From reluctant viticulturist to Master of Wine

Kate McIntyre (OM 1990), one of only 400 Masters of Wine in the world today, admits that she initially resented working in the industry.

Her parents purchased a block of land on the Mornington Peninsula in 1982 on which they planted cabernet, chardonnay and pinot noir grapes. Kate was involved from an early age. But reluctantly.

“Mum and Dad bought [what became Moorooduc Estate] when I was 10. So, all throughout my time at Grimwade House and into secondary school, I went to the vineyard with Dad and helped with the planting and pruning. I did it for pocket money, not for the passion of looking after the vines.”

Kate’s real passions, at school and into her university years, were languages and theatre. She says she ended up initially getting into wine in a more serious way through serendipity and circumstance, rather than through a clear career plan.

Quenching an artistic thirst through wine

Talking about “growing up on a vineyard“ helped Kate get her ‘university job’ at a Philip Murphy Wine and Spirits, a high-end wine merchant in Toorak. And what she discovered there entirely changed her perspective.

“Wine people are really fascinating – just about everyone who has done anything interesting in wine has come from a completely different background,” says Kate.

“They’re artists, politicians, creative writers, musicians. They tend to have a passion for the arts generally, and science as well, but mostly it’s an industry that attracts a lot of people who have an artistic temperament and passion. I think wine is just another form of expression for a lot of people.”

This meeting of artistic minds, combined with a burgeoning appreciation for the wine itself, and a firm understanding that she didn’t want to work a “nine-to-five office job” led Kate to a realisation: the industry she had once grudgingly participated in could accommodate her full-time career.

A triumphant return to the family business

Kate combined her enthusiasm for adventure with her developing expertise in wine, and travelled through Europe exploring different cultures. If there was still any doubt that wine was her professional calling, it was dispelled during an oenological odyssey across Italy, France and Spain during which she built her knowledge, her palate and her reputation.

“My love of putting myself into different experiences, of learning language and my interest in theatre worked really well. I think a lot of people who work in the wine industry are really scared of public speaking, whereas I was comfortable talking about wine.

“I was also one of very few women who was trying to be a serious wine person [in Australia] at the time.”

After returning to her family’s vineyard, Kate decided she wanted to add formal training to her already impressive resume. In 2010 she became a Master of Wine, a qualification offered by the esteemed Institute of Master of Wine in London.

Today she’s the Director of Wine Business at the winery her mother and father established 40 years ago, and is continuing the McIntyre family legacy of making wines with an emphasis on natural winemaking, including wild yeast ferments, natural malolactic fermentation in French oak, and minimal intervention.

“I love it. I’m emotionally attached to the wines that we make. We work hard to grow beautiful fruit.

“People ask me ‘What are you going to do next?’ I tell them, ‘I hope I can keep doing this forever. And just keep doing it better.’”