Bridget Mac Werkstatt Wine

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Bridget Mac, the creative force behind Werkstatt Wine – with a focus on Riesling (thus far) – embodies the spirit of an artist turned winemaker, melding her passion for Germany, Austria, Switzerland wines with the distinct terroirs of Australia. Her label debuted in 2022 with releases thus far including a Riesling and a Pétillant Naturel Riesling, with a Pinot Noir to be released in due course from the 2024 vintage.

“My concept for the brand is to produce fine wines with Australian fruit, which are reflective of their terroir but exhibit an expression of regions like Germany and Alsace. My vision is to keep expanding my offering to include more varietals. I’m wanting to push boundaries with this brand and shift the preconceptions that some consumers have towards these varietals and styles,” says Mac. “Choosing specific vineyards, climates and varietals allows for these expressions, rather than a heavy hand in the winery.”

Launching her winemaking journey with a vintage at Lethbridge Wines in 2019, Mac has since honed her craft across various esteemed wineries, including Sutton Grange Winery and Chatto Wines, enriching her expertise and philosophy with each vintage. Her academic pursuits in wine science at Charles Sturt University further underscore her dedication to understanding the intricacies of winemaking.

Bridget Mac’s transition from an artist to a winemaker reveals a natural progression of her creative journey. She elucidates, “I’m an artist and a maker originally, so making things has always been something I have had the urge to do.” This innate drive to create, to manifest her vision into tangible forms, propelled her towards establishing her own label, where she could imbue her wine with the same passion and creativity that she poured into her art.

The decision to launch Werkstatt Wine was not made on a whim but was the culmination of experiences and a growing sense of direction in her winemaking journey. “The pivotal point to starting my own wine label was in 2021 after an incredibly inspiring year working at Sutton Grange under the direction of Melanie Chester and a short but enriching vintage in Tasmania with Jim Chatto of Chatto Wines,” Bridget recounts. This period was a time of learning, growth, and affirmation for her, reinforcing her resolve to chart her own course in the wine industry.

“I’d always loved German Rieslings, and was thinking there was a lack of good offerings of this style in Australia.”

Her commitment to crafting a unique offering in the Australian wine landscape was further crystallized by her love for German Rieslings and the opportunity she saw to introduce this style to Australian palates. “I’d always loved German Rieslings, and was thinking there was a lack of good offerings of this style in Australia,” she reflects. Bridget’s journey took a significant turn when she approached Ray Nadeson of Lethbridge Wines, who offered her the support she needed to take the leap and produce her first vintage. “One day in November 2021 I made a phone call to Ray Nadeson of Lethbridge Wines, explained my idea for my brand and he was just as enthusiastic and offered me a space at Lethbridge to make my first Cuvée. In 2022 I made the inaugural Werkstatt Delatite Riesling. I only made 2000L, fermented to dry with a 10% component of skin contact for additional phenolics. After the success of this wine I knew I was onto something, and damn, it made me very happy, and the rest they say is history.”

Bridget Mac’s Werkstatt Wine is a celebration of her deep appreciation for the wine varietals and styles of Germany and its Central European neighbors. Translating this passion into the Australian landscape, she meticulously selects vineyards that mirror the terroir’s essence, essential to crafting her Germanic-style Rieslings.

“My Rieslings are very Germanic in style,” Bridget explains, emphasizing the importance of site selection over winery intervention. “I choose particular sites because of the soil and climate. This helps impart minerality, complexity, and phenolics in the wines.”

“In five or ten years time I’m aiming to be planting or have planted a vineyard.”

She passionately points out that her mission is to offer a unique perspective on Riesling in Australia, an ambition shared by a select group of producers. “It is important for me and the ethos of Werkstatt to not just make ‘another Australian Riesling’ in an already saturated market,” she asserts, acknowledging her admiration for peers like Crawford River Wines, Vignerons Schmölzer and Brown in Victoria, and Utzinger Wines in Tasmania.

Bridget’s journey led her to Mount Gambier, a region she believes is under appreciated yet brimming with potential. “I’ve been sourcing my grapes from Mount Gambier for the last two years and to be honest before I had the opportunity to get fruit from there, the region wasn’t even on my radar, I had to look it up on the internet. I don’t think the region is on many people’s radars, which is a shame because it has huge potential in many ways.” she shares, highlighting the region’s unique geology and climate, which she credits for the distinctive characteristics of her wine. “The soils are extremely unique. You have this limestone which was deposited from marine invertebrates in the Miocene epoch (some 23-5.3 million years ago) as the region used to be a sea. Then in the recent history of the area (some say up until 4000 years ago) there was significant volcanic activity. Volcanoes being extremely hot and exerting immense pressure on the environment metamorphosed the limestone into loose chunks of marble. Having the vines grow through this marble I believe imparts a beautiful concentrated minerality to the wine. The climate is also perfect for Riesling, and for Pinot Noir (excitingly, I’ve made a Pinot Noir this year). It has a maritime influence which keeps the days fresher and cooler and the nights are always cool. This means the fruit ripening season is long and slow (I’m usually harvesting Riesling in late March, early April), this long ripening allows for retention of acid and aromas in the berries. For these reasons and more I think Mount Gambier is a really exciting region, and should be celebrated more.”

Looking ahead, Bridget Mac envisions a future where she deepens her connection with the land and viticulture. She shares her aspirations for the coming decade, underlining a commitment to sustainability and quality. “In five or ten years time I’m aiming to be planting or have planted a vineyard, either in Victoria or Tasmania,” she outlines. Bridget’s goal is to cultivate a deeper understanding and control over the winemaking process, from the soil to the vine, ensuring a harmonious interaction with the environment.

Her ambitions extend beyond vineyard ownership to experimenting with a variety of grape varietals. “There are certainly grape varietals I would love to work with, ones which as a Négociant are hard to get your hands on,” Bridget notes, expressing a desire to explore less conventional grapes that resonate with her winemaking philosophy.

Moreover, Bridget harbors aspirations that bridge continents, aiming to intertwine her Australian winemaking experience with her German inspirations. “Making wine in Germany and selling it in Australia is also up there on the top of the list as something I would love to do in five to ten years time,” she reveals, indicating her intent to bring a piece of her German winemaking admiration back to Australia, further blending the essence of both worlds in her craft.

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