy. Instead, we dedicated several more years of hard work to accumulate the necessary funds to acquire a remarkable vineyard site. Our goal was to cultivate outstanding fruit and create wine precisely the way we envisioned it.

For us, quality is paramount. It's our guiding principle.

My family's background is rooted in Spain, and interestingly, I am the first generation born in Australia. Naturally, I have a profound affinity for all things related to Spanish wines, although my deepest passion lies in the pursuit of high-quality Tempranillo.

Both Hugh and I have been fortunate enough to spend extensive time traveling throughout Europe, and our current wines are a reflection of our European influences. Our portfolio includes Syrah (Shiraz) inspired by the Rhone region, Tempranillo inspired by Ribera, and exquisite Chardonnays reminiscent of Burgundy. Notably, my rosé is crafted in the traditional style, with minimal skin contact and aging in barrels – absolutely no saignée method!

While there are undoubtedly some remarkable examples of Australian Tempranillo, and this country boasts numerous sites well-suited to the variety, we believe that Australian Tempranillo still has room for growth before it can rival the best from Spain.

My ultimate dream is to one day produce a Tempranillo that stands shoulder to shoulder with Spain's finest.

When we acquired our vineyard site, I undertook extensive research on soil composition, climate, including diurnal temperature variations, and various other factors. From a meso-climate perspective, I carefully selected a combination of three clones from the Ribera del Duero region in Northwestern Spain, perfectly tailored to our site. These clones hail from the same region as Vega Sicilia and Alejandro Fernandez's renowned 'Pesquera' vines. It's worth noting that we are among the pioneers in Australia to have fruit from these Ribera clones in our bottles.

I couldn't be more thrilled about our Tempranillo venture. In Australia, most Tempranillo clones originate from Portugal or regions like Valdepeñas, Rioja, or Toro in Spain. To have Ribera clones is an extraordinary and distinctive aspect of our winemaking journey.


On a personal note, I want to extend my heartfelt gratitude to all those who have supported Hugh and me on this incredible journey. Making wine is one thing, but to witness people not only purchase it but also genuinely enjoy it, and then return for more – it's truly a pinch-me moment. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. - Raquel Jones