Q&A with Halliday

In conversation with Ricky Ponting

By Amelia Ball
Australian cricket great Ricky Ponting loves wine – so much so he now has his own range. Here, he shares a few of his favourites, and how he’s finding life on the production side.

Vine-side with Ricky. 

H. When did you fall in love with wine?
RMy love of wine really took off when I met my wife Rianna. We have so many wonderful memories of dinners and wines in our early years together, and now wine is a part of our everyday life.

H. As a Tasmanian, do you have a soft spot for the local wines?
RAbsolutely. I am very proud of everything Tasmania has become as a leading wine-producing region. I’m especially proud of the broader region in the north of the state where I grew up. The Tamar Valley and regions immediately south of Launceston are as good as anywhere in the world.

H. Do you collect wine?
RNo, we buy wine to consume it. Having said that, I have a very special collection of Penfolds Grange that was given to me by Cricket Australia when I retired from international cricket. They presented me with 41 bottles that matched each of my 41 test centuries for Australia. We have 30 left and are saving them for very special moments.

H. What are some of the wines you’ve been enjoying in recently?
RQuite a bit of our Ponting Wines! I’m especially looking forward to seeing how the Close of Play Cabernet Sauvignon ages, and we have a very special addition to the range coming later in the year, and we have space set aside for that in the cellar.

H. How does it feel to have your own range of wines?
RIt’s something that Rianna and I are extremely proud of, and the whole experience has been awesome. It’s a passion that’s become a real business with real opportunity for us. It’s a long-term venture that we hope one day we can pass on to our family.

H. How have you found the winemaking process?
RIt’s been incredible. Spending so much time with Ben [Riggs] and the team has taught us so much. We’ve gone from half-smart wine drinkers to being reasonably well educated about all the intricacies that goes into making quality wine. And we keep learning each and every day.

H. You’ve travelled extensively on tour. Were there any great wine discoveries on these trips over the years?
RWe’ve been very lucky to travel to lots of different countries over the years, and two wine countries that stand out for me – aside from here in Australia – are South Africa and New Zealand. Cape Town in South Africa is just incredible with its various wine regions. And New Zealand is equally impressive with a vast array of great wineries. Queenstown has become a favourite holiday destination and the wines in Central Otago are just superb.

H. You’ve had so much to celebrate over the years – is there a favourite win that stands out?
RThat’s tough because every win is special, but the 2003 World Cup win is right up there for me. It was my first big tournament as captain of Australia and we lost Shane Warne and Jason Gillespie from our squad before and into the preliminary stages. We went through the whole tournament undefeated and managed to peak with a convincing win in the Final. That was a very special series of wins.

H. What’s one of your most memorable wine and food experiences?
ROver the years, I have had a very special relationship with Peter Gago and the team at Penfolds. They generously donated a number of their wines to our Ponting Foundation that supports children and their families who are dealing with childhood cancer. We are eternally grateful to them for the significant amount of money they have helped us raise. We’ve also been spoilt over the years with some incredible experiences at the Penfolds Magill Estate restaurant and cellar in the Adelaide foothills, with magnificent food and tasting their very best wines, straight from the barrel.

H. What’s the oldest wine you’ve tried?
RThat would have to be one of the Penfolds Grange from the vertical tastings. I’m not 100 per cent sure of the years, but I know I’ve tasted vintages more than 50 years old – and they were incredible!

H. What’s been your best-ever bargain wine?
RWithout a doubt it’s the Wirra Wirra Church Block. It always scores good ratings and is not overly expensive at all. It was also a wine that Ben Riggs made back in his Wirra Wirra days.

H. Your all-time favourite food and wine match?
RIt has to be a beautiful cut of eye fillet, cooked on the barbie, served with a glass (or two) of the best red in the cellar.

This is an extract from a story first appearing in issue #54 of Halliday Magazine – on sale now.