Matthias and Lauren Utzinger know what it is like to build something from nothing.
After meeting while travelling in Iran in 2015, Matthias, originally from Switzerland, decided to be with Lauren at Christmas in Tasmania that year.
Having completed a winemaking apprenticeship and then going on to become a vigneron, Matthias' chance meeting with Lauren and subsequent choice to come to Tasmania had all the makings of fate.
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"When we came back here to Tassie I think Matthias saw a lot of possibility here because it's quite similar to Switzerland from a viticulture perspective," Lauren said.
"We then talked about what we wanted to do with our lives and Matthias had already said he wanted to do his own thing and from there we pretty much just said, 'okay, let's find something'."
After working in Huon for a few years under acclaimed winemaker Stefano Lubiana, the now 39-year-old Utzingers found a perfect patch of land in Legana.
Though it was not a vineyard, rather a patch of pastured land that had long been neglected. Still, overlooking the Tamar and with views into Launceston, the patch had a clear allure.
Matthias and Lauren were sold and decided the spot, on Upper McEwans road, was the perfect place to start their own vineyard.
From July 2018 they set about the momentous task of turning the overrun pastured land into something resembling a vineyard.
They also embarked on the ambitious task of building a cellar door, wine facility and personal accommodation.
The Utzingers may have been able to do the job faster, but working to a budget and wanting to pour as much of themselves as they could into the vineyard, they, along with Lauren's father, undertook almost all of the work themselves.
Though the "lifestyle" of growing your own vineyard may seem idyllic, Matthias was certain not to oversell it.
"You have to be passionate about it and the more you're passionate about it the more that mixed frontier between life outside of work and life at work is less," he said.
"It is life."
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That approach is what Matthias and Lauren have built their vineyard around.
Matthias' Swiss background and wine making education has afforded him an approach fairly unique to Australia.
Lauren likes to call him a traditionalist, but combined they are traditionalists that are choosing to make wines that represent the particular site they are grown.
In winemaking language this is terroir, as Matthias said "an expression of the site". They plan to experiment to some degree, and are even in the process of importing three types of vines that have never been grown in Australia, but the focus is to make good tasting wine.
"[Tasmania] lends itself to experimentation, but I don't think we do anything too crazy ... I'm a bit of a purist so I like Pinot and Chardonnay and I like them to actually taste like Pinot and Chardonnay," Matthias said.
"And site specific that is very different."
That is why the Utzingers chose to do everything from scratch, and involve themselves in the process as much as physically possible.
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From the moment they undertook soil checks and saw endless worms roaming free through the rich Legana soil, to installing the vine systems themselves through line of sight rather than GPS and doing that when Lauren was heavily pregnant, the vineyard is an extension of the Utzingers family and life.
"What it comes down to is being out there, seeing things grow and mapping in your mind where you know certain areas and how to handle different fruit parcels, that's really key," Matthias said.
If you want to let the wine express itself as much as possible you need to know where the fruit comes from and how it's been grown.Matthias Utzinger
Lauren said that was a planned hallmark of their vineyard.
"That is very much the way we tend to make wine," she said.
It's very hands-off, hands-off with a lot of hands-on work, but in a way that we do try to let the fruit hero the wine rather than trying to make it be a certain way.Lauren Utzinger
The genuineness of the Utzingers bleeds into their vineyard like a drop of red wine onto a white shirt. It is busy and there is still a bit to do but their hard work has already begun to pay off.
Typically a vineyard will take at least three years to fruit, and if it does the yield can be underwhelming.
At the Legana vineyard reward for effort blessed Matthias and Lauren at the magic three year point when they were able to harvest eight tonnes of fruit and produce 6500 bottles from their four hectare, 24,000 strong section.
While the yield was a richly-deserved reward, it is just a continuation of their long journey to having a consistently strong and productive vineyard buoying their name alongside illustrious company.
The cellar door is not finished, although the hope is it will be either late in 2021 or early in 2022, and there is still much work to do. But the fact the vine produced eight tonnes already points to a bright future for the husband and wife duo.
And it is no surprise. Matthias' European background and Lauren's Tasmanian touch has combined together to make a vineyard and future cellar door that is exciting.
The way Matthias talks about his wine making is infectious and points to why the pair have chosen to take such a big leap that has completely changed their lives.
"Winemaking is a very holistic job. That's what I like about it. You follow something from the ground up and sometimes it gives you a hard time, but it just gives you satisfaction," Matthias said.
You create something and you have that notion of the dirt, and you grow the plant, and you grow the fruit, and you process the fruit, and you put it into a bottle, and you sell that bottle, and it's actually a product you can still enjoy in 10 years.Matthias Utzinger
"In 10 years time I can take a bottle out and say 'do you remember 2021? This is where we were' and that's what's really beautiful about it."
The vineyard is located at 5 Upper McEwans Road, Legana and is open for visit by appointment. More information about Utzinger can be found here.
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