13 June 2023

Five minutes with Emma Shaw, Collector Wines and Pique Nique

| Lucy Ridge
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Canberra local Emma Shaw is passionate about the region’s wines. Photo: Sammy Hawker.

Who are you?
Emma Shaw, a wine professional and busy mum of two kids.

What is your business?
For my 9 to 5 job I am the general manager at Collector Wines, looking after day-to-day operations at the winery and vineyards. On weekends, I run Pique Nique wine appreciation classes to get people enthused about Canberra wines in particular.

What’s a wine that best sums up what Collector Wines does?
The Reserve Shiraz, which we co-ferment with a tiny bit of Viognier. Clonakilla pioneered it as kind of a signature blend in our region but our winemaker Alex McKay makes it in quite a unique way. We’re trying to make something that represents the region and evolves into something really special over time. Most wines we would drink two years after harvest but the Reserve would still be considered young after five. As the wine ages it opens up beautifully, so 10 or 20 years later you just get blown away.

geese in vineyard

Collector Wines use geese to improve soil health in their vineyards. Photo: Collector Wines.

Favourite dish?
I think I would have to say homemade pasta. There’s nothing better than pasta and wine and I just adore carbs.

Favourite cuisine?
While I love European cuisine and wine matching, what excites me is the challenge of pairing wine with Asian fusion cuisines and Indigenous ingredients. I think in Australia our wine pairing knowledge has been based on European traditions, but we’re starting to make wines that will pair better with spicy food and we’re learning about Indigenous flavours.

An ingredient you can’t live without?
Good quality olive oil, which is partly for flavour but also for health.

READ ALSO Hot in the City: Champi brings a taste of Laos to Canberra

Who is your biggest influence in winemaking?
Prue Henschke, who is the viticulturist at Henschke Wines in the Eden Valley. She’s done a lot of work looking at native plants, soil health and vine health in a holistic way. She’s been a real pioneer and I admire her as a woman in the wine industry forging her own path. Especially considering she’s been doing this since the 80s and 90s, when the industry was far more male-dominated.

What media is inspiring you right now?
I’ll Drink To That is regularly on my podcast list. Levi Dalton does fantastic interviews with winemakers around the world. I also really enjoy the Regenerative Agriculture podcast with John Kempf.

man holding bottles of wine

Dear Prudence is inspired by the small ‘hole-in-the-wall’ bars of Barcelona. Photos: Lean Timms.

What do you wish people understood about your job?
I think people might be surprised that even though Canberra region wineries might appear to be small, they’re actually very highly regarded, professional operations. Often customers assume that the cellar door is the extent of the business but there’s lots going on behind the scenes and we have quite a big export market.

The quality of wines we make here is phenomenal and Canberra winemakers are hugely well respected. We actually have professional winemakers moving to this region because this is an exciting place to grow grapes and make wine, so we are making a big impact on the industry.

READ ALSO Corella Restaurant and Bar flies high with native focussed menu

Where do you go out to drink?
I love the ambience of Dear Prudence. They’ve got a nice wine selection and they regularly change the lineup of wines by the glass.

Where do you dine out for special occasions?
Pilot. I’ve been there six times and I’m never bored. There’s always an exciting flavour combination or something new on the menu.

Pilot, Ainslie

Pilot in Ainslie is Emma’s favourite special occasion restaurant. Photo: Lean Timms

Where would you take visitors to show off the best of the Canberra region?
A walk at the arboretum to get a sense of how beautiful the city is and appreciate the rolling hills of Canberra. It’s something that always delights me.

Who do you admire in the Canberra wine scene?
There are so many, but I really admire Fiona and Neil at Yarrh Wines. They’ve really invested a lot of time into improving soil health and vineyard biodiversity.

What’s your dream travel destination?
This vintage season I worked with this fantastic travelling winemaker from Argentina so I’d love to explore the Patagonian winemaking regions. The altitude there is insane: 3000 metres above sea level in some places! I’ve tasted a few Patagonian wines and they’re just incredible, but they don’t export much so I’d like to go to the region to taste what’s there.

two winemakers standing in Vinyard

Fiona Wholohan and Neil McGregor of Yarrh Wines. Photo: Yarrh Wines.

What’s a well-kept foodie secret in Canberra?
The bread and butter puddings at Sonoma Bakery. Bread and butter pudding is often underappreciated but these are so good for the soul: nice and custardy.

What do you think the next ‘big thing’ is in Canberra winemaking?
Maybe Tempranillo blends. There are a few wineries who’ve been making gorgeous, juicy Tempranillo for ages, but a lot of the younger winemakers are starting to make them now. They’re delicious and so accessible because you want to drink them young.

Where are you excited to eat next?
This weekend I’m heading up to Shell House in Sydney. They were just awarded the Good Food Guide Wine List of the Year.

What are your top 3 recipe tips?
To be honest I’m more comfortable with wine-tasting tips!
1 – Take your time with the wine. Don’t rush the experience.
2 – Try new things.
3 – Trust your gut, but try to develop your vocabulary so you can explain what your gut is telling you.

Follow Pique Nique on Facebook or Instagram to learn more about Emma’s wine appreciation classes.
Follow Collector Wines on Facebook or Instagram to be the first to know when the newly renovated cellar door reopens.

Original Article published by Lucy Ridge on Riotact.

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