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An interview with Emily Swift of Printhie Wines

by Jane Lampe |

Printhie wines has been a long time favourite of mine, so much so that last year during our first lockdown in Sydney last year, we started selling it on our website!

We had started getting lots of enquiries from people wanting to send wine to people with their flower deliveries while we were in lockdown, which of course makes perfect sense :)

So when I was thinking about what wine and sparkling I would offer, being so pro-locally produced flowers, it was a no-brainer that I would offer a locally NSW produced wine.

I have known Emily since school days. Emily is married to Ed Swift who's family has been producing wine for a long time near Orange. In my mind, Printhie's award winning Swift Sparkling it is just as good, if not better than any french champagne! Not to mention their other amazing wines, including the shiraz we also offer, for cozy winter nights in.

I thought it would be great to ask Emily a few questions about Printhie Wines, and Orange in general, so you know more about where it comes from, and how truly special it is.

How long have your family been producing wine in the Orange Region, and why did you start producing wine?

It was the inspiration of Jim and Ruth (Swift) in 1996 to enter the wine industry with the planting of 12Ha of grapevines on the family property ‘Printhie’, located near Molong in the Orange region of NSW.

The most suitable site was selected from the 500Ha property and managed by Jim and Ruth until the return of their two sons, Ed and Dave in the early-2000s. A winery was built for the 2004 vintage changing the dynamic of the business from grape growing to wine production. Ed and Dave now manage the day-to-day business operations.

Why is Orange such a good location to produce wine?

The Orange Wine Region is the only Australian region (possibly the only region in the world) that is defined by elevation above sea level. The 600 metre contour that surrounds the iconic Mt Canobolas (1,395 metres above sea level) is the minimum elevation for the region.

Printhie manages the highest vineyard located at 1,100 metres. The Orange region is a genuine cool climate grape growing area because of its range of elevations and variations in climate. We recently had 20cm snow fall which blanketed the vineyards.

The fascinating aspect of the Orange region is the range of elevations and variations in climate. Therefore, there is essentially, a cool climate for most varieties, from the earliest ripening (chardonnay, pinot noir – best at higher elevations) as well as for the latest ripening varieties (cabernet sauvignon – best at lower elevations).

This is why Printhie has avoided the “fruit salad” approach to viticulture where every variety is planted in the one location. We attempt to source particular grape varieties from vineyards where the variety/vineyard site match is considered to be optimal and each variety is grown in its appropriate cool climate.

Printhie is able to take full advantage of the natural variations that occur within the region by having vineyards in four separate locations and this is crucial to producing high quality, distinctive wines.

Can you tell us a bit about your wine? Which varieties of wines do you produce? Which is the most popular, and what are your favourites?

We produce a variety of wines from Sauvignon Blanc to Shiraz but all with distinctive cool climate characteristics.

Cool climate white wines are crisp and complex, whilst the reds are velvety smooth unlike the robust reds produced in warmer wine regions of Australia.

Our wines are closer to French styles because of our cool climate. We also produce the Swift Sparkling range, now considered to be one of Australia’s best traditional method sparklings. It’s made exactly the same way as champagne but because we aren’t located in the Champagne region of France we can’t call it that.

The Swift Cuvée (which you stock) recently won a silver medal at the Champagne and Sparkling Wine World Championships in London up against French champagnes so it’s performing very well on the world stage.

The Swift Sparklings are all at least 5 years old before we bring them to the market and some up to 10 years old so a lot of work goes into them.

And a bit about your cellar door? What sort of experience would people have if they visited you at Printhie? 

We are currently working out of a 100 year old apple packing shed whilst we build a new cellar door and restaurant due to be open by the end of the year. It will have amazing views as its situated on the side of Mt Canobolas. Guests can choose from three different tasting experiences.

We’ve also recently launched some new ‘beyond the cellar door’ experiences that include a picnic, sparkling masterclass and a helicopter winery tour to provide the perfect day-cations in Orange.

We’re really focussed on providing premium experiences for our guests and have just joined the Ultimate Winery Experiences Australia group which hand selects wineries around Australia that produce premium wine and experiences.

I love your wine, and especially your sparkling. I know you have won lots of awards for your wine and sparkling, and for good reason! How far afield do you sell your wine?

So glad to hear you enjoy the Swift Sparkling! It has been crowned best sparkling in NSW for three years in a row and won over 60 awards and trophies in the last four years. We hand select retailers for our Swift Sparkling (like you!) and our wines can be found as far afield as Singapore. 

I love visiting Orange, and have noticed it's become very popular over the last few years for people wanting a tree change from Sydney, or particularly during Covid, for a weekend or holiday. Have you noticed that this increase in population and tourism has had an impact on demand for your wine, and has it also resulted in more awareness of your wine around NSW and Australia?

We’ve certainly seen visitation to our cellar door increase which has been very welcome after a tough few years from drought, smoke taint (from the 2019 fires meant we couldn’t pick a single grape in 2020) and then covid shutdowns which meant we lost 70% of our business overnight.

We’re still recovering from these set-backs but it’s heartening to see that Orange experienced a 110% increase in visitation post the 2020 Covid shutdown. It’s certainly become a hot spot as it’s a vibrant cosmopolitan city. Home to 40,000 residents it provides high-end retail experiences as well as restaurants.

Orange built its reputation as a foodie haven and is home to the longest running food festival in Australia occurring in April each year. With the addition of boutique accommodation, Orange is now a hot spot for visitors seeking a premium regional experience for shopping, wine and food.

What do you love most about living in Orange?

We love that Orange is defined by its beautiful landscape featuring four distinct seasons. Rug up by a fire in winter and you might even see snow fall, admire the undulating hills coming alive in spring with blossom trees dotting the landscape or go walking in the national park to see waterfalls in summer and take in the beauty of autumnal colours as Orange’s deciduous trees put on a show.

Plus it just so happens to have some great wine!

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