Jo Nash on running a winery, raising a family and keeping secrets from her accountant

Jo Nash seems to have the perfect life.

Making wine for a living, raising a family and spending free evenings with her equally talented husband working on small-batch passion projects just for fun.

But it’s not easy as she makes it look!

“I was pregnant with my fourth child when I was asked to take over as chief winemaker,” explained Jo, who’s been in charge at Australia’s McPherson Wines since 2012.

“But living in a rural area like I do, there aren’t many opportunities that come up, so I took the job and my husband and I and the kids muddle through.”

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The couple have four children aged between seven and 13 and manage to raise them despite both working 14 hour days during harvest season.

“We hardly see each other!”

“I get up early and go in at 3am and work to 5pm so I can see the kids in the evening, make them dinner, pack their lunches, make sure they’ve got something clean to wear the next day … all the mum stuff.

“And my husband will go in slightly later to do the morning with the kids and work until about 10pm. So we work in shifts, we hardly see each other!

“The kids are great, they understand that it’s our jobs but by the end of harvest they’re glad to have things back to normal. We just all get on with it!

“It’s easier now they’re a bit older and are able to help with lunches and things like that. Five years ago it was much harder!”

Jo Nash in the McPherson winery
Jo Nash in the McPherson winery

Jo didn’t come to wine early in life. She still lives now in the same small Victoria town she grew up in.

“I think you do [come to winemaking later] if you don’t grow up in a winemaking town.

“You don’t get the chance to try lots of different wines when you’re young – well you can’t afford to anyway!”

So she finished high school and went off to university to study business and got a marketing and human resources degree.

“I didn’t know what I was going to do with it so I did that typical Aussie thing of going backpacking across Europe and wound up in Notting Hill working for a Japanese investment bank.

“But because I was so close to the continent I did some travelling and tasted lots of different wines. So I became really interested in how Shiraz or Chardonnay or Pinot Noir, or any grape variety really, can taste so different based on where it’s grown. How can we make wines so differently from one continent to another?”

“As a winemaker you’re very controlling”

Thoroughly bitten by the winemaking bug, Jo had found her passion and decided to head back home and return to school.

On a placement at another vineyard she met her husband and then landed a job at the legendary McPherson Wines straight after graduation, and now she’s running the show.

But how did she cope with taking over at one of Australia’s best-established and well-known wineries?

“As a winemaker you’re very controlling, and you’re able to have control over everything in the winery.  

“But I don’t think my ethos is radically different from anyone else’s – there’s no point in all those grape growers working really hard to make that beautiful fruit on the vineyard and then completely overpower it in the winery with loads of oak and all those secondary flavours you can add in.

“One of the biggest changes I’ve made since taking over is probably producing a more feminine type of wine.

“The Full Fifteen is a big, robust wine but we use French oak which is more elegant than American oak. So I’m making slightly more elegant styles of wine.

“I think we’re doing good work!”

Don’t Tell Gary

And you, our customers, seem to think so too. The Full Fifteen has long been one of our best-selling Australian wines, and Jo’s own luxury Shiraz Don’t Tell Gary was an overnight sell-out when it first hit our cellars last year.

She had to keep the wine a secret from McPherson’s accountant Gary (get the name now?) after spending way more than she usually would on the grapes that went into it – we shouldn’t even mention the new French oak barrels she bought to let the wine mature in!

Don't tell Gary is Jo's secret luxury Shiraz
Don’t tell Gary is Jo’s secret luxury Shiraz

But her gamble paid off, even though winery founder Andrew McPherson wasn’t sure when he first tried it.

“He said it was very different from anything we’d ever made,” admitted Jo.

“But now he’s proud as punch, it’s a great wine!”

Don’t Tell Gary was so popular the first time we bought it that we’ve ordered in another shipment, on it’s way now.

Reserve your case for just £50 and get 12 bottles for £12.99 each. Click here now.

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About Laithwaites Wine

Laithwaite's began in 1969, when Tony Laithwaite took a job washing bottles in Bordeaux... and fell in love with real wine and the people who make it. When he borrowed a van to share these delicious wines with friends and neighbours at home, things went so well that boutique wineries were soon queuing to take part. Today we're the UK's No.1 home-delivery wine merchant, with over 1,500 wines to choose from... including red, white and rosé, plus Champagne and sparkling, beer and cider.

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