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Vintner Interview: Simon McMillan | Tiges The Winemaker

By July 2, 2018 28 Comments

Over the past nine months, I’ve had the opportunity to connect with a ton of really interesting and diverse people from across the globe through The Vintner Project. One person that caught my attention on Instagram very early on was Simon McMillan aka @TigesTheWinemaker. Not only did I enjoy the content he was putting out but I was also impressed with how genuinely engaged he was with the wine community on the platform.

For months, Simon and I have exchanged likes, comments and even a few messages about a mutual friend but I have to admit – I never really knew much about the man/winemaker behind the account. Curious to know more, I interviewed Simon to learn more about his background in wine and get some of his thoughts on being a social media “influencer” within the wine community.

Location: Port Macquarie, New South Wales

Current Job: Red Winemaker at Cassegrain Wines

Can you briefly describe your journey of becoming a winemaker?

Originally from the Hunter Valley, I was exposed to viticulture and winemaking at the age of 15. In the school holidays I would help out at a friends family vineyard and winery at Belford.

At age 17 I began studying for a bachelor of viticulture and winemaking at the University of Western Sydney where I completed half of the 4 year double degree before deciding to gain experience working in the wine industry.

My first full vintage was in 2002 in the Hunter Valley. As well as working for many years in Hunter Valley wineries, I have worked in a range of New South Wales and Victorian regions such as; Mudgee, the Riverina, Swan Hill and Hastings River.

In this time I completed a bachelor of Wine Science at Charles Sturt University by distance education and since then I have worked overseas vintages in the Minervois, Bordeaux and Mosel Valley. The Southern hemisphere 2018 vintage was my 23rdvintage.

How would you describe your winemaking style in 5 words or less?

Balance & complexity.

What was the first bottle of wine you remember drinking?

I’m not sure, it was probably a Tyrrell’s Shiraz since this is my fathers favourite winery and he usually had wine on the dinner table when I was growing up.

What do you see as your biggest challenge as a winemaker?

Bottling wines under cork.

7% of corks cause wine taint (TCA being the most common), corks impart oak flavour, corks randomly oxidise wine and 100% of corks will leak eventually. The idea that you could spend your hard earned cash on a bottle of wine that has been ruined by a dodgy cork is really frustrating.

Screwcaps have been used in Australia since the 1970’s and all of the independent literature on closure trials has shown that wines bottled under screwcap taste better than those bottled under cork.

Screwcaps really come into their own when aging wine for extended periods. For example, Hunter Valley Semillon and Clare Valley Riesling are styles that benefit from extended bottle age where these wines can age gracefully without interference from the cork.

Where did the name Tiges come from?

Tiges is a nickname my family gave me since I was the youngest. Tiges is an abbreviation of “young Tiger” or “young Tiges” or “Tiges” for short (Aussies love to abbreviate words).

What motivated you to share your winemaking journey/life on Instagram?

My wife Tania had an Instagram account and she would occasionally share stories from the winery. Somebody told her they were pretty funny so we decided to branch out and Tiges the Winemaker was born. When we looked around there were a lot of accounts who were posting pics of the wines they were drinking or places they were visiting but we didn’t really see many winemakers sharing their stories. There are a lot of stuffy old white guys in the wine game so we thought we would inject a bit of or character into the online wine world. We don’t take ourselves too seriously and at the day wine should be fun.

What advice would you give to other winemakers and wine bloggers interested in becoming social media “influencers”?

The first thing I would say is if you are doing this to become an influencer then you are already doing it wrong. The best thing about social media is the connections you make. Yeah you can have 100k + followers but if you don’t interact with them and form a community then it is pointless. Just be yourself. People want to connect with you. They want a sneak peak into what’s going on in your life. We were so excited when we got our first 100 followers and there are a lot of people who have stuck by us over the last 2 years that Tiges the Winemaker has been going and we’ve become great friends. That kind of stuff is priceless. We know now that we can travel to most regions of the world and meet up with someone we’ve connected with on Instagram. So our best advice would be:

• Be yourself

• Be genuine – don’t just repost pics – take your own people will love it. You are unique, and people want to hear your story.

• Don’t play games – the follow/unfollow game is not cool. Same goes for buying followers. • Interact – comment on accounts that you love and always reply when people comment on yours.

Name three Instagram accounts (wine related or not) you enjoy following?

Vine Pair – these guys know their stuff with well researched and well written articles.

Simply Wines – cracking Aussie wine store and a top bloke.

Terroir Matters – living out our wine and food dreams with the LA Wine Cru