We get up close and personal with
Peter Dredge of Dr.Edge Wines
Exclusively represented in the UK by The Vinorium
How did you get into winemaking?
I grew up in Adelaide, went to school here. Played a lot of sport, even made it into the underage team at the local SANFL (Aussie Rules) club Sturt. In my last year at school I sustained a substantial head injury. Wrong place at the wrong time. I was hit in the head with a discus at athletics training, effectively my left ear is permanently deaf, it rings and I have a mild balance indifference. It took me three months to get my walking and coordination back under control. That effectively ended any hopes of me playing amateur or semi-professional sport which had been my goal.
There was no family history in wine. After I matriculated I enrolled at Uni to do science, but took a gap year before I started the degree. Someone suggested I should think about doing harvest at a winery. I was 19 and even though it was long hours and you worked hard, the money looked pretty good. As is the case in Adelaide, my sister was very close with Brian Croser’s daughter Penny, our parents talked and I ended up with a job at Petaluma for harvest.
I got thrown into the lab at Petaluma, and did some cellar work as well. I had planned to do that vintage and travel around Australia. I didn’t end up travelling and stayed on at the winery. By this stage Brian Croser and his colleagues particularly Con Moshos and Anna Martens had got their claws into me. It was 1998, I never really looked back, started the science degree and then switched the degree over to winemaking at Adelaide Uni – (Bach Ag Sci (Oen).
"...the German Rieslings were absolutely stunning. It threw everything I’d learned out the door."
Is there any part of your early career that has most influenced your winemaking style?
After I graduated I worked at Petaluma for quite a while, during my time there I was encouraged to travel. In 2005, I worked a harvest with Dr Loosen in Germany. My passion at the time was very much focussed on Riesling and Sparkling wine.
Working vintage in Europe was a real game changer for me. German Riesling winemaking was effectively the opposite of what we learnt at Adelaide University as far as Australian wine styles being fruit forward and ever fresh, and to me in Germany it was effectively oxidising everything and making it in a bath tub. But the German Rieslings were absolutely stunning. It threw everything I’d learned out the door.
Those wines opened my eyes and got me thinking there’s got to be a reason for it. At the end of the day there is no reason, everyone just has different ideas and they are mostly scientifically proven. I came back with a head full of ideas. I was by then in a senior role at Petaluma and started down another pathway, which led us to the Petaluma ‘Project Company’. We started to delve into those more experimental styles it was all based on some of the methodology I had picked up with Dr Loosen. They were exciting and rewarding times.
What brought you to Tasmania?
I’d been at Petaluma for the best part of 12 years including 4 years full time study and I really felt I needed a change. To be honest I’d still be very happy to be there, and I was very comfortable living in Adelaide. I just didn’t want to die wondering, so I resigned in about November 2009.
I didn’t have a job to go to… My contingency plan at the time was to look for work in cool climate areas. I was looking for work in the Yarra, Geelong, Gippsland or Tasmania. By this time my interest in Pinot Noir had started to build and I figured if nothing panned out I would go and volunteer myself with Stephen George at Ashton Hills. I thought the rite of passage was to then go into Pinot Noir and the mysteries of heavier styles of winemaking, most notably some Italian varieties.
I ended up in Tasmania to cover a maternity position at Bay of Fires. A very good friend of mine, Sue Bell from Coonawarra was friends with Fran Austin at Bay Of Fires who was the one going on maternity leave. Within 6 weeks I was living on site at Bay Of Fires winery and vineyard working as the senior winemaker and site manager.
We are very familiar with Ed Carr and Paul Lapsley, their House of Arras wines and of course Bay of Fires whom you spent your early days in Tasmania working with. How influential have they been to you? Are there any other winemakers that have had an influence on you?
I was introduced to Ed Carr, Paul Lapsley and Tom Newton, guys who have had a really incredible influence on the Tasmanian wine industry, Ed Carr thought Tasmania was the best place to make sparkling in the country bar none. When I started I was to work with 13 growers all across Tasmania and before I knew it, I was in a car with these guys meeting all these growers, looking at clones, soil types and learning about the sub-regions. Ed, Tom and Paul were incredibly influential in their attitude towards making wine, and how technically astute and generous they were with their wine knowledge – the bottles these guys brought to the table: they were amazing.
