Debbie Lauritz

Head Winemaker at Robert Oatley Vineyards


"I always find it a shame to try wines that have lovely fruit, but too much oak. That seamless combination where the oak lifts the wine, but you can hardly see it, is amazing. " 




Born in Brisbane, Australia, Debbie’s interest in wine initially came to fruition though time spent as an exchange student living in Lyon, France near the famous wine region of Burgundy. She then briefly studied science at university before switching to winemaking and viticulture studies. Debbie spent over ten years as Senior Winemaker at Cumlus Wines before she moved on to Robert Oatley Vineyards in Western Australia. She has a wealth of knowledge of cool-climate winemaking and has also worked in Alsace, Marlborough and Niagara.


Q & A

Describe yourself in 3 words…

Questioning, fun and genuine


How did you get started in the wine trade?

I became interested in wine in the family home, tasting wine with my parents. I then travelled through Europe before starting at uni, started studying science & very quickly changed to do winemaking & viticulture studies.  


What is one of your favourite varietals to work with, and why?

Chardonnay Can be so diverse in style with minimal to heavy winemaking input. Ripeness at picking, skin contact, lees, barrels, MLF, yeast selection, stirring, SO2 – so many winemaking tools that can be tweaked & changed to create layers, complexity & interest in the wine.


What goals in winemaking are you still working to achieve?

The balancing act of oak in wine. I always find it a shame to try wines that have lovely fruit, but too much oak. That seamless combination where the oak lifts the wine, but you can hardly see it, is amazing.  Each year we try different barrels, different staves, different rates of new oak, toasting; and every year you get a slightly different result because no two vintages or wines are the same. So this is certainly something we work on every year.


Mindful winemaking is becoming increasingly important to our customers, is this something you actively employ at the winery?

One of our vineyards is converting to organic at the moment & we have started a range of organic wines around this. We’ve also started making vegan friendly wines, with some really good results. We are mindful of our inputs & where possible try & have a gentle hand, with minimal wine movements.


How has climate change impacted your winemaking?

Our most recent vintage was fairly cool & wet. But the prior years we had fairly severe drought conditions & warmer temperatures which mean vintages start earlier & are more compressed. This all means we need to be far more vigilant in tasting & testing in the vineyard to ensure we get the fruit in when the flavours are ripe; ie not pick too early or too late. 


If you could make wine anywhere else in the world, where would it be?

I’d love to do another couple of vintages in France. Great people, great wines, great food. 


If you had to recommend just one of your wines to a customer, which would it be, and why?

It would have to be a Chardonnay! Our Finisterre Margaret River Chardonnay is an absolutely beautiful wine, lovely fruit weight, lots of silky layers, just a hint of nutty oak complexity & tight lemony acid holding it all together. 


What is your favourite wine, and who would you share it with?

A special vintage of French Champagne – to share with my mum. My mum loves Champagne & drinks far more of it than me! We have visited the Champagne region together & tasted lots of beautiful & special wines. We always have something to celebrate when we catch up, so there is always an excuse for a bottle of bubbles! 


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