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Cape Mentelle winemaker moves to Napa on quality mission

Cape Mentelle winemaker Rob Mann has left Australia to become director at Newton Vineyard in the Napa Valley as owner LVMH seeks to improve quality at the Californian estate.

The move comes only a few months after Mann disgruntled some Margaret River winemakers by threatening legal action over the usage of the Wallcliffe name on their labels.

But, Mann said his time spent at Newton in 2007 as senior winemaker helped cement his decision to leave Australia.

‘My role is to elevate Newton to the top handful of Napa producers and be recognised internationally for the quality of its Cabernet and Chardonnay,’ he told Decanter.com.

‘Recognised as an American pioneer of unfiltered wines, Newton Vineyard’s geology is very recent with young soils and a high percentage of mountain-grown fruit on steep slopes which brings with it many challenges that Margaret River, being relatively flat and geologically ancient, does not have to deal with.’

Margaret River sources claimed that Mann has been sent to Newton to fix brettanomyces issues with the reds, particularly the Cabernet.

Mann joined Cape Mentelle in 2005 after the region experienced problems with ‘brett’, and quickly implemented better hygiene practices and sterile filtration to overcome any yeast spoilage in red wines. 

But, Mann said the move was more about sharing knowledge.

‘I learnt a great deal in Napa [in 2007] relating to viticultural clonal and rootstock selection, planting densities and berry sorting technology.

‘I can now bring to Newton some of the good work achieved in environmental sustainability at Cape Mentelle, having reduced energy usage by 40% and eliminated herbicides from our established vineyards.’

Mann’s previous post at Cape Mentelle has been split; French luxury goods group LVMH has promoted Cameron Murphy to estate director and Frederique Perrin, most recently the oenology and production manager at Champagne Krug, has become technical director.

Written by Danielle Costley in Margaret River

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