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Meet Ballarat’s sustainable winemaker, Michael Unwin

Visit Ballarat

23 Apr 2021

Filed underMade of Ballarat

How does a “fill your own” bottle of wine sound? Yes, we thought that might pique your interest.

Well not only does local winery and cellar door, Michael Unwin Wines, give wine lovers that chance to bring their own bottle to fill, you can actually see a working winery in action while you sit back and sip on local drops. And better yet, you can do all that knowing you’re drinking wine from a man who puts the environment first.

Not only has Michael taken the very unique approach of building his cellar door, barreling and bottling sheds on an earthen floor to significantly reduce the carbon footstep of the site, but his winery is also run on solar power, enabling operations to be entirely off-grid.

You don’t have to tell us twice. We’re there!

Visit winemaker Michael Unwin at his Powells Road cellar door, just off the beautiful Avenue of Honour.

Q. What can people expect when they walk through your doors?
When people visit our cellar door, they can expect a local village-type experience but with the opportunity to taste and purchase exceptional wines.
We offer almost all of our wines for tasting and the cellar door staff like to encourage people to try something new. Visitors can opt for a quick trip, taste a wine or two and then purchase by the bottle or the case. Or, people can sit for an hour or more, moving through one of our curated tasting sets before choosing what they might want to take home.  
We are a working winery, so they may also see a lot of action happening in the sheds nearby and the 100 acres of land around us. There may be the clank of bottles and the hiss of the bottling machine if we are bottling in the next room or they might hear the hum of a forklift or tractor in the adjacent sheds as we move barrels, tanks and equipment around.

Q. What originally sparked your love of wine?
I was travelling around Europe when the opportunity came up to earn some money picking grapes. I had a farming background and a degree in horticulture, so when I got on site I was quickly promoted to a more senior position than what I had applied for. The winemaker there had me driving the tractor, emptying and cleaning the press, and soon I became ingrained in each stage of the winemaking process.

I was hooked from that moment and went on to seek out as many opportunities as I could to learn more, and I went on to study a Post Grad in Wine Science.

Q. Of all the regions you could have opened a vineyard, why this one?
My family and I  love Ballarat. It has been our home for the last 20 years and I ultimately knew I wanted my winery to be here too.
When we were in Beaufort we had a fantastic customer base that were either local, dropped in on their commute to the Grampians or Hamilton direction, or they came over from Ballarat. Moving the winery to Ballarat has enabled us to expand significantly, stay within reach for our regular customers and we’re now in a position to welcome more visitors.

Also, this site in Ballarat gives me the opportunity to produce some really unique wines. Having vineyards here in Ballarat and in other parts of Western Victoria means I can create some cooler-climate high altitude wines, but I’m also within an hour of some vineyards that give me warm climate varieties. The location gives me the opportunity to think outside the square and to create a great range of different varieties. 
I also love being the only winery “in the village” (The Little Britain fans will get that one!).

Q. What is it you love most about Ballarat?
It reminds me of many of the European towns that I spent so much of my time in, in my early twenties. I love that even though it is a big regional city, you can stand in the centre and still see the edges. From a winemaking perspective I love that it gives me the opportunity to produce cool-climate, high altitude wines but still be within an hour of vineyards that provide me with warm climate varieties.

Q. Tell us your thought process behind your winemaking approach?
I focus on producing the best wine that I possibly can. I back my own instinct, knowledge and experience to bring elegant wines to my customers; all of which have been carefully deliberated over and finessed to a quality that I am proud of.
Whether it’s single vineyard or multiple vineyard doesn’t really phase me, I just do whatever it takes to produce wine that I am one hundred percent proud of.

Q. You’ve recently released your Tram Car Label. Tell us about this release and how it differs from your others?
It’s always really exciting to release a new label. We introduced Tram Car because we wanted something to sit in the mid-range price bracket. The Tram Car range is exclusively made for our cellar door and some selected restaurants.

Q. Speaking of trams, you have a vintage tram on-site. What are your plans for this very cool retro piece?
Yes! It’s quite a statement. I love collecting old-relics, but this one is probably the most significant of my collection, particularly in size! It’s slowly undergoing renovations but when it is finished we’re thinking it will serve as a small and exclusive function area or a place where small groups can have a unique wine-tasting experience.

@lifewith_lenny tastes a local drop in Michael Unwin Wines’ very cool on-site vintage tram, which is currently undergoing renovations.

Q. What’s your most popular bottle?
That’s like asking me who is my favourite child!  Whether it is Tattooed Lady, Umbrella Man, Tram Car or One Goat, they all have their place depending on the person or the occasion.

Q. What are your top three recommendations of things to do in Ballarat?
1. Visit my winery… ha!
2. Go for a wander. Enjoy the walking tracks around Ballarat – Lake Wendouree, The Eureka Trail or the Yarrowee Creek
3. Eat at some of the fantastic restaurants that we have.

Across Victoria’s Midwest, we acknowledge that we travel across the ancient landscapes of many First Peoples communities.

These lands have been nurtured and cared for over tens of thousands of years and we respect the work of Traditional Custodians for their ongoing care and protection.

We recognise the past injustices against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in this country. As our knowledge grows, we hope that we can learn from their resilience and creativity that has guided them for over 60,000 years.

As we invite people to visit and explore Victoria’s Midwest, we ask that alongside us, you also grow to respect the stories, living culture and connection to Country of the Ancestors and Elders of our First Peoples.