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ast year, James Halliday gave
Mariginiup Shiraz, made by Jason
Conti of Paul Conti Wines, five
stars. Not a bad result for a bloke
who dreamt of being a drummer
in a rock band and never completed his formal
“I was never much of a scholar,” admits
Jason, who studied at Roseworthy. “I was much
better at learning by doing it.”
Jason’s grandfather started the company in
1927 and his parents, Paul and Anne Conti,
took over in 1968, introducing contemporary
winemaking practices and producing some of
WA’s best early table wines. Jason grew up in the
business, but was 21 before they started paying
him. “It’s all I know,” he says. “The smell of
fermenting grape juice during vintage, pruning in
winter, watching for new spring growth.”
For many years, the family sourced all their
grapes from large family vineyards in and
around Wanneroo. But over the years, rising rate
costs and a lowering of the water table, both
consequences of urban invasion, have forced
the Contis to downsize, selling off parts of their
once-substantial vineyards to reduce costs.
More and more, Jason is looking to the
south for his grapes. “We’ve been buying a little
bit of fruit from Margaret River for a couple of
years now,” he says. “I’ve been able to pick up
top-quality grapes that some of the big-name
wineries no longer want.”
The company released its first 100 per cent
Margaret River cabernet, made from contract
fruit, last year. Retailing at under $20, the
medium-bodied, elegant wine won a gold at
Scoop’s Summer 2012 tasting.
Jason hopes to be producing a range of
Margaret River wines within a few years.
The family’s new Miamup Road vineyard in
Cowaramup comes on line for whites this year.
Reds will follow a couple of years later.
“There are varieties we can grow way better
down there than up here,” he says. “Cabernet
sauvignon, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc.”
The company will continue to source grapes
for its flagship shiraz (“A luscious wine; softer
than most warmer climate wines,” says Jason)
from the family’s namesake Mariginiup vineyard.
“We’ll probably end up with just enough
land up here to make a couple of hundred cases
each year,” says Jason. “It will be a bit of a
And while it hasn’t been an easy 12 months
for Conti Wines, the winemaker says that he’s
here for the long haul.
“The fact that the Mariginiup is both our best
seller and most expensive wine says something,”
he says. “If we are to survive, we need to
concentrate on the premium side of things.”
As for Jason’s dream of being a drummer
in a rock band, he’s philosophical. “Mum needed
me to come home and give the family a hand.
looks to the
south to keep
words Jane Cornes
images Ross Wallace
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