A former commercial pilot, Keith Brien gave up his career in the clouds to start a new life from the ground up
Keith trained with prestigious winemakers in the Burgundy commune of Pommard, founding the Cleveland wineworks on the Macedon Ranges in 1989. He continues to observe, teach and participate in viticultural and winemaking experiences throughout the world. Brien quickly learned that a combination of the most up to date technology and traditional practices produce the finest wines. He also learned that as vines grow older, they begin to struggle and produce lesser yields of more expressive grapes. The fruit of Old Vines is highly prized because of its intensity and depth of character, a quality for which there is no substitute in the art of winemaking. The fruit for the Old Vines Vincenzo range comes from plantings established in the early 1960s. The gnarled, fully mature vines show a natural suitability to the rugged soils and warm climate.
When Brien began working with the late Vincenzo Conte’s eldest son in 2003, the vineyard required extensive re-working to achieve maximum quality fruit. Since then, Brien and Vince have worked to establish new trellis and pruning techniques to improve the viticultural management. Through continued care and dedication, the reinvigorated vines will lay new quality standards. It brings Brien great pleasure to walk amongst these old vines which display their struggle for survival through gnarled and twisted trunks rising from the meagre soil that feeds them.
The Macedon ranges create a unique environment in Australian terms with climatic conditions similar to those of Rheims in the Champagne area of France. Three hectares of vineyard were planted on the Cleveland property in 1984 to Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and a mixture of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot in the lower northern paddock. The first vintage was in 1988 and the remaining samples of Chardonnay still drink extraordinarily well to this date.
The Croucher vineyard at Whitlands lies on the back road to Mt. Buller at the high end of the King Valley at an altitude of 780m above sea level presenting as the highest Riesling vineyard in Australia. The rich red volcanic loams are set in a mountainous, ultra cool climate and no irrigation ensures the vines are not too vigorous. The site was previously source for Brown Bros Patricia Reserve, its longer ripening period yelds some of the highest quality Riesling to be found anywhere.
Keith Brien has been a winemaker for decades. He left Cleveland Estate in 2003 after twenty five years of meritorious service and established his own label under the banner of Silver Wings. He now serves as chief winemaker for Marquee Artisan, acting as consultant for the brand since its inception. Brien continues to pursue his passion for making long lived single estate wines. He is consumed by his love for the old vines styles of the Valley Rhone, Shiraz, Mourverdre and Grenache, assembling the noble trio into exquisite wines of rich, spicy rich flavours supported by deep and delicious, tannic complexities. He has also established a new genre of luxury sparkling with a highly praiseworthy Late Disgorged Macedon, liquering the Cuvee with X.O. Cognac, aged eighteen years on lees, it exists in a class of its own.
Brien takes great interest in offering a taste of rare and interesting wines from his own personal and private collections at the estate Cellar Door, quartered in a restored art deco warehouse at Munster Terrace in North Melbourne. Keen enthusiasts should avail themselves of the opportunity savour a unique experience across a hand chosen range of truly exciting wines.