Fri 15 May 2015

Visiting Ocean Eight in Australia, by Society Member James Tweddle


We were delighted to read this account by Society member James Tweddle of his visit to Ocean Eight in Victoria, and thought fellow members may like to read it too.

Don’t get me wrong; by neither means nor predilection am I a ’boutique wine’ aficionado.

Over the years I’ve done the The Wine Society ‘in-bond’ bit in the Rhône and in Burgundy (and a few of the spoils still languish in my small cellar). Advancing years produce a greater clarity of thought. I keep being reminded of a very good mate of many years ago, of ample means – and a keen Wine Society member, who had his retirement home built around his new cellar to house his comprehensive stock of port, claret and Rhône treasures – and, bless him, died within four years of moving in.

Not for me – life consists largely of convivial drinking around the bottom/middle levels of The Wine Society’s lists – especially around southern France, Portugal, and South Africa.

And so, faced before Christmas with an exciting and extended stay in Victoria and New South Wales – courtesy of our ‘Oz’ family – and wanting to renew my acquaintance with the treasures of the Mornington Peninsula, I ventured to ask the nice folk at Stevenage where I could experience a ‘real’ winery visit – behind the scenes.

A shortlist duly arrived and from it I chose to contact Mike Aylward at Ocean Eight. As you will hear I couldn’t have chosen better – the timing and the choice led to a really interesting and insightful visit – and a sampling experience second to none.

With Ocean Eight winemaker Mike Aylward (centre).

With Ocean Eight winemaker Mike Aylward (centre).

Despite his busy schedule in the middle of winemaking a date and time was fixed.

Nick – ‘the lad’ – made us most welcome while Mike returned from the far reaches of the property and he introduced us to the winery’s chardonnay. A great grape so often ruined by the corporate blandness of the supermarket ‘brands’ – but not here: the clarity and delicacy of the wine was clear to see, having the distinctive characteristics of freshness and clear flavour Mike later explained as being his ‘mantra’.

Mike, a friendly, enthusiastic winemaker with a long pedigree at the job, then took us on ‘the tour’.

First we saw this year’s chardonnay bubbling merrily away in the open under the shade of wooden frames – in new French oak barrels (with these at c. $AUS 5000 a pop and with a limited ‘front-line’ life it is easy to see how the costs of producing a good wine soon add up!). Different site, different clones produce different results – one clearly lemony and zesty, the next more close and mineral with just a hint of a lemon pithy taste; no doubt all of these will be sampled and watched before the final blending takes place.

And so onward to see the huge underground cellar – at this stage with plenty of room for the new vintage; a peek at the production area for the exclusive small production of Ocean Eight Sparkling Cuvée and back to the ‘shop’ and away with our small booty of wine for our generous hosts back at Black Rock – we hope they will enjoy and appreciate the pleasure of their ‘local’ wine.

Thanks to Mike and the team for a friendly, informative, and flavoursome visit!

Oh! And one more thing – why ‘Ocean Eight’?

Well the whole project was conceived and born out of a conversation around the turn of the millennium between Mike and his father on the green of Hole eight of the Australian National Ocean course nearby!

Well – it’s turned out it seems to me to have been a really good round – and still in progress!

James Tweddle

Ocean Eight’s ‘Verve’ Chardonnay 2012 is available for £20 in our current Australia offer, which closes on Tuesday 19th May.

Categories : Australia


  1. John Watson says:

    I can relate to James Tweddle. Advancing years; lower/middle level wines; Southern France, Portugal, South Africa. I read Jancis Robinson; useful tips, plus she’s a Society enthusiast.
    The Society’s promise – no poor bottle – is real. The Society provides us with frequent, generous information; sometimes close to drowning in it!
    I joined the Society five years ago; spent many years in S Africa drinking only local wines (huge improvements). Have tasted my way around the Society’s list with great satisfaction. Long may it last.
    Thank you, James, for a good, empathetic post.

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