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3 Dec 2020

Meet the Makers: Jen Pfeiffer from Pfeiffer Wines

Written by Jen Pfeiffer
A lady sits on the edge of a ladder that is lying longways beside a wooden cabin. She wears a wide brimmed hat, a t-shirt, dark trousers and shiny silver boots. She is smiling at the camera.
Jen Pfeiffer from Pfeiffer Wines
The Trust’s Meet the Maker series is proudly sponsored by Naked Wines, where the world’s best independent winemakers make their best wines. Here we meet one of the makers supported by Naked Wines’ Angels.

G’day! My name is Jen Pfeiffer, and I’m from Rutherglen, Victoria, Australia. I am a winemaker for my family winery, making wines under the Pfeiffer family label and my Jen Pfeiffer Rock It Like A Redhead label, which is made exclusively for Naked Wines.

I grew up with wine running through my veins! My father was a winemaker, working for a large corporate, but always had a desire to develop his own winery. With the support of my mother, they decided to go it alone and established Pfeiffer Wines in 1984. I was four years old at the time.

I grew up playing hide and seek in the winery cellars, riding my bike through our vineyards, listening to some of the great minds of the Australian wine industry talking about wine, and earning my pocket money helping in various ways around the property.

As such, it was a very natural progression for me to return to the family business after completing my university studies in Science and Law. When I first came home, my father gave me the responsibility of making the Pfeiffer Shiraz. That wine went on to win a gold medal and that was it, I was hooked! I’ve been trying to make great wines ever since!

A lady stands beside rows of wooden barrels, arranged in a metal frame structure. A large red hose lies coiled on the floor in front of her.
Jen Pfeiffer at her winery

What’s your favourite thing about running your own business?

A number of things, I’m not sure I could narrow it down to one ...

Firstly, I love that I get to create a product that can inspire so much passion in not only me as the maker, but also our customers, the consumer.

Being a family-owned and -operated winery, our business represents our family. As such, there is a huge sense of pride and achievement that comes with nursing the vines, the grapes and then the wines into the end product.

And of course, there are the people that you get to meet on the way. Customers that become lifelong friends, fellow winemakers who become mentors or confidants, and distributors like Naked Wines that change the trajectory of your business forever!

What’s been your proudest moment so far?

I have enjoyed a lot of success with my wines in Australia, winning over 1,000 medals and 50 trophies. I was named the Australian/New Zealand Young Winemaker of the Year in 2009; Naked Wines UK Winemaker of the Year in 2015; and have been nominated for Australia’s Export Wine of the Year on two occasions.

However, I feel most proud when I get to mentor a young winemaking graduate, see their confidence and their winemaking skills develop, and then watch them as they make their way through our industry towards success!

When did you start working with Naked Wines, and what difference have they made to your journey?

I started working with Naked Wines in 2012, after a kind recommendation from my good buddy, Sam Plunkett. At first, when the Naked model was described to me, I couldn’t believe it! What do you mean, you use a crowd-funding model to provide secure funding to support independent winemakers fulfil their winemaking dreams? Where do I sign?!

It has been one of the greatest rides of my life to date! Naked Wines has given me the opportunity to make the wines I’ve always wanted to make, with full freedom of creative expression.

The great sense of security that the Angel funding brings has allowed me to invest more in my vineyards and my winery, with the focus of continued improvement and the pursuit of excellence.

But the most unique and the best part of my Naked journey has been being able to connect with the Angels, our customers, all over the world. This connection provides real-time feedback about our wines, and has been the start of some wonderful friendships along the way. In fact, I befriended a couple of Scots back in 2015, whom I met at a Naked Wines tasting event in Edinburgh, who have since gone on to get married at my winery in Australia.

A lady stands in a very large plastic container filled with red grapes. Her trouser legs are rolled up. She holds a handful of  squished red grapes out, the juice dripping down from them. Another containers and chutes can be seen in the background.
The grapes!

Tell us about your favourite wine.

I love all wine – but my favourites are the incredible fortified wines from my home region, Rutherglen, particularly our Rutherglen Muscats.

These are sweet, rich, luscious dessert wines, which are matured in very old oak barrels for years to concentrate and develop more complexity, then are blended together to create the perfectly balanced, layered and textured wine ready for you to drink immediately.

They really are like Christmas in a glass – with flavours of raisins, warming spices, rose petals, chocolate and nuts. They make the perfect accompaniment to rich desserts, such as the plum pudding on Christmas Day.

What inspired you to make it?

Firstly, Rutherglen Muscat is considered one of the great wine styles of the world. I consider it both my privilege and my pleasure to be able to make such a world-class wine, which is inspiration enough!

Secondly, there is a long history of Rutherglen Muscat production in our area that dates back to the mid-1800s, when vines were first planted in our region. I feel that Rutherglen Muscat wines are an expression of both the history of our region and this history of our industry, with the winemaking skills passed down from generation to generation, rather than taught at university.

To be a fortified winemaker is to be the custodian of the many wines that mature in the old barrels in ancient cellars, wines that were made by your parents, grandparents or even your great-grandparents. Who wouldn’t want to have the chance to work with living liquid history and to help shape its future?

Three large wooden casks stand in a row in a warehouse-type area, with a plain brick wall behind them.
Where the magic happens

Tell us about your links to Scotland, and why you think it’s important to support the Trust.

I have Scottish heritage on my mother’s side – her family were Campbells from Argyll and came to Australia in the mid-1800s as free settlers. As such, I would suggest Castle Campbell in Argyll would be at the top of my list of places I would like to visit on my return to Scotland.

Supporting the Trust is crucial to preserving the history of your wonderful country. As an Australian, I am in awe of the immense history on display in your natural environments, the buildings and in your culture. Much like the gift of my precious Muscat fortified wines needs to be nurtured and preserved for the generations to come, so does the remarkable history of Scotland.

Do you have any exciting plans for the future?

We have many projects underway around the winery that are targeting improvements in viticulture, winemaking, our customer experience and satisfaction.

We’re undergoing a great deal of vineyard development at the moment, working with a New Zealand-based ampelographer (an expert in the botany of grapes), who has identified some significant Pinot Noir plantings on our oldest vineyard that link the vines back to the famous Clos de Vougeot Grand Cru Burgundy vineyard.

The original cuttings were believed to have come to Australia in 1838 as part of the Busby collection, and were planted in Great Western, a wine growing region in western Victoria. In 1961–62, these vines were about to be destroyed, but instead were pulled up and transplanted to our Sunday Creek vineyard, where they have been resting for the last 60-odd years. We’ve taken cuttings from these old vines and are commencing a re-planting programme to ensure this special piece of botanic history is preserved.

Naked Wines is proud to support the National Trust for Scotland’s Meet the Maker series. Enjoy 6 delicious bottles of wine handcrafted by independent winemaker Jen Pfeiffer for just £40 – saving over £26. Even better, Naked Wines will donate 20% of proceeds back to the Trust for every case purchased.

CLICK HERE to snap up your exclusive case from our friends at Naked Wines.


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