“Bill, you have a very low aptitude for winemaking. You should consider another career path,” were Bass Phillip winemaker Phillip Jones’ parting words to William ‘Bill’ Downie.
Downie had just finished almost two years working for Jones, ending up there via a LaTrobe Valley bottle-o, a Jeremy Oliver wine appreciation course and, finally, the Negociants Australia Working with Wine fellowship (this was 1998; the first year the education program had run).
Part of the fellowship required Downie to research a winery of his choice. “Jones’ idea of wine of place, the idea that wine might taste like where it came from… that was what I was most interested in,” says Downie. “I thought it was a great opportunity to interview Jones – everything I’d read about him suggested he was probably the best exponent of that that I knew of in Australia.”
Jones told Downie he was much too busy to spare time for the interview, so Downie offered instead to lend him a hand for a day, suggesting that they could talk while they pruned. At the end of it, Downie had his interview. He also had a job.