2019 Best Value Winery of the Year: Provenance Wines

James Halliday by James Halliday for Langton's Fine Wines

It’s taken a lot of hard work for Scott Ireland to achieve the success he’s enjoying today, and this award for his Geelong winery is very well earned.

Scott Ireland’s journey through wine started in 1981 when he left the nest in Melbourne and travelled to Adelaide without any clear idea of what he wanted to do, other than earn enough money to keep body and soul together. He managed to get a vintage job at Peter Lehmann in the Barossa Valley. “I couldn’t have found a better starting point in the industry: a whole new world opened,” remembers Scott.

In ’83 he was offered employment by Hunter Valley winemaker Ian Scarborough, who also had a mobile bottling plant (Scarmac) servicing wineries in the Hunter Valley, Barossa Valley and Coonawarra. There are few – if any – more demanding wine businesses. You work to a series of fixed appointments stretching out for months ahead, with wineries entirely reliant on the service. Delays are unacceptable, the days long.

In ’88 Scott ran a parallel Scarmac mobile wine-filtration operation, starting in the Hunter Valley, then Mudgee, Clare Valley, the Yarra Valley and Tasmania. While social activities are limited, there is close contact with the small wineries and makers who use the services, giving rise to insights otherwise unavailable.

Scott’s first full-time winemaking job was with Gary Crittenden at Dromana Estate on the Mornington Peninsula between ’90 and ’94. “I learnt so much in those five years,” he says. He was witness to the perils (for others) of winery ownership between ’95 and 2004. In the latter year, he was finally able to clear the decks, and he became the owner and operator of Provenance, which was an established contract winemaker (its roots dating back to ’97). Scott set up its business on Austins & Co.’s vineyard, the largest in Geelong, and it became Provenance’s principal client.

In 2016, Scott had to make a major decision: to downsize and relocate his business to Ballarat, or find a permanent home elsewhere in Geelong. Through good fortune, and beyond his wildest dreams, Provenance now has a combined 150-tonne winery and its first cellar door (opened in ’17) in part of a restored bluestone paper mill on the banks of the Barwon River.

In May ’11, Scott married his partner, Jen Lilburn, in a marquee on their Provenance vineyard at Scotsburn on their joint 50th birthday; their two daughters (aged 15 and 17) were bridesmaids. In ’17 he offered his loyal assistant winemaker, Sam Vogel, a share in the business to celebrate the long-term lease of the new premises. “It’s all due to Sam that the wines are as good as they are,” he modestly says. And Scott has long-term management of 15ha of vineyards in Geelong, Ballarat, Henty and Macedon, the latter three the coolest regions of the Australian mainland.

And the wines? They are brilliant.

Purchase award-winning Provenance wine at The Australian Wine.

Explore more of the 2019 Halliday Wine Companion Awards.