What is a Flying Winemaker?

Published by Ellen Doggett on 15/07/2020

Demystifying winemakers who take flight

The term ‘flying winemaker’ is one that you may have heard before, and wondered what on earth it means. It crops up from time to time in wine articles, on the tongues of sommeliers and even on TV. Yet it’s not something people tend to elaborate on, so the actual meaning of the term often creates confusion.

We have a lot of first hand experience with flying winemakers! Enter Hugh Ryman, a man with whom we have worked for many years to create some fantastic, affordable wines to be drunk on all occasions. Hugh was one of the first winemakers to crop up under the term ‘flying winemaker’, which was coined by Tony Laithwaite (of Laithwaites Wine).

Originally from the UK, Hugh developed a strong love for wine, and winemaking, from an early age, thanks to his late father’s ownership of a winery in Bergerac. The winery was a big part of Hugh’s life, and he still maintains a stake in it to this day. Growing up around vineyards and winemaking lead him to pursue a formal education from the University of Bordeaux, before taking off around the world to hone his skills.

Petit Noir Rose

This is where the ‘flying winemaker’ concept comes into play. These are winemakers, like Hugh, with great expertise and experience, sharing their knowledge with wineries across the globe. They move according to demand, and tend to stay at a winery for a single vintage before moving on. This allows wineries to benefit from top winemakers, without having to create long term financial commitments, and in turn enables these winemakers to make beautiful wines in all the corners of the globe; from Australia, to Chile, to California to France. The world is their oyster. This is how Hugh made his career, along with others like him, taking the skills he learnt around the world, to wineries that might not otherwise be exposed to new ways of working.

The ‘flying winemaker’ concept has grown in popularity, allowing winemakers to travel and see the world, leaving behind delicious wines in their wake. Certainly a very appealing lifestyle! Hugh’s flying days are now over, but his legacy lives on. Now settled in the sunny south of France, he makes Orbiel and Grand Noir for us at Roberson, drawing on the amazing techniques learnt from the many countries he’s made wine in.

Ellen doggett

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