Kate Goodman has been making wine for almost 30 years, currently as Chief Winemaker at Penley Estate in Coonawarra, Australia, as well as for her own brands Goodman and Nikkal in Victoria. Her extensive knowledge and experience come from decades working with some of Australia’s great wineries including Wirra Wirra, Tim Knappstein Wines, Seppelts, Dalwhinnie, and Punt Road, where she was chief winemaker from 2001 to 2013. In 2018, she was awarded the 2018 Australian Women in Wine ‘Winemaker of the Year’. Goodman is considered one of the leading contemporary winemakers in Australia.
Karen MacNeil interviewed Kate Goodman for WineSpeed in October 2019.
Karen MacNeil: Do you feel that the Australian industry is generally open to women at every level?
Kate Goodman: The Australian wine industry is definitely open to women being involved. I’ve worked with many supportive and encouraging people throughout my career. For me, the only barriers are those we set upon ourselves.
KM: At the same time that you make wines for Penley Estate in Coonawarra, you also make your own wines, Goodman, in the Yarra Valley. What’s the biggest challenge in doing both?
KG: Time and, on the odd occasion, attempting to be in two places at once. While I’m always chasing freshness and energy, the vineyards dictate the results more often than not. I have completed four harvests at Penley Estate in Coonawarra and I am a long way from fully understanding our site and its potential. Striving for the best, without fully understanding everything I have at my fingertrips, is my greatest challenge at Penley. In the Yarra Valley it’s different—I have made wine in this region for 19 seasons. Here, the challenge lies in trusting those that are helping me with my Yarra projects when I can’t be on site all the time.
KM: Besides the Yarra Valley and Coonawarra, what other wine region inspires you the most? And why?
KG: Domestically I would say Margaret River, a region that excels with chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon. Further afield, I would say Piedmont. I love the wines from this region in northern Italy. They have perfume, structure, layers, hidden corners and such beauty.
KM: Are you pretty specific about pairing wine and food or are you a drink-and-eat-what-you-like kind of person?
KG: I think I fall somewhere in the middle. Perhaps it’s more occasion-based as well. The more formal the occasion, the more likely I am to encourage a complementary match. But if I’m with someone who wants to eat fish and drink a structured cabernet, who am I to say no?
“The Australian wine industry is definitely open to women being involved. For me, the only barriers are those we set upon ourselves.”
KM: How many wines have you tasted in your lifetime? (An estimate).
KG:. That’s a tough question. I have judged in the Australian Wine Show system for many years, in addition to all the tastings and traveling I do. It would have to be more than 30,000. This excludes unfinished wines and barrel samples.
KM: How often do you drink your own wine?
KG: Every week, but it may be a barrel sample or a glass in the tasting room. It’s like talking to your children.
KM: Is there anything you do to continue to train your palate?
KG: I regularly judge at wine shows to keep me on my toes. In addition, I have regular benchmarking tastings with my winemaking teams at Penley and Goodman. Beyond this I am always thinking about what things smell or taste like.
KM: Other than wine, what is your other favorite beverage?
KG: Can I have more than one? Tea first thing in the morning—black tea made with leaves—strong with a dash of milk. And a well-mixed gin and tonic quenches the thirst on a hot evening.
KM: The Australian wine industry seems very exciting at the moment. What’s the best thing that’s happened to it in the last 10 years?
KG: A recognition that the industry (generally speaking) had become lazy. This has resulted in a proliferation of new producers, fresh and delicious wine styles, the emergence of new regions and a surge in wine quality. Chardonnay is a great specific example: the wines had become big and flabby fifteen years ago. Consequently, there was a push to cooler sites, higher acidity and less oak. Of course, the pendulum initially swung too far resulting in boney, flavorless, acidic wines. If you look at Australian chardonnay today, it is truly world-class. Anything goes. It is a great time to be making wine.
KM: What do you consider your greatest achievement?
KG: My family. Establishing my owns brands –Goodman and Nikkal – in the Yarra Valley. Successfully reinventing Penley Estate in a rapid and focused manner.