Josephine Perry Winemaker Dormilona Wines

As we release the next in our series The Winemaker, Max Brearley profiles Josephine Perry of Dormilona. Watch the full length film below for a glimpse of one of the Margaret River Wine Region’s most celebrated up and coming winemakers.

An Impressive Backstory

Josephine Perry has an impressive backstory, with years running wineries in Spain, consulting in the Canary Islands and time in France. It’s rounded her experience of winemaking, which started with her first vintage in Margaret River at just 14 years of age. “We as Australian or southern hemisphere winemakers are trained technically. We look at figures too much and we don’t follow our senses. You can see it in a lot of wines, where their influences come from. You can pick up the sense of being in a wine” she says.

Her winery is small and basic by some standards but she’s pushing the boundaries of technique, not falling back on technology. Central is the amphora clay pots so loved by many of the winemakers plotting a natural wine course. Josephine’s are adorned with multi coloured chalk scrawl. She smiles and says it gives the kids something to do.

While there’s a feeling of humble ease at work, Josephine puts in the hard yards. Essentially a one-woman operation she juggles family, work and often gruelling vintage months. From first vintages in 2012 her Dormilona label has won praise and plaudits, picking up the influential Riedel Young Gun of Wine award in 2016.

It’s the simplicity of capturing the fruit. That’s what wine making should be

Josephine Perry Dormilona Wines Margaret River

A Sense of Innate Maturity

Nick Stock, wine writer and chair of the Young Guns of Wine judges describes Josephine as having “a sense of innate maturity in the way that she makes wine. She’s got a special talent” he says. “She has managed to do what a lot of younger winemakers have struggled to do. She hasn’t been content to rest on a process driven style of wine, using an amphora and saying ‘hey I did this here you go’. It’s based on a proven technique and vessels, but the wine is much more than that. It’s the fact she has managed to transcend the simple game of process driven wine style and statement of process, to produce a wine that says a lot about the region and the place, and still within that framework of the particular process that the wine is based around.”

While there’s lots of noise around “natural winemaking”, for Josephine she feels it’s nothing new, “it’s something that is in trend I suppose, with all the fancy sommeliers saying it’s this cool thing, but it’s always been around, forever, and it’s all just about making something as raw as possible with little input, and making something that’s tasty. Europeans have been doing it for years. They’ve been making these wines because they’ve got the old school knowledge and they know what they’re doing.”

There was an old French guy in a village who said to me, the best laboratory is your palate. And I was like yeah it is!

Josephine Perry Domilona Wines Margaret River Winemaker

This European ethos is one that has rubbed off on her. “I do everything by touch and smell and taste,” she says. “I don’t have a laboratory because I believe I should be able to taste it. If I think there’s a problem then I send it for testing. There was an old French guy in a village who said to me, the best laboratory is your palate. And I was like yeah it is!”

Ultimately for Josephine making wine is about the experience. She says, “I truly feel a great wine is one that you can remember who you drank it with, why you were drinking it, what time of day you were drinking it. And then also the smells and the flavours within that wine because it’s a whole experience, where all your senses come together.”