Nick Farr is considered one of Australia’s top young winemakers, and a specialist in Australian in pinot noir. He is co-owner and winemaker of Wines by Farr, which he runs alongside his father, the legendary Gary Farr. Like his father, Nick spent time working in different wine regions around the world, before returning home to the Moorabool Valley in Australia. Nick’s experience at renowned vineyards such as Cristom in Oregon, Au Bon Climat in California and Domain Dujac in Burgundy helped to shape his winemaking philosophy and style. Nick is also the winemaker and owner of his own brand, Farr Rising.
Karen MacNeil interviewed Nick Farr for WineSpeed in October 2019.
Karen MacNeil: How old were you when you tasted your first wine and who gave it to you?
Nick Farr: The first that l remember would be in 1990 by Roz Seysses, co-owner of Domain Dujac, at age 10 in Burgundy. It was my dad, Gary Farr, serving me.
KM: What wines did you taste at the beginning of your career that you feel deeply influenced your perception of wine?
NF: 1994 Bannockburn Serre Pinot Noir and Clos St. Denis from Domaine Dujac.
KM: You live and work in the Moorabool Valley of Victoria. What other wine region inspires you the most and why?
NF: l find that there are two or three producers in most regions of the world that are interesting. However, Oregon is a region outside of Burgundy that is of special interest to me because of the high quality pinot noir there.
KM: Do you have any big projects coming up that you are excited about? What’s ahead for you in the next five years or so?
NF: The next five years will consist of greater detail in the vineyards and a focus on a greater understanding of the sites, even though our family have worked the soils in this valley for 40 years. The Cote site that both the GC (Gary Charles) chardonnay and RP (Robyn Pamela) pinot noir are taken from are showing huge potential because of their understated power and mineral freshness. Every year is an exciting new project, where we are evolving with our site because of either vintage conditions or another year’s vine maturity.
KM: Tell us a bit about why you work with native yeasts and whole cluster fermentation.
NF: I don’t know why a winemaker wouldn’t use the native yeast that has come into the winery on the fruit that comes from the site where it was grown. I believe these yeasts are best in tune with the fruit itself to achieve the aromas, fruit expression, density and length which we hope are individual to our site with its aspect and soil types. I think the word is a bit over-used, but it is natural. The greatest expression of a soil and site comes when as little as possible is manipulated during the winemaking processes. The best wines of the world do not need to speak about how the fruit has been grown or how the wine has been made.
Whole bunch fermentation creates elegance and finesse in a region like the Moorabool Valley, where robustness and structure can often be quite heavy. What we are chasing is the intercellular fermentation of the berries before the seal of berry and stem is broken. Whole cluster fermentation also leads to lighter extraction.
“The best wines of the world do not need to speak about how the fruit has been grown or how the wine has been made.”
KM: Do you think your children will follow in your footsteps and work with you at the winery?
NF: I hope that one of my two children may develop the passion for the industry, but it would not be the end of the world for me if they don’t. This industry has been very successful for me personally, but l am excited to see what their passions will be. That said, my children will certainly be well schooled in how to grow and maintain plant life.
KM: How often do you drink your own wine?
NF: More often than not. I believe in our wines and these are the styles of wines that my family like to drink. The fact that other people also enjoy our wines is a bonus.
KM: Who in the Australian wine industry has been your biggest inspiration?
NF: Gary Farr, my father. It has been a journey for 20 years as well as an apprenticeship, that in my eyes, will not finish until he has left the building!
It is priceless to have him continue to visit the winery and share his knowledge of viticulture and his winemaking philosophies. If he doesn’t say anything, we must be doing something he likes. There have also been great supporters that l can call on at any time such as: Larry McKenna of Escarpment, New Zealand; Neil Pike of Pikes, Clare Valley; Sam Middleton of Mount Mary, Yarra Valley; and the Seysses family at Domaine Dujac.
KM: What is the last wine book you read and was it good?
NF: I haven’t read a wine book. I read articles on soil maintenance and health. The last book I read though, was tennis star Andre Agassi’s autobiography.
KM: Which grape has taught you the most and what did it teach you?
NF: Gamay. Lazy winemaking, being able to remove yourself from the equation, and allowing the ferment through carbonic maceration to dictate the palate, texture and length of the wine can teach you a lot. With carbonic maceration, there’s no need to use SO2 because of the dissolved CO2 in the wine create by the carbonic fermentation. The extraction happens under its own weight of fruit as it slowly breaks down. Seeing our gamay evolve for the last 5 years has certainly made me question my extraction of pinot noir and time on skins as well as the amount of SO2 being used at particular times in the wines’ life. But, ultimately it still comes down to growing the healthiest and thickest skinned fruit l can naturally, so that extraction is not forced to create a wine that isn’t there to be found.
KM: If you aren’t drinking wine, what is in your glass?
NF: Rogue Society Gin from New Zealand. And beer, lots of it. At present, Swell Brewing Company in McLaren Vale is one of my favorites.