Overseeing the entirety of Calabria’s winemaking, which includes fruit from the Riverina, the Barossa and Tumbarumba, is no easy task, but Emma Norbiato wouldn’t have it any other way.
Emma Norbiato is a quiet achiever who has steadily applied herself to the art and science of winemaking for over twenty years.
As Chief Winemaker of the highly successful Calabria Family Wines, she presides over an extensive range, spanning entry-level to super-premium labels. And she is proud of them all.
Norbiato has a particular soft spot for the small volume, high-quality Saint Petri reds. “We have to slow down a very big winery to process one or two tonnes. We use traditional techniques and manual methods – the fruit starts to sing, and you become really connected to it. The wines are beautiful, and I love making them.”
She speaks highly of the newly released Three Bridges Grenache and the Private Bin range, particularly the montepulciano and nero d’Avola, with its medium body and savoury tannin structure.
Winemaking integrity, quality and value are the hallmarks of Calabria Family Wines. They have two winemaking sites in Griffith, one being the original family winery and the other the old Cranswick Estate site, where Norbiato coincidentally did her first vintage. Grapes are sourced from the Riverina, Barossa, Tumbarumba and Hilltops regions.
“Managing the Calabria Family portfolio in the Riverina is a huge challenge given its size and diversity, from entry level to super-premium. The unflappable Emma Norbiato is responsible for many
outstanding wines across the range.” Peter Forrestal
Norbiato studied winemaking at Charles Sturt University in Wagga Wagga. After growing up on a farm in the Riverina, she was looking for a career that blended agriculture and science.
Norbiato talks about her winemaking journey happening organically, taking opportunities as they came. Running a winemaking shift at Southcorp’s Yenda winery fresh out of university, was a great experience for Norbiato, and no doubt this early responsibility gave her the confidence to take on larger roles throughout her career. After Yenda, she took a year-long assistant winemaking job at the Lindeman’s winery at Karadoc, before heading overseas to travel, including doing a vintage at Castelgiocondo in Tuscany. Norbiato then returned to Australia to join the red winemaking team at Penfolds where she stayed for four years.
A senior winemaker position came up at Casella which drew Norbiato back to her home of Griffith. It was an all-consuming, demanding role and managing million-litre ferments meant Norbiato’s winemaking and management skills grew exponentially.
After the birth of her first child, the then winemaker at Calabria, Brian Currie, approached Norbiato to join their winemaking team in a part-time role. The dialogue with the Calabrias was always, “You tell us what days you can work, and we will find a job that suits.” Norbiato worked across all areas of the business from bottling to grower liaison and fruit intake, as well as winemaking, and during this time she had another two children. Norbiato took on the Chief Winemaker role in 2017.
Norbiato speaks of the openness which exists within the winemaking team when it comes to discussing style. “I’ve got a really good team who I trust”. She acknowledges the support of winemakers Tony Steffania, Jeremy Nascimben and Sam Mittiga. “We are on the same page, and we love wines with texture”. Balance is also an integral element in all the wines they make, and she instils in her team that reducing the winemaking influence is invariably the best way to make great wine.
Norbiato acknowledges Calabria’s complete and utter support of her combining parenthood with winemaking – as a true family business, spanning three generations and seven decades, they are known for their personal approach to business.
She is gracious when talking about her 2016 Winemaker of the Year accolade at the Australian Women in Wine awards. She acknowledges the family support she has had on her journey, including from her husband Mark and her mother Sue, and professionally from Michael Calabria, General Manager of Calabria Family Wines and Lisa Parker in quality control.
Bill Calabria AM remains a significant figure in Norbiato’s journey. He encouraged her to think about the long term and not to try and fix everything ‘today’.
“I genuinely love my job and love being at work,” says Norbiato. Her passion and dedication to her craft and team result in high-quality wine across the Calabria portfolio.
FACTS AND FIGURES
REGION | Riverina
YEARS IN INDUSTRY | 20+
ANNUAL CRUSH | NFP
STAND-OUT WINES | 2017 Saint Petri Shiraz Carignan and 2017 Saint Petri Grenache Shiraz Mataro