Operating a winery requires passion, dedication and knowledge. But as Paul Greblo of Sandhurst Ridge explains there needs to be a willingness to move with the times too.

By Sue Turpie

While technology has changed and public tastes may ebb and flow, the underlying passion and procedure in creating a great wine is essentially the same as it ever was.
While it’s meant long hours and a great commitment, co-owning and operating Sandhurst Ridge Winery is something Karen and Paul Greblo have enjoyed greatly. And it’s evident listening to them enthusiastically talk about the past and present of the winery.
The couple is justly proud of its latest creation, a Nebiolo; an Italian varietal.
However, in the world of viticulture, saying something is the latest creation usually means it is the result of years of work and nurturing.
“It takes about five years to get the sort of fruit that you want to make wine out of,” Paul explains, “and then vines have to be about 10 years old to come into their own and give fruit that’s going to give you the intensity and the consistency to go on.
“Because of my Italian heritage I’ve always wanted an Italian varietal,” Paul says, and his vision was supported by another successful established winemaker.
“I was up in the King Valley years ago talking with a friend, Fred Pizzini of Pizzini Wines, and he thought that it would do very well down here in our types of soil.
“His reserve Nebiolo is grown on his worst patch of dirt, which is like our normal soil here,” Paul laughs. “He’s got a lot of creek and river flats there, which are very fertile soils and where he grows his day-to-day Nebiolo. But his really good one comes off the side of the hill which is rugged country, and that’s why he felt it would do well here. He’s proved to be right.”
While the region is renowned for its big reds, and Sandhurst Ridge’s shiraz is a favourite, Paul understands the importance of diversity, such as introducing new wines and establishing two luxury cottages on their premises.
“You can’t hang your hat on one variety, that’s a big mistake,” he says. “Like New Zealand with its savignon blanc, it’s extremely successful but they find it hard to sell anything else. And the market changes; the young people don’t want to drink like the oldies drink. They want to discover something new that they can lay claim to.
“Back when we first started no-one drank European wines, but now people are drinking wines from all over the world. They’ve been marketing European wines, especially French and Italian, for a long time and when you market something properly it works.
“The other area that has become quite popular is South America, Chile, Argentina. When the Aussie dollar went up, the market was flooded with imported wines. But that said as winemakers we expect to export our wines so we have to reciprocate. All we want is for our customers to drink wines.”
While there is a trend for craft beer, organic produce and so on, Paul says producing wine on a small scale is expensive and only taps into a small portion of the market.
“For the amount of products that are produced here the Australian market is tiny, and extremely competitive.”
Sandhurst Ridge has also had to embrace technology as an essential part of its business.
“With the day-to-day selling of wine, social media has a certain effect but for specific events it has a large impact on the number of responses you get. So if you’re not on social media you’re really losing out.”
One thing Karen and Paul aren’t losing out on is the reputation that Sandhurst Ridge has established and maintains as a producer and advocate of quality wines.