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Bruce Dukes

BRUCE DUKES

AGRONOMIST AND WINEMAKER AT DOMAINE NATURALISTE

“Wine and the culture surrounding it integrates science and agriculture with sensory intuition and cultural values which create an amazing journey.”

When did you realise you wanted to become a winemaker?
My path to winemaking seems to have been a simple road map when I look back, however it was not apparent at the time. I had a love of plants and a fascination with microbiology, so, when you join all these together, with a sense of fun and culture, it turns into a life of wine growing.

Please tell us about your career so far, including your education, work experience etc.
My first life was as a soil microbiologist and plant nutrition specialist, which was the perfect segway to wine. During my training at the University of Western Australia, I realised that the wine industry was the perfect fit for me. After graduation and some practical experience in the local industry, I had so many questions with many of the answers coming from papers written by scientists at the University of California, Davis. I was soon working as a researcher at UC Davis, and discovered the magic, culture, energy and creativity within the Viticulture and Oenology Department. From there I entered graduate school, followed by a catalytic five-year job in Napa Valley… now thirty-two years into it and loving it!

What do you love most about being a winemaker?
The opportunity to work between the interface of nature and culture. Wine and the culture surrounding it integrates science and agriculture with sensory intuition and cultural values which create an amazing journey.

What is your favourite wine, and what food do you typically pair it with?
I am loving fully textured chardonnay wines paired with aged cheeses, particularly the crunchy white calcium lactate crystals in hard cheeses and the incredible sympathy they have with malolactic styles of chardonnay.

Is there any vintage you’re particularly proud of creating? Why?
In Margaret River, we enjoy a gentle maritime climate which is well suited to grape growing. Each vintage has its own personality, and I celebrate wine for those variations. I am the person who loves exploring the nuances in the glass in front of me. The 2022 and 2023 vintages have been a joy for the vines, yielding succulent and flavour dense fruit which translates to energy driven fresh wines. I love hese styles.

How does the local climate/soil affect the wine you make?
The maritime climate of Margaret River provides the magical balance and timing of rains, warmth, cooling and moisture laden and moderating afternoon ocean breezes. This set of conditions favour the biology of chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon. When these natural conditions are integrated with ancient soils parented from decomposed granite, the magic ignites.

Which of your own varieties do you typically indulge in?
I love all the wines I make, otherwise I would not make or bottle them. Chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon are my local passions; a lifetime of discovery.

Where do you see yourself in five years? How do you think your winemaking will evolve during this time?
I hope that my winegrowing skills and my ability to integrate these to make culturally relevant wines will continue to refine. It is an evolving and hence moving target which requires constant awareness and exploration. I seek to achieve refinement by focussing on the very basics of winegrowing and improving my understandings of how my wines are relevant to our culture.