“After 40 years in wine I know the one thing wine drinkers love is quality and my aim has always been to deliver the best quality wine possible.”
- Neil Doddridge
In 1973, when I was fresh from high school, I worked in the lab at Leo Buring with John Vickery and Moss Kaesler (making Sparkling Rhinegold). In the early 1980s I spent time at Seppelt as a fitter and turner (I love mechanical stuff) and I studied to make wine. Next I moved to Mountadam as winemaker with David and Adam Wynn. There we made Australia's best Chardy and Pinot at the time. In the '90s I moved to St Hallett to be their senior winemaker – I still think Old Block Shiraz with all the trimmings is perfect stuff. In the 2000s I worked as Production Manager with Pat Tocaciu in a purpose-built winery we designed for Ben Tidswell in the Limestone Coast region. Now I'm winemaker for Black Wattle and loving every minute of it.
Neil's favourite wine moment
I was at Mountadam, and Tony Bilson gave me a bottle of 1982 Corton Charlemagne Burgundy (I don't remember the maker, I think it was 1986), for finding his wedding ring. He'd only been married a week or so and was honeymooning at the winery and had lost it in a tank of fermenting Pinot. Still I think the most memorable white wine I’ve ever had. It was my first taste of real Burgundy. Amazing – a revelation!
Neil's winemaking philosophy
- Find the very best vineyards and growers to supply me with fruit.
- Spend the time in those vineyards so I can arrange to pick that fruit when it will make the best wine possible.
- Have a great winery crew to make the wine the way I want it.
Mount Benson lies in the rugged Limestone Coast zone, incorporating the regions of Coonawarra, Padthaway and Robe. The climate is harsh and cold (frost decimated Black Wattle's first plantings) but the upshot is that grapes show refined, elegant and pure varietal characters.
Since the first vintage in 1993, Black Wattle has been awarded 14 Trophies, 49 Gold and 91 Silver medals – a very impressive tally for such a short time span. What's more, the wines are consistently awarded 90+ points by James Halliday in the Australian Wine Companion.