The son of Linda and Tony Hunter (and of course, my brother), Mark commenced his involvement with the business in the vineyard as the viticulturist, but his natural creative flair soon saw him deeply involved with the winemaking process.
For the 2000 and 2002 vintages, Mark understudied Matt Hunter (no relation) who made the Sanguine Estate Shiraz (only one wine back then) in his winery called Langanook at Sutton Grange. Matt’s approach to winemaking was very much “by the book” with constant analysis and testing which was critical for Mark’s development in the early years.
After some very successful vintages including the sell out of our vintages in less than 6 months, we decided that upon expiration of a grape supply contract to Southcorp that we would build a winery on our Estate in Heathcote and produce wine from 100% of our grape production. Going from a rather small winemaking operation ie several hundred cases to 10,000 cases in just one year. Therefore a decision was made to engage a local Heathcote winemaker who not only had vast experience and success with producing wine in the Heathcote region but who also had European winemaking experience. So while the winery was being designed and built, the Sanguine Estate wine (2002 and 2003 vintages) was made off site by winemaker Peter Dredge (Red Edge Heathcote brand) together with Mark.
(note: Matt Hunter also contributed to the 2002 blend with wine made from grapes from our Estate).
Peter’s winemaking technique was the exact opposite of Matt Hunter’s. Peter was more old world style with wild yeasts, whole bunch ferments and encouraged experimentation. Some might say a more risky approach to what Mark had experienced so far however the potential upside was worth it. It was working alongside Peter that Mark ignited his artistic flair and learnt a great deal about “letting the grapes speak for themselves” a more minimalistic approach to winemaking.
In 2004, the winery was completed (the day before harvest I might add) and Mark officially took over the winemaking for Sanguine. Always looking for ways to continually improve and to prevent cellar palate (ie “our baby isn’t ugly”), we decided we needed an independent blending expert (particularly now we had over 300 barrels to blend wine from). It was from the 2005 vintage that we engaged Winemaker Ben Riggs (Mr Riggs, Pennys Hill, Zontes Footsteps, Black Chook, Wirra Wirra etc etc). A phenomenal businessman, winemaker, viticulturist who has become a close family friend. He keeps us on the straight and narrow and we feel very lucky to have him involved in our family business.
Mark is now the contract winemaker for several vineyards in Heathcote including Domaine Asmara, Sheoak Hill and Red Red Wine (Simon O’Donnell’s – former Australian Cricketer – own brand).
We are very proud of Mark who achieved 5 star winery status by James Halliday in 2011 and in 2014, because a red 5 star winery placing Sanguine Estate in the top 8.2% of the 2800 wineries registered with James Halliday.
He has won numerous trophies for our Shiraz, Chardonnay and Tempranillo wines including winning the “Heathcote Grand Terroir” Major trophy at the past two Heathcote Wine Shows.
Our wines also regularly achieve 4 ½ to 5 star ratings in Winestate magazine (one of Australia’s notable wine magazines) and our shiraz wines consistently fall in the top 4% of wines judged in the Winestate Greatest Syrah & Shiraz Challenge at least equalling or outperforming some of the World’s most iconic brands.
Over recent years Mark has been awarded numerous medals including 5 Blue Gold medals at the Sydney International Wine Show and over 50 Gold and Silver medals at various Australian wine shows such as Boutique Wine Awards, Winewise Small Vigneron awards, le Concours des Vin (Victorian Wine Show), Melbourne Wine Show, National Cool Climate Wine Show and the National Wine Show.
Our wines have also featured in the 2012 Herald Sun Top 100 wines, the Vic100 Wine awards Top 100 and in the Sydney International Top 100 over a number of years.