Amy Blackburn


Winemaker Amy Blackburn has had an avid interest in science from an early age but it was the discipline of wine science that gave her the opportunity to discover a natural and flair talent for winemaking in particularly with white wines.

Gaining impressive results at Charles Sturt University, Amy received a Distinction for her Bachelor of Wine Science degree. Amy excelled within her studies coming away with the Calabria Family Wines Graduating Prize, Dean’s Award, Valedictorian and Dux of Bachelor of Wine Science when graduating in 2014.

Amy has been a strong part of the Brand’s Laira team since 2004 when she joined as Laboratory Manager. As her passion grew for the wine industry she desired to be more involved with the winemaking process and whilst still working within the lab, assisted Chief Winemaker Peter Weinberg during vintage.

During the vintage of 2015 Amy took up a position as Harvest Enologist at one of the Napa Valley’s premier organic wineries, Ackerstone Vineyards. When returning to Australia she took up the position of Winemaker at Brand’s Laira. It has been here that she has been able to build on the experience she has gained working with white wine varietals in both the Hunter and Napa Valley’s. Amy has excelled in this area creating some fantastic wines of note including the production of the first ever Riesling for Brand’s Laira in 2014 which made its way into the James Halliday Top 100 rankings in 2015.

More recently Amy has created Brand’s Laira 2016 Rosé which is available exclusively from the Brand’s Laira cellar door.


Q. Who is the greatest influence in your winemaking life?

It would have to be our chief winemaker, Peter Weinberg, as we have been working together now for over 15 years. We work on all Brand’s Laira products together and we have a very collaborative attitude to our winemaking.

Q. What is your approach to winemaking?

Embrace modern technology, but respect tradition; and always minimise intervention.

Q. Brand’s has many loyal drinkers, how would you describe them?

People with good taste! We have built a following of customers over many years who enjoy our style, and have collected some new ones more recently as our range has expanded – they are the sole reason we can do what we love.

Q. What winemaking philosophy do you live by?

Allow the variety and terroir to shine by minimising unnecessary intervention.

Q. What is your favourite part of the winemaking process?

It would have to be either right at the start when you first bring the grapes into the winery during vintage, and the excitement of what they might become; or at the very end when the blends come together and all of the hard work has paid off.

Q. If you could invite one person to share a bottle of your wine with, who would it be?

My dad: his love of wine while I was growing up definitely had an influence on me, and he always enjoys when I show him a new wine that we have made.

Q. What is your favourite Brand’s Laira wine and why?

It would have to be our 1968 Vines Cabernet Sauvignon. We have been making this small batch wine for a while now, and it has always been my favourite as it is such a beautiful elegant wine.

Q. When you are not making wine, what do you enjoy doing?

Riesling and Oysters, enough said!

Q. When you are not making wine, what do you enjoy doing?

Heading off in the caravan with my husband and son – usually somewhere with more hills than Coonawarra!

Q. What’s your favourite wine region in the world — other than your own?

It’s not really a region, but Tasmania as a whole – I really think it is going to play a big part in the future of winemaking in Australia.

Q. What would people be surprised to know about you?

I love to go hiking in national parks, and have travelled particularly in the USA for this purpose. My husband and I have visited and hiked in 9 of the beautiful national parks there, and would love to visit more in the future.

Q. If you weren’t making wine for a living, what would you be doing?

I have absolutely no idea! I really can’t see myself doing anything else.

Q. What’s the best wine you’ve ever tasted? The most interesting?

The best would be 2012 Opus One. The wine was spectacular, but I enjoyed it from the observation deck above the Opus One winery, looking out over the immaculate vineyards of the Napa Valley including the famous To Kalon vineyard. It was all about the experience as a whole. The most interesting was an Essencia in Tokaji, Hungary. It is the free run juice from Botrytised grapes that undergoes fermentation over many years and only ends up being a few percent alcohol. It is very very sweet but with incredible complexity.

Q. What do you love most about Coonawarra?

I love the weather here. The summers are mostly mild and the winters cold, and always cool nights, which is also the reason we can grow fantastic grapes!

Q. Favourite music?

My favourite music has great storytelling. I think my favourite would have to be Death Cab for Cutie.

Q. Favourite book?

Animal Farm, by George Orwell.

Q. Favourite movie?

Just about anything with Will Ferrell in it - always good for a laugh.