Article from THE AUSTRALIAN (www.theaustralian/life/food-wine), by Nick Ryan, 13 June 2017
I first met Joe Holyman in a bottle shop tucked away in one of the seedier corners of Sydney’s Kings Cross. He was working as a rep for one of the wine distribution companies and I was restocking the fridges with beer. He was waiting for his appointment with my boss, a decent, now departed, man called Geoffrey Crundall who took his reputation as an ogre making his bread from the crushed bones of wine reps a little too seriously.
I’d seen plenty of quaking young men steeling themselves before heading out the back to receive a high-volume bollocking from the other side of a shambolic pile of clutter that apparently had a desk under it. But Joe was different. No nervous sweating. No fidgeting. No request for one of the miniature bottles of whisky we stocked behind the counter for visitors such as these.
I learned that day not much fazed Joe Holyman.
Fast forward almost 25 years and I’m sitting at a lunch table with wine industry heavies and Joe is pouring the wines he thinks best chart his progress across a decade making wine from his Tamar Valley vineyard under the label that carries his name. “When I talk about my theories on winemaking, I’m really only talking about what I’ve learned and now understand about my vineyard. Outside of that, my opinions on wine are worth shit,” he explains to a bunch of influential buyers and scribes. Still the same unflappable Holyman.
Joe’s journey from nonchalant wine rep to producer of some of the finest pinot noir and chardonnay in the country is the story of a man who goes about what he does at his own pace and in his own way. Every article written about Joe Holyman the winemaker references Joe Holyman the cricketer, with a handful of Sheffield Shield games for Tasmania under his belt and ownership of a world record for the most, catches by a wicketkeeper on first-class debut.
Wine flowed into the gaps left behind when cricket was given away. A wine marketing degree, a few years in the Sydney wine trade and vintages in Burgundy and Porto got Joe to the point where he wanted to make some wine of his own. He started while living and working around Robe, on South Australia’s Limestone Coast, and named his label Stoney Rise after a nearby surf break. His first wine got him sued: apparently, the French didn’t see the humour in wine called Cotes du Robe and his second was a rose that somehow got to such high alcohol levels it stole chunks of time from those who drank it.
He always knew he’d end up back in Tasmania and in 2004 he and his wife, Lou, bought a vineyard at Gravelly Beach near Launceston. This was the transformative moment.This is the vineyard that makes the wines under the Holyman label — Stoney Rise is now the home for fruit sourced outside of the estate — and it has been extensively reshaped and reimagined to meet the rigorous requirements the eponymous label demands.
This is the vineyard in which he wakes up every morning and where he rests his head at night. This is the vineyard in which he has raised his kids and on which he built a winemaking shed to escape to when he has had enough of them.
He has unlocked its frequencies and tuned himself in and as a result, he’s allowing it, and it is allowing him, to make wines of staggering beauty.Even grumpy old Crundall would have to be impressed.
For me this was a highlight among many at a tasting, showcasing the first decade of the Holyman Label.
It’s amazingly crystalline and energetic, tight but powerful, layered and long. It’s pretty, lots of white peaches and white flowers, but also has a beautifully handled wilder side coming through with a bit of sulphide-driven complexity helping to bring the funk.
A perfect union of winemaker and vineyard.
Nick Ryan, The Australian, 13 June 2017