Dylan McMahon now helms the estate planted by his grandfather in the 1970s. Seville Estate may not be family-owned anymore, but McMahon is the respectful custodian of that family history, with an unwavering eye to carrying the estate name forward to even greater heights. With a natural focus on the regional stars, chardonnay and pinot noir, Seville is one of the early champions of shiraz, and still one of the Yarra’s top exponents. McMahon was a three-time Young Gun Finalist, in 2011, ’12 and ’14.
Seville Estate is one of the Yarra Valley’s oldest and most important vineyards, being planted by Dr Peter McMahon in 1972. It wasn’t the first vineyard planted after economic decline saw a once rich viticultural area wiped out, but it was in a small clutch of now iconic names that have defined the region.
Dylan McMahon is the grandson of Dr McMahon, but his no straight story of a generational winemaking dynasty. His grandfather had retired in 1996 and decided to sell the estate the same year. Brokenwood was the buyer then, though it has since been sold and bought a couple more times, and never back into family hands. Indeed, Dylan took on a role at the winery in 1999 to save some money while on deferment from an electrical engineering degree, rather than to fulfill any winemaking ambitions.
McMahon had always helped out with vineyard and winery work as a kid, but that paying role lit a flame that saw him enrol in a wine science degree at Charles Sturt University and travel to gain more worldly experience. That degree was finally finished in 2008, but he had worked vintages at Brokenwood, Hugel & Fils, Domaine Paul Blanck and Jean Claude Boisset before graduating. He had also taken on the Chief Winemaking role at Seville in 2004 – a rapid ascent.
McMahon credits Brokenwood’s Iain Riggs as a key mentor, along with Seville winemaker of the time, Alistair Butt, but the guidance of his grandfather from those early years has also been indelible. “My grandfather was a great influence, he taught me about the discipline and the focus of winemaking,” he says. “He would pick me up on the smallest details, like how to roll a hose or clean the floor. At the time, I thought he was just really hard to work with but now appreciate what he was trying to teach me.”
Along with the Seville wines, McMahon makes wines under the Burton McMahon banner with his good friend Matt Burton of the Hunter Valley’s Gundog Estate, turning out multiple site-specific expressions for the Yarra Valley and Gippsland.
“I love making wines from the Yarra Valley, the diversity of varieties and subregions make it really interesting,” says McMahon. “This is not to say I don’t like making wines from other regions, far from it. Having the opportunity to focus in on a region and learn about the detail and how it translates to wine style has been fascinating.”
Today, Dylan is Chief Winemaker and General Manager of Seville Estate, with new ownership allowing it to expand and replant to mitigate the effects of encroaching phylloxera, a process that he sees as one that needs to embrace the legacy of his grandfather.
“Replanting continues to be a focus for Seville Estate, grafting the old vines onto new American rootstock is a long-term process. Preserving the original vine material for the future is extremely important to our wine style and for the continuation of our history and story.”
That original vine material contributes to one of the Yarra’s most distinct expressions of shiraz, sourced from the original 1972 plantings and bearing the name of Seville’s founder. That wine is fermented in new barrels tipped on their ends and is all whole-bunch fermented with ambient yeasts and spends over three months on skins. It’s a neat tribute to the past and a snapshot of a creative winemaker forging his own path.