Brian Croser, Con Moshas and Anna Martens in the early days at Petaluma, Croser was the fundamental professional and a great mentor. If you challenged him and you had a valid scientific argument he would respect that and listen, if you didn’t come prepared he’d tear you apart. Moshos was in the background saying “Dredgey, do not take the industry too seriously” and Anna Martins was a great influence in the way she conducted herself and gave me more chances than you’d normally give an 18 year old “head up your arse” teenager at the time.
Sue Bell in her approach to winemaking and her humility. Being a fellow Hardy’s alumnus and starting on her own thing, she’s a good friend and such a lovely person. Then you’ve got your everyday influences, and I know it’s a bit of a cliché, but I was born with three older sisters and a mother… so I was born to listen.
I would always contribute as best I could but I was also mindful of listening to people – if people are talking and they have something to say you listen and you don’t interrupt. Then of course my lovely wife or fiancée and mother of my child who works in prosthetics. She spends a lot of time helping people less fortunate.
You began in Tasmania working with many white varieties and have said that Pinot Noir was a challenge to you. What is it now that you love about working with this variety?
I decided to focus on Pinot Noir because taking the plunge to make Bay of Fires Pinot Noir and supporting its continued success was a huge challenge for me and one I believe was successful. I believe it can be Tasmania’s most distinctive variety, if it isn’t so far, and I want to be involved in its development.
Could you tell us a bit about the characteristics of each sub-region and vineyard you work with?
I was always just fascinated by people like Ed Carr, Tom Newton and Paul Lapsley blending the subregions, not only Australian but in particular Tasmania. In a funny way, not dissimilar to Max Schubert with Grange. I went through Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide to conduct some trade tastings and I would say to the people I showed the three single vineyard wines too, “I’m not telling you one is better than the other but the soil type and or micro-climate is the biggest difference between the three wines, you’ve got gravel soils from Joe Holyman’s vineyard, volcanic from the east coast, and mostly sandy from Meadowbank in the Derwent Valley.”
The three Pinots are made exactly the same way, same clone, minimal oak. They are all the one GI, but are the same distance as the Clare Valley is to McLaren Vale. I’m trying to make a wine that’s as close as I can get to expressing that site. You’ve got the individual clones that work really well. I love all these wines, they are a truthful reflection of the vineyard and the grower, with minimal influence from me. Then we have the blend where I use other clones from the same vineyards and employ a few wine making techniques that I believe enhance the fruit on offer. I start to get more involved personally.
How have you seen Tasmania develop as a winemaking region? What do you see for its future?
The early days in Tasmania were of Peter Dawson, Ed Carr and Ray Guerin, roaming around Tasmania in the early 90’s, looking to buy land or purchase fruit for the then Hardy’s and now Bay of Fires/House of Arras. They were approaching farmers asking if they wanted to diversify into growing grapes, these growers were often sheep farmers, or dealt with a range of agricultural products. The cool climate and the notion of quality along with sustainability in the current environment is the attractive quality of Tasmania, and the way the regions wine industry is developing.
Would you like to see a sub-regional classification to highlight Tasmania’s diversity?
The thing that always fascinated me about Tasmania, is its always been considered one GI, one geographical indicator but I figure the distance between the Clare Valley down to McLaren Vale was the same distance is the Tamar Valley down to the Huon Valley in Tasmania. Throughout South Australia we had all this diversity and different GIs and it was similar in Tasmania from the north to the south to the east, incredibly diverse. Tasmania is so diverse and there is so much potential within these small subregions and so much potential across the whole island, there are so many nooks and crannies and little places to get lost in. On the other hand, I like the fact that it is one ‘GI’ and everybody keeps it very close to their heart.
Do you have a personal favourite out of your range?
I went on this roadshow with the wines, I asked everyone I met along the way which wine they preferred, it was really quite interesting from somms to newbies, to winemakers, to whoever was there, it was almost equally split between the four wines. Right now I like the blend because I have had more influence over its style and I’m a narcissist.
"Dr Edge was a nickname given to me by a few people early on at Petaluma in the late 1990’s"
Your label is a favourite of ours. Could you tell us about how it came about?
