Stephen Pannell’s reputation was cemented with his time at Hardy’s as Chief Winemaker, earning him a Jimmy Watson trophy in his first year with Tintara, as well as Decanter Magazine’s Top 50 “faces to watch” in the international wine industry. Steve grew up surrounded by wine. His parents established the Moss Wood vineyard in Margaret River in the late 1960s and were part of a group of wine-mad doctors pioneering grape-growing in the region at the time. His family then sold Moss Wood and purchased Domaine Pousse d’Or in Volnay. Steve spent a decade working as chief red wine maker at Hardys before striking out on his own in 2004. He has worked all over the world, including in Italy with Aldo Vajra in Barolo and in France for Chateau Mouton Rothschild, Domaine Dujac, Domaine Comte Lafon and Pousse d’Or.
His broad experience has helped shape his approach to winemaking and his wines are true expressions of the grapes and vineyards of McLaren Vale. Steve has gone from being one of the best and brightest of the new generation of Australian winemakers to being one of the most lauded of all Australian winemakers in a very short space of time. In 2014, he won the fabled Jimmy Watson trophy, yet again becoming the first winemaker to garner this award for two different wineries, this one now being his eponymous label. Low yielding fruit sources, from old vines, both dry grown and biodynamically managed contribute to the status of these new releases. Stephen uses open fermenters, natural yeasts, limited new oak and the wines are naturally bottled unfined and unfiltered.
The pursuit of making wines which express the terroir best and that match best with their food led Pannell to explore alternative, non-mainstream varieties, better suited to McLaren Vale’s warm, dry climate. The new Mediterranean grapes such as Touriga Naçional, Tempranillo and Tinta Cão have infiltrated his portfolio, while Aglianico has infiltrated the vineyard (with Carignan, Nero d’Avola and Xinomavro among 30 other varieties).