Lured over from the fine wine side of the game, Alex Head left behind roles in an auction house, wine merchant and importer to get his hands dirty in the rugged soils of the Barossa Valley. The first Head wines hit the market in 2006. His wines are Barossa through and through, but there’s a…
Chris Catlow Sentio
Sentio is the Beechworth based solo project of Chris Catlow, a Chardonnay-centric endeavour sourcing from prime regions across Victoria. The wines are classic, racy and textural, with regional differences to the fore. A Beechworth pinot noir and eclectic red and white blends – with variety giving way to style and place – also get a run under the Sentio banner
Catlow is a Beechworth native who has worked in wine since his teens. And for a region that is dripping in elite wineries, it is no surprise that Catlow was put on a good path from early on. One of those first roles was with Barry Morey at Sorrenberg, who saw enough natural talent and application in Catlow to encourage him to study winemaking. Work both here and overseas eventually led to the first wine under his Sentio label in 2013 – a shiraz. That was while he was still living and working on the Mornington Peninsula, but a move back home followed not long after and the range expanded considerably, with a particular focus on classic and vibrant expressions of chardonnay from various regions. “I make chardonnay from Beechworth, Macedon, Tumbarumba, Yarra Valley and the Alpine Valleys,” says Catlow
Catlow doubled up at university, studying both viticulture and wine science at La Trobe. Which, according to him, “took me far too long!” While those studies stretched out over a number of years, Catlow worked on the Mornington Peninsula at Paringa Estate, with Sandro Mosele at Kooyong and Port Phillip Estate and also at Portsea Estate. It was towards the end of his time on the peninsula that Catlow crafted that first Sentio wine. His time with Mosele was particularly influential, not just for developing an enduring fascination with single-site wines, but also for introducing him to Burgundy – Mosele is one of the most avid Burgundy fans you’re likely to find.
That entree into Burgundy opened a new door for Catlow, and it wasn’t long before he headed over for vintage. He has now worked five vintages there, all with Benjamin Leroux, as well as spending plenty of time in his cellar over the last eight years, which has been hugely influential. “His approach to wine is something I have a huge level of respect for. I’ve never seen someone make wine with so much intuition before him. It’s something I try to incorporate into my own wines,” says Catlow.
In the winery, Catlow’s approach to chardonnay is to work oxidatively, using a basket press and fermenting wild in French oak, solely from a cooper called Chassin, with new oak kept at a low percentage and malolactic religiously blocked. His Beechworth ‘Blanc’ is an intriguing blend of chardonnay, grüner veltliner, savagnin and arneis, while the Beechworth ‘Rouge’ combines sangiovese, syrah and pinot noir. Both are textural, food-friendly efforts, and reflections of place rather variety.
“My philosophy for Sentio is a work in progress. Making wines that represent where they’re from is the fundamental point. I always loved seeing wines that give a story of the vineyard and the region.”