Marc Scalo grew up in Wangrattta spending most weekends on his grandparents tobacco farm in the picturesque Ovens Valley, before flying the coop and studying science and economics at Monash Uni. As far away from winemaking as you could possibly imagine, Marc began his working career at IBM in the purchasing and planning department. After a few years plugging away at the 9-5 life, Marc realised this wasn’t his bag and spent a year travelling through America and Europe. Back on High Country soil, Marc worked his first ever vintage and after a week…was hooked. The beauty was in the balance of the hands on work, the application of science and the creative side of winemaking. And another degree, Wine Science at Charles Sturt University.
Marc has been making the good stuff at Rutherglen Estates for 10 years (eight years as the head honcho winemaker), after 7 years at Brown Brothers. Moving to Rutherglen Estates, Marc really connected with their strong focus on making proudly regional varietal wines from alternative varieties. Being a medium sized winery that handles both smaller and larger parcels of fruit meant Marc could be closer to the wines and have more influence on all aspects of the winemaking process. Rutherglen Estates has a strong team in both the vineyard and the winery, with this balance critical to the quality of the end product.
Spring is a hive of activity around Rutherglen Estates. Marc kindly shares some insights into what goes on behind the scenes.
Winter would have seen the vineyards get a good heavy pruning and the farm equipment a good look over. Now Spring has sprung, what are the top jobs on your list?
Spring is busy. You have to try to keep up with the new growth. There is always a job to do, from canopy work, to spraying to avoid disease and fungus, to slashing the grass. I particularly enjoy slashing. Our vineyard goes from looking a mess to neat and tidy instantly. It is great working outside again with the sun on your back after the chilly Winter. On the wine front, it's time to prepare the previous year’s reds for bottling, while constantly monitoring the current year whites.
For the lay-man out there, can you explain what budburst is, and why it’s so important?
Bud burst is when the vines are at their most vulnerable. When the soils warm up after Winter, the vines push the dormant buds into tender green shoots which hold the next vintage's fruit. Budburst happens early Spring when the weather is still very unpredictable and there is always the risk of a late frost which can burn and kill the tender shoots leaving no fruit for the upcoming vintage. If all does go well during Spring and the vines have strong growth, then it really sets us up for a great year.
What is your favourite wine to enjoy in Spring?
I love enjoying white wines again, like Arneis, Viognier or Chardonnay. I also enjoy Tempranillo and Shiraz. Anything really!
Living and working in the High Country, you must have lots of great advice for people when they are visiting the region. What would be your top Springtime suggestion?
It ’s always great going for a bike ride along the Murray to Mountains Rail Trail. Our region is beautiful in Spring with the green grass, majestic gums and beautiful rivers. It’s also a great time to visit some cellar doors. We are extremely lucky to have such a diversity of regions in close proximity, from Rutherglen on the plains, to the King and Alpine Valley’s with their beautiful soils and cooler night temperature, to Beechworth with its higher altitude and granitic soils. Our new cellar door at Rutherglen Estates has a world-class contemporary Aboriginal Art collection. A wander through the gallery followed by lunch in the Tuileries courtyard is a great way to enjoy a Spring day.
Map it out for me
Hungry for more?
It’s nature’s most delicious sweet treat, one of the world’s oldest superfoods and can feature in every meal of the day. Rediscover honey in all its glorious forms this Winter with Greg Whitehead of Walkabout Apiaries.