Wellbeing, Online, 2021

We share a vino with Jared Dixon from Byron-based winery Jilly Wines

We share a vino with Jared Dixon from Byron-based winery Jilly Wines

Get to know Jared, a small-batch winemaker and the founder of Byron-based winery Jilly Wines, as he shares the story of his humble beginnings.

How did you first get into winemaking?

I grew up on the Sunshine Coast before my parents and I moved to Clunes, just outside of Byron Bay in New South Wales. I was a musician and gigged all around Australia before working in a kitchen in England. While overseas, I spent a lot of time hanging with French chefs and drinking wine. I loved it. The chefs had all these quirky stories about winemakers they knew and it really sparked my interest in the craft. When I moved back to Australia in 2006, I studied oenology [the science of wine and viticulture] at Charles Sturt University in Wagga Wagga and my love for wine has grown from there. I started Jilly Wines in 2011. Here at Jilly, we’re completely off the grid with full solar and lithium batteries and a 22,000-litre water tank.

How many crops/acres do you have?

We lease and grow our own fruit on many different sites in New South Wales, one being New England and the other Black Mountain. At Black Mountain, the highest vineyard in Australia, we have 1306 fruit planted on roughly five acres [two hectares]. The other site is in Bolivia just outside of Tenterfield in New South Wales. There, we’ve planted various varieties of grapes on roughly 15 acres [six hectares]. Here in the hinterland of Byron Bay, though, I own 10 acres [four hectares] and I’m testing out five different Italian varieties of grape vines to see how they go. This region isn’t known for growing grapes but I’m going to give it a crack anyway.

Can you please share the story behind the name Jilly Wines and your White Wolf of Cumbria Rosé?

Jilly is a family name and comes from my great-grandfather. Most of my names come from my great-grandfather, who was known as the White Wolf of Cumbria. My grandfather lived in Cumbria in England, but his father sent him to New Zealand as punishment after he found out he was having a relationship with a catholic girl named Jilly – a huge no-no because my grandfather was from a heavily protestant family. He would often talk about this and sometimes dream about Jill, calling her name out in his sleep. My father and his brothers would hear him, and the name “Jilly” was evidently used among them and, over time, carried on to myself (strange, I know, but I still to this day call my uncles Jill and they refer to me in same way). White wolves were hunted in Cumbria until extinction, which is why he got the nickname, the White Wolf of Cumbria. When I was told that story, I had to name one of my wines after it, in his honour.

What type of wines do you produce?

In 2019, we’ve produced 16 different wines: red, white, sparkling, Prosecco and rosé. A lot of rosé!

What pests or challenges do you face when making natural organic wines?

Natural winemaking has really changed the industry – people are becoming more conscious of how they make things. We’ve certainly learned our lesson along the way. We’ve just got to be meticulous with everything we do. As for pests, we can sometimes get powdery mildew and downy mildew, which is a fungus that grows on the leaf of the grapes and can get into the grapes themselves. We use an organic spray to combat the mildew but, thankfully, it’s not an issue if it’s not too humid and wet like the last few years have been.

What is your favourite part about the entire creative process?

I love walking through vineyards and tasting and picking my grapes. When I taste the fruit, I can really tell what the final product will taste like.

What’s next for Jilly’s Wines?

You can now get our muscat wine in eco-friendly bags, or “Bagnums” as we’re calling them. These bags hold 1.5L of wine and are so much better for the environment. If I wanted to bottle 600L of wine, it would come in a huge pallet. That pallet consumes so much diesel and produces tonnes of emissions as it gets transported from France to Australia. Instead, the same wine can be poured into a fully biodegradable bag and shipped, making it much more sustainable for the planet.