Emily McNally makes the wine and tends the vines at her family’s iconic property, Jasper Hill. While McNally hasn’t strayed far from that Heathcote base, she has maintained projects – Occam’s Razon and Lo Stesso – that have given her voice outside the recognisable tones of that Victorian icon, while tweaking and fine-tuning their core offering focused on shiraz. McNally was a Young Gun finalist in 2007.
It’s fair to say the Emily McNally got a decent head start in the wine game. That will happen when you grow up on one of the country’s most celebrated vineyards, with your father, Ron Laughton, being one of the country’s leading winemakers. That doesn’t automatically mean you’ll follow in those footsteps, but it’s a handy resource of experience and connection if you do. And, well, as McNally says, Laughton’s approach drew her in somewhat.
“I was raised from the age of five on the vineyard at Jasper Hill, so not quite born into it, but it’s certainly in my blood. My father’s passion for grape growing and wine was quite infectious,” she says.
Situated in the red Cambrian soils of Heathcote, that vineyard was planted in 1975, with the first vintage coming in 1982. Ron and Elva Laughton have never used agricultural chemicals on their site, and the vineyard has also never been irrigated – quite the challenge in a region as dry as Heathcote. The wines are also all planted on own roots, and the farming is managed with biodynamic principles, being a pioneer of the methods in this country.
McNally has worked at Jasper Hill in a dedicated fashion since 2001. Today, she shares the title vigneron (emphasising that winemaking is but one small part of the process) with her father, managing the vineyard and winery, but she has also found the time to develop her own projects along the way. The first of these was very close to home, with a Heathcote Shiraz no less. That wine is Occam’s Razor (first vintage 2001), named after a saying by 14th century philosopher William of Ockham, which can be crudely paraphrased to “less is more”. That fruit is sourced from a neighbouring property, while McNally’s Lo Stesso project, with winemaker friend Georgia Roberts, now employs estate fiano in equal measure with that from Chalmers’ Heathcote vineyard. Both wines are made at Jasper Hill.
The Jasper Hill suite consists of the classic ‘Georgia’s Paddock’ and ‘Emily’s Paddock’ wines (named after McNally and her sister), which are both shiraz, though the latter has a drop of cabernet franc in it, along with a riesling and semillon. Though now well established, the later additions to the vineyard and range include a grenache and nebbiolo. Today, Jasper Hill is very much a family affair, with McNally living with her young family on Georgia’s Paddock. Her husband, Nick, and sister also work in the business.
“The great thing is, we’re always learning and making wine is a complex balance of hard work and passion,” says McNally. “As I’ve got older, one thing I have realised is that it’s a bit like raising children, you can do it on your own, but it’s better when the whole village is involved.”