Sue Bell

Boutique winemaker, director, wine show judge

Sue is winemaker/creator of Bellwether winery at the historic Glen Roy Woolshed in Coonawarra, where she makes complex wines using traditional methods with classic and emerging grape varieties.

She is the current Australian Society of Viticulture & Oenology Winemaker of the Year and an active wine show judge.

Life is now very different for me. Once I was senior winemaker/manager in the biggest wine company in the world: now I make small parcels of wine by hand with minimal equipment. Over the past six years, I have renovated an 1868 stone shearing shed, which had no water and limited power, and created a boutique winery, community kitchen, produce garden and campground.  It’s a place where I enjoy working and where visitors walk away smiling.

I originally studied engineering, but my interest in geology, soils and hydrology saw me eventually changing to a degree in Agriculture Science, majoring in Oenology with postgraduate study in Viticulture. After completing a graduate program with Southcorp wines, I joined Hardy's, ultimately managing the state-of-the-art Stonehaven winery in the Limestone Coast. Those were the glory days of Australian wine, with limitless budgets, strong R&D and great mentors. I have also worked in California and Bordeaux.

Initiating this new venture, it was important it encapsulated what I love about wine and living in a country community. At the time, I was a participant in the Australian Rural Leadership program, and the contacts I made and the perspective helped me plan a business model that supported my beliefs in wine quality, grower involvement and wine in a healthier society. Along the way I feel so lucky to have become a mum.

The smartest decision I made was to stay in Coonawarra after leaving the safety of the corporate environment. Having local knowledge, contacts and support has helped me in the early days of my start-up business.

My advice for anyone in this industry is to participate as much as you can, keep up to date with research and freely share your experience and knowledge. This is an industry that thrives on collaboration.

Quote : "Trust your gut instinct, it is usually the best solution to that unique scenario as it draws on all of your education, training and experience.”

My advice for anyone in this industry is to participate as much as you can, keep up to date with research and freely share your experience and knowledge. This is an industry that thrives on collaboration.

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