Jean-Paul Trijsburg Wines by Jean-Paul – The Happy Winemaker

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Jean-Paul Trijsburg farms a small pinot noir vineyard in the Ballarat region for his Jean-Paul label, while also sourcing fruit from across central Victorian vineyards, making diverse styles, from vermouth, to red pét-nats, to a carménère and a more classic offering of pinot noir and cool climate syrah, amongst others.

Primarily selling the wines himself at farmer’s markets, Trijsburg says that his label is about simplicity. “It’s about affordable quality that is unique but accessible. I want people to feel comfortable with my wines. It’s my way of expressing myself and sharing what I’ve learned from my experiences in some of the world’s most amazing wine regions. I enjoy showcasing grapes and regions that people might not have heard of, and seeing people embrace new things.”

This idea of stretching people’s boundaries, including his own, is something that Trijsburg believes in strongly, but the approach is always a fun one, with pleasure rather than overt seriousness in mind. “I made this red pét-nat, a mistelle [grape juice fortified with spirit], two vermouths… I want my business to be fun, too. I don’t want to grow to employ staff and take on warehouses. I want to stay small and be independent to create honest, simple wines, and enjoy the process.”

Trijsburg studied agronomy in The Netherlands, but an already burgeoning interest in wine saw him take on a post-graduation job in 2007 at a vineyard in Nuits-St-George, Burgundy. That role, originally to pick grapes, saw him spend most of his time in the winery, steering him towards a career as a winemaker. “I loved how wine is one of the few products where you can be involved in growing, making, marketing and selling a product. You get the full lifecycle.”

He subsequently completed his Master of Science of Viticulture and Oenology through VINIFERA, studying in Montpellier and Bordeaux, France, and Geisenheim, Germany. Trijsburg says that variety of locations exposed him to many different styles, which encouraged him to work vintages in Germany, Spain, Chile and South Africa, before taking on a winemaking role for a small winery in The Netherlands. He settled in Australia in 2012, working both for Lethbridge, Geelong, and Hanging Rock Winery in the Macedon Ranges.

“I’ve always loved to grow things, to care for the earth and create life,” says Trijsburg. “I was about five years old when I told my parents I wanted to become a farmer. I started a veggie patch when I was six, and I’ve had one ever since. I love the simplicity of growing plants, the challenge of producing higher quality crops from healthier vineyards, using less water, having a positive impact on our environment. I’ve been fortunate as a winemaker to travel the world doing just that.”

The first wine Trijsburg made under his own Jean-Paul label was a carménère – an old Bordeaux variety that was thought nearly extinct until most of Chile’s merlot was revealed to be carménère instead, and it is barely grown anywhere else – which was released in 2017.

In 2018, he took on the management of the White Swan Vineyard, a 30-year-old pinot noir site near his home base of Ballarat. “It hadn’t been pruned for a few years and wasn’t in great shape,” he says. “The vineyard has a gentle northern slope and is surrounded by state forest – it’s a beautiful spot, owned by a local restaurateur. That first harvest yielded just a tonne. I have built it up over the past few seasons, using seaweed extract, minimal irrigation and mainly organic sprays. I like working with my hands – to know that it’s my hard work that’s contributed to the quality and yield. I invest myself in the vineyard.”

Starting out by making the wines in the garage at home, an accident that saw a bin of grapes spilt down the steep driveway saw operations moved to Hanging Rock Winery, where he still makes the wines. “I’ve been fortunate to encounter great mentors in many places – each teaching me more about low intervention, simple, clean, beautiful wines – and, importantly, the vineyards that create them. I bounce ideas around with Rob Ellis, Hanging Rock’s head winemaker. Rob’s a great help with ideas, blending and advice. And I have introduced him to a few things, too.”

All Trijsburg’s reds are unfiltered and un-fined, with minimal sulphur additions, while the whites are un-fined, and only filtered when needed. All whites have a percentage fermented or aged in used barriques, as he favours the complexity it adds, and the way it rounds the wines.

The range is always fluid, with the path wines take dependent on the site and the season. Currently fruit is sourced from several different regions, including Ballarat, Mount Alexander in Bendigo, Strathbogie and Heathcote. “When I think of grape varieties and wine styles, I have this mental map of France in my head,” says Trijsburg.

“From cool climate pinot in Burgundy (Ballarat), to continental Alsace (Mount Alexander), great for pinot gris and riesling, and warm and dry Rhône and Languedoc (Heathcote) for shiraz and carménère. The climate needs to fit the grapes and wine style. I feel really lucky to be in an area where I have access to such diverse climates and terroirs within a 150-km radius.”