Will Gilbert Gilbert
Will Gilbert is a sixth-generation winemaker, with his great-great-great-grandfather Joseph Gilbert responsible for planting some of the first vines in the Eden Valley in 1842. That legacy is honoured under the Gilbert label today, with a range of Eden Valley rieslings, but the core of the Gilbert operation is in Mudgee and the frosty climes of Orange, in New South Wales. The Gilbert wines focus on cool climate stars, like riesling, pinot noir, chardonnay and shiraz, with several bottlings of each, made in a way that highlights purity and elegance. They also make an experimental range, with both a riesling and a rosé pét-nat, made from sangiovese, along with a skin-contact sauvignon blanc and a skin-contact gewürztraminer.
Simon Gilbert, Will’s father, struck the first vintage under the Gilbert label in 2010, after having made wine for others in the area for some 25 years. Will is now the winemaker, alongside his father. Although Will has helped out at the winery since he was a child and learnt his trade from his father, he started a degree in wine sciences at Charles Sturt University, in Wagga Wagga, in 2010. That degree remains unfinished, but Will’s on-the-job training has not. He has worked numerous vintages overseas, crediting Marlize Beyers of Hidden Bench, in Niagara, Canada, and Benjamin Leroux of Domaine Benjamin Leroux, in Burgundy, as mentors, alongside his most significant influence – his father.
That scurrying back and forth between the northern hemisphere and the home vintage may have scuttled the degree, for the moment, but Will has been extremely active in developing the wines under the Gilbert label. He has introduced both concrete and ceramic eggs for fermentation, as well as the gentle affects of Stockinger barrels, from Austria, and was finally able to convince his father to make a pair of pét-nats alongside their methode traditionelle sparkling. He has also been co-fermenting red and white grapes, making rosé by carbonic maceration and employing skin contact on white grapes. These experimental forays sit alongside the more classic expressions, which are equally thoughtful, including kabinett-style riesling and single-clone pinot noir. Will also makes a syrah and pinot noir blend with his friend Angus Vinden, which blends Vinden’s Hunter syrah with Gilbert pinot noir.