By Jenel Hunt
For Granite Belt friends Sam Di Bella and David Harrington, the Stanthorpe Show was a cause for celebration this year – so much so that it had them clinking their glasses together to toast a mutual interest they have shared for more than 15 years.
The duo won this year’s champion wine in the Wine, Beer and Italian Preserves Section of the show.
Although keen home winemakers, they don’t enter their wine in the show every year. It might even be been six or seven years since putting in an entry, but this time they reckoned they had a chance to do well, never dreaming just how well received their wine would be.
Their champion wine was a shiraz merlot made from grapes they picked themselves at Hidden Creek Winery and kept in an oak barrel purchased from Tobin Wines.
But the story of their home winemaking adventures had its beginnings with Sam’s dad, whose Italian heritage gave him a natural interest in fermenting the fruit of the vine.
“Dad would order grapes from down south and make his wine from them,” said Sam.
“When he got too old to do it and he went into Carramar, I inherited his gear. Dad still liked his wine so David and I started making wine in 2008. I thought we had good grape growers here so I decided it would be good to get local grapes.
“Dad always said you needed two things for good wine – good grapes and good barrels, and we’re very careful about treating our oak barrels so we get it right.”
Sam said neither he nor David had a chemistry background, so no in-depth analysing went into their preparations.
“We also don’t use preservatives so we wouldn’t ever try to sell our wine, but we reckon we have a pretty good hunch about how much shiraz and how much merlot makes a good wine so that the merlot softens the sharpness of the shiraz. We don’t do them separately then blend – we crush them all together.
“I thought this wine was good, so David entered it in the show. I’m happy, and he’s over the moon.”
David said the wine that won its class and then was named overall champion was their 2022 shiraz merlot, which was bottled last year.
“I think it’s one of the best drops we’ve made. My wife said it was unreal so it seemed worthwhile to enter it,” he said.
“Still, I was knocked for six when we got champion wine.”
They usually make about 300 litres each year.
David said it was all done on weekends and after work, with a pretty busy schedule around picking and pressing time.
And don’t think their wives get off scot-free with only tasting duty to do. They’re often roped in at picking time as well.