Dr Edge was a nickname given to me by a few people early on at Petaluma in the late 1990’s, Con Moshos claims it. It was just a nickname for me when I was a cellar hand. I have only ever been known as ‘Dredgy’, never as Peter. When it came around to my own label I had a few ideas for names. Dr Edge was the first nick-name I had in the industry. It is a bit like an alter-ego, almost seems like a different person making these wines after 20 years of following instructions or interpreting a client’s vision of style, but in this case, after all this time….. it’s actually me.
The artwork on the front is based purely on a music album cover. I would consider myself equally as passionate about music. Mostly based around soul, jazz, funk and hip-hop. An album I used to listen to at Petaluma was called ‘Headz,’ it was an experimental instrumental hip-hop album, had all these DJs and artists like The Beastie Boys, DJ Shadow, Nightmares on wax, Massive Attack.
The album had this beautiful and dark artwork cover, it was incredible and I just loved it so much, I used to sit there and daydream thinking if I ever had my own wine that was the label I wanted.
In 2012, I managed to track down the artist. It turned out to be one of the artists from the album. I found a piece similar to the one used on the cover, by the same artist and was available in an Art Gallery in Bristol. I paid a hell of a lot for the original piece and shipped it over to Tassie. I talked to the artist and the gallery and got permission to use the artwork on a label. So now I send a case to the artist in Bristol every year in exchange for being able to use his original artwork on the label, with permission to use some more pieces in the future.
We love your 2017 wines, as do our customers and we look forward to receiving our allocation of the 2018’s. How did you feel about the 2017 vintage? Could you tell us what to expect for the upcoming vintage?
2017 was one of the best harvests I have ever worked with. That and the 2002 Clare Valley Harvest, 2005 in the Mosel and 2012 in Tasmania. It started wet but finished dry with long hang time and was moderately cropped. One of those ‘effortless harvests,’ that we refer to as winemakers where there’s not a lot to do other than let the fruit shine.
2018 was almost as easy. A great vintage for all styles, from sparkling to some of the newly planted Syrah vineyards in Tasmania. It was a little warmer and a little earlier but with no extremes in weather making for an easy path to the winery. The 2018’s are mostly sold out in Australia on pre-order…
on the edge of perfection...
97 Points - James Halliday "MV6, 777 and 115 clones, 60% from the Derwent Valley, 30% East Coast and 10% Tamar Valley. The bouquet is multifaceted, with no single message from the single vineyard group, the palate moving onto another tier, but carries with it the higher-toned red fruits of clone 115 (compared to MV6 last year). It also achieves a lightness of touch without any sacrifice of line or length. This is the serious business of enjoyment, not the science of dissecting small pieces of a large puzzle."
Was £39.95 per bottle
96+ Points - Gary Walsh (Wine Front) "It’s a Big Day in the North. Woah. Pow pow powerful, yet light too. Dark cherries, damp earth, spice, maybe some cheeky violet, but a brooding kind of ‘minerality’ throughout. Tannin is firm, a long emery rasp through the palate, pure acidity, perfume, earth and grip on a long finish. There’s some meatiness and smoky reductive stuff here, for sure, but the fruit and vineyard shines through. I’m all about this. Wonderful."
£39.95 per bottle
96 Points - James Halliday "The Dr Edge Pinots are part of a voyage of discovery, so it is that the East, North and South are all clone 115 (the ‘16s were MV6), and all have identical vinification: half whole-bunch carbonic maceration, half whole berries, once wild fermentation begins, 80% of the bunches are destemmed on top with 20% remaining as whole bunches, matured in French barriques (10% new) for 9 months. Fragrant, with more red fruits, long and silky; reflects the clonal change, driven by the very cool vintage, the tannin sotto voce."
£39.95 per bottle
95+ Points - Gary Walsh (Wine Front) "Fine perfume, pretty and floral, strawberries dusted with pepper and spice, smoky autumn leaves and walks in the park. It’s delicate, rose petals over strawberry, cool bell-clear acidity, a playful rasp of tannin, and a spicy strawberry finish of impeccable length. Lacy, delicate wine. Diaphanous and thoroughly charming. Oh yes."
£39.95 per bottle