06/12/2005 - 21:00

Otto wins on way to perfect wine

06/12/2005 - 21:00

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Clive Otto received some belated industry acknowledgment last week when one of Australia’s best-read wine magazines, Winestate, named him the Australian Winemaker of the Year 2005.

Otto wins on way to perfect wine

Clive Otto received some belated industry acknowledgment last week when one of Australia’s best-read wine magazines, Winestate, named him the Australian Winemaker of the Year 2005.

Not bad for a man who was relatively recently made redundant after 16 years as winemaker at Vasse Felix.

And for good measure the publication also thought Mr Otto’s 2001 Heytesbury Cabernet Sauvignon was the best wine of the year, ahead of 10,000 entries from Australia and New Zealand. Mr Otto says the award is a great honour and one he is immensely proud of.

“To me, the award is recognition of all the hard work that went into 16 years at Vasse Felix,” Mr Otto says.

“The Winestate award is acknowledgment amongst my peers. and to receive it in this way is very pleasing.”

Among those Mr Otto beat to win the award were fellow Western Australian Robert Bowen from Houghton’s Winery, and South Australians Chester Osborne from d’Arenberg, Richard Langford from Elderton, and Bruce Gregory from Majella.

Mr Otto has become one of the most respected figures in the Margaret River wine community and many attribute his commitment to quality and teamwork as the catalysts to Vasse Felix’s success.

Having amassed an incredible record at the winery where he cut his teeth for the trade, Mr Otto believes his long tenure at the company eventually helped him achieve his goals.

“Staying in one place allows you to fine tune things. In five years you barely get to know how things work, in 10 years you can begin to fine tune your work,” Mr Otto says.

“In 15 years you can gain an imm-ense amount from your experience.”

With an attitude like this that it came as a shock to Mr Otto and the collective wine community when a restructure of Vasse Felix could not find room for the respected winemaker.

It is believed changes to respon-sibilities in export wine marketing and winemaking supervision prompted Mr Otto’s redundancy.

And so now it seems one of the most talented winemakers in the country is looking for a new place to hang up his pruner – and he wants it to be Margaret River.

“I have a good circle of winemaking friends I have a lot of respect for here [Margaret River]. Ideally I want to stay here because I don’t think I’ve made my best wine yet,” Mr Otto says.

This statement will delight anyone who has even had a snifter of the 2001 Heytesbury Cabernet, Winestate’s wine of the year.

An exceptional wine from an exceptional year in the middle of an exceptional area, it is a uniquely Australian bent on a Bordeaux classic.

Mr Otto says he always sets out to make the best wine he can, not limited by location or variety.

He chose a little Forest Hill fruit from outside Mt Barker (about 10 per cent), but there is also a little malbec and merlot in there as well, not to mention shiraz, which makes the blend an Australian classic.

With his departure from Vasse Felix occurring within weeks of Bob Cartwright’s retirement from Leeuwin Estate, there’s talk of a changing of the guard at the established wineries down south.

But for the time being, Mr Otto is content to add this latest accolade to his resume as he searches for that vintage, blend and variety that may well be the best wine of his career.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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