Interview – Belinda Chambers – Winemakers of Rutherglen Chairwoman

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Person of Interest

In this edition we interview Winemakers of Rutherglen chairwoman Belinda Chambers who together with 6th generation winemaker husband Michael own and operate Lake Moodemere Estate winery in Victoria’s Rutherglen district.

Belinda Chambers - FeeSynergy

FS: You live and work in a stunningly beautiful rural landscape. Tell us a little about Lake Moodemere Estate and what makes it so special for visitors to the region.

BC: We are strongly connected to our country. Michael’s great grandfather and grandfather bought the property in 1924. Lake Moodemere Estate overlooks Lake Moodemere, a protected reserve and part of the Murray River System. It’s a very beautiful, uniquely Australian landscape. Our full range of wines are made with the fruit grown from our vineyard, giving them regional integrity rarely found in today’s wine industry. We also serve our Estate Grown Moodemere Lamb and heritage oranges through our café along with outstanding regional produce. We provide accommodation in an exclusively private waterfront villa my son and I renovated and refurbished two years ago. The beauty of our home makes it a special place to visit, as well as the history and passion of our family. Michael and I are delighted to have our two sons, the seventh generation, working with us. They’re providing us with great optimism for the future and adding to our enjoyment of life.

FS: The Rutherglen district is relatively small in terms of numbers of wineries (19). However, it stands out above all other wine districts for its Durif and world beating Muscat wines.

BC: Durif is the iconic red variety of the region. It’s a French variety that was introduced to Rutherglen because of its perfect fit with our climate and terroir. Now Rutherglen makes the best Durif in the world. Durif is a luxurious, chocolatey red wine… delicious! Rutherglen is internationally renowned for its Muscat. We have our ancestors to thank for the high quality of these wines that range in age from one year to over 75 years. Michael’s great grandfather, William Chambers, had the foresight to reserve his ‘pet wines’.

A small quantity of this increasingly valuable and prized wine forms the Chambers Rosewood Solera Proper. The staggering intensity and concentration of this original wine means that only tiny amounts are required to make a dramatic statement.

FS: In 2015 you were elected chairwoman of Winemakers of Rutherglen. What does this role entail?

BC: The Chairperson of the Winemakers of Rutherglen has an important role. We have a very strong and secure organisation of businesses who firmly believe in working together to further Rutherglen in the Australian and International wine landscape. We also run two hugely successful festivals. The Rutherglen Winery Walkabout is Australia’s largest and longest running wine festival, and Tastes of Rutherglen is not far behind it for longevity and visitation. We work closely with organisations such as the Wine Federation of Australia, Wine Australia, and Wine Victoria. Recently I worked with those organisations, regional wine industry leaders, and our MP, Cathy McGowan, on the development of the new WET laws, lobbying for the retention of the WET rebate which is vital to the survival of small producers like us and many others. I work with an outstanding board who apply their creativity, innovation, and expertise throughout the year. With such a highly specialised and enthusiastic board, our list of impressive achievements in the last two years shouldn’t be surprising. Rutherglen and Rutherglen wine just keeps getting better! I think you can tell how passionate I am about my home, our product, and my colleagues.

FS: Congratulations Belinda on being selected to join 32 other leaders in the highly regarded Australian Rural Leadership Program (ARLP). Tell us about the program and what you are hoping to gain from the experience.

BC: I have just completed the first session of the ARLP in the Kimberley. I had a fantastic experience, cementing firm friendships with leaders from all the corners of Australia, and learning so much about leadership and team building. I love the diversity of industries and cultural backgrounds among
the participants. I am incredibly grateful to my sponsor, Wine Australia, who has contributed $55,000 toward the program allowing me to embark on an amazing journey of development. After such a powerful experience in the Kimberley I’m having difficulty imagining all the changes that could come from this course. I went into it hoping to develop my leadership skills within our own business and the wine industry, and to open opportunities to further contribute to rural, remote, and regional Australia. In the Kimberley I had the privilege of meeting and becoming friends with some inspirational indigenous leaders.
I now have a new goal to do what I can to make amends for the past and to work toward a unified Australia.

FS: What do you see as the main challenges ahead for independent or family owned wine and agri businesses in your region?

BC: I’m very optimistic about the future of wine and agricultural businesses. I see a marked increase in good business practice as we develop our skills to survive in a highly competitive market. The education and development of wine knowledge amongst Australians means diversity is valued and that’s good news for small producers. I do believe we must embrace the challenge of focusing on the commodities we can confidently produce at an internationally competitive level. Fortunately, Australian wine and lamb are among the best in the world.

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