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Tom wards off the competition as Swinging Bridge bags seven

September 29, 2022

By Peter Holmes

“It’s a nice feeling that we’ve done well,” says Swinging Bridge’s Tom Ward, “but all the Orange region’s done well.”

At 2pm Tuesday Swinging Bridge was announced as one of the two major winners at the Orange Wine Show awards for 2022.

Tom Ward spoke to The Orange News Examiner.

The ONE: Congratulations, seven awards. Which one means the most?

TW: I think it’s probably Cellar Door of the Year, because my team has worked so hard. It’s not about one wine, or one thing, it’s about everything they've done.

We work hard at the cellar door every day to make sure people have a great experience. We always talk about attention to detail. I'm grateful for the staff I have and very blessed. It’s very nice recognition.

The ONE: Do you keep drinking your own wine after the season is done, or move on to other things?
TW: We benchmark our wines constantly. We do blind tastings every Tuesday with my staff - we don’t know if ours is in there, so that’s pushing me.
I do drink my wine, but I drink a lot of others as well because I understand the story behind those wines. Some wines, they’re a great picture of what the season was, where you were in your life, so I find for me to go back is really personal. I enjoy that connection.

The ONE: Where are you in the wine cycle?

TW: We’ve got bud burst in a week’s time, then harvest in March. We’re warming up for the 2023 vintage and in the winery we’re getting ready to start bottling some of the wines that have been in barrels maturing - 2022 wines.

The ONE: Warm and wet weather is predicted - is that the enemy of the grape?

TW: It means it keeps you on your toes; every season has its challenges and in Orange we have to be adaptable to what the season presents.

That’s a really nice thing. I think we have some of the best vignerons in the world and they are willing to adapt. The season will being challenges and triumphs and tough stories.

The ONE: South Australian grape growers are being hammered following China’s decision on wine imports. How is the situation in Orange?

TW: At one point $1 billion of wine went to China and $950 million was from South Australia. [In Orange] we had very low exposure.

Orange grape prices are going up - there is not enough grape supply for the market at present. The [South Australian] styles you’re talking about - big bold reds - are out of vogue, and the Chinese market has gone.

[But] if you tried to find pinot noir or Riesling fruit in the [Orange] region, you wouldn’t be able to purchase it. It’s not available, and we are seeing prices go the other way.

The ONE: You grow and buy grapes. So you have to pay more now?

TW: It’s a valid point, but it’s about relationships. We always sit down and make sure we support what [growers] need.

We’re up the top end of payment already for fruit, but we’re in partnership - if they don’t make money and survive, they won’t grow grapes. Over 25 years I’ve got some great friends and supporters. They supported me when I was just starting out and now I make sure I support them.

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