Perpetually afforded the tag of Australia’s nicest and most affable winemaker, John Hughes also has a very serious side, with a slavish obsession to his favourite grape, riesling. Hughes’ Rieslingfreak imprint has been steadily redefining that noble grape, bending it into all manner of shapes, and making perfect sense at the same time. His wines…
Peter Dredge Meadowbank
After an injury sidelined a young Peter Dredge from his chosen sporting career, winemaking dropped a lifeline. A healthy tenure buried inside the Petaluma and then Bay of Fires machines provided a backbone for a career that became significantly more public when he launched his Dr Edge label and took on the winemaking duties at the important but slightly dusty Meadowbank, in the Derwent Valley. Dredge makes both the Meadowbank and Dr Edge wines in a similar fashion, with an uncluttered approach where oak and winemaking take a back seat. The chardonnays are detailed and complex, but in the cool stone fruit and citrus spectrum, while the pinots are fragrant, typically red fruited, with supple, fine tannins; riesling talks with a German accent. Dredge was the Young Gun of Wine People’s Choice recipient for 2017.
There are two well-known winemakers with the name Peter Dredge, but they are eminently distinguishable, with the endlessly affable and perennially cheeky younger Dredge now firmly ensconced in Tasmania, after starting his career in his native Adelaide (the other Dredge is in Heathcote, by the way).
Dredge had a promising sporting career derailed by an errant discus that struck him in the head, leaving him deaf in one ear and with a substantial period of rehabilitation to regain his balance. That clear path that was also invested academically in sports science was part abandoned and part put on hold, when Dredge took a gap year job at Petaluma, slogging vintage at the relatively sizeable facility in the Adelaide Hills.
With no family background in wine, Dredge took the job for the money, not shrinking at the hard work to get it. It certainly wasn’t about the wine. Well, until the Brian Croser-led Petaluma had made its impression on him. The year was 1998, and Croser along with Petaluma winemaker Con Moshos were flying high, and the unassuming Colorbond shed in the Adelaide Hills that was the winery was the nursery for some exceptional talent.
Having been firmly bitten by the winemaking bug, Dredge switched his science degree from sport to winemaking, taking a Bachelor of Agricultural Science at Adelaide University. That stint in the Hills was no easy ride mind you, with Dredge almost pulling the plug more than once, but with respect earned, and the enduring nickname of Dr Edge (get it…) acquired, his fate was sealed.
In a variety of roles, and with a winemaking foray to Germany in the mix, Dredge spent 12 years at Petaluma, before resigning and heading to Tasmania to take up the Senior Winemaker role for Bay of Fires. That tenure saw him exposed to the breadth and detail of grape-growing in Tasmania. This led, in the end, to Dredge’s own project under the Dr Edge moniker, where he sourced pinot noir grapes from three vineyards to make single-site expressions from the north, east and south of Tassie – same clone, made in the same way, but different soils and locations – with a blend of the three making up the quartet.
The ‘South’ was sourced from the important but flailing Meadowbank vineyard, in the Derwent Valley, which led to a partnership between Dredge and the owners, Gerald and Sue Ellis, where he makes the wines, takes fruit and is now a joint partner. Under both labels, Dredge makes wines to his own sensibilities, favouring lithe and detailed expressions, with a Germanic accent to the Riesling and distinctly Northern Rhône take on the Syrah. There’s a pithy, cherry-scented gamay also. The Dr Edge stable now extends to ‘compass point chardonnays, riesling and a pét-nat, too, as well as a global incursion into Oregon in the US’s Pacific Northwest, which is hallowed ground for new-world pinot noir.
In addition to Meadowbank, Dredge also makes wine (and a beer and wine hybrid) under the Brian label with Joe Holyman and writer, raconteur and man-about-the-industry Mike Bennie. The MO is to make wines in the opposite way to how they would imagine most winemakers called Brian would make them. Think lots of skin contact, nothing added, and nothing removed – and zero pretence.