Marco Cirillo was just four when he stole his first tractor and drove it along Barossa Valley’s rural back roads.
“I ‘borrowed’ it from one of my dad’s mates,” he says with mischief in his eyes.
“I disconnected a rotary hoe off the back of an open cab tractor and took off down the road. I don’t remember it to be honest, but my parents do.”
Why flog the mammoth piece of machinery?
“Dad was shit on a tractor. If he drove it for the winery, either he wouldn’t get there or we could’ve lost everything.”
So, with the brazen confidence of youth, he did it himself. It is an approach to life that serves the 43-year-old well.
Marco isn’t one to mince his words. Not in life or out in trade.
“I don’t like the sales side of things or being in the limelight,” he says.
“I’m not a great promoter of myself, I’m just not that person.
“I enjoy the sales trips but talking to a 20-year-old somm who has never set foot in a winery and is telling you how to make wine or grow grapes… imagine guys twice my age having to listen to some pipsqueak talk about how awesome they are at knowing about a wine. Whatever.”
He chooses not to take part in wine shows or send Cirillo Estate Wines to journos.
“We rarely hand in for scores or points. I’m not going to get pigeon holed with the 1,000 bottles of wine a week that rock up on a reviewer’s door. It’s hard to sift through that abyss of wine.”
He also opts not have a cellar door. Instead, tastings are by-appointment and happen in the barrel shed over an impressive plank of red gum. If they’re lucky, visitors get slices of the charcuterie made during big Italian family cook-ups.
“We’re not open all the time,” Marco says.
“I don’t really want to be. I’m busy and I’ve got stuff to do.
“If you want to make time to come see me, that means you actually want to come here, rather than just a place to visit to kill 20 minutes.”
The winery (essentially a large shed) is located on the property his parents Vincent and Lina purchased in 1969.
In doing so, they became the custodians of the oldest surviving and producing Grenache block in the world.
Read Katie Spain’s feature story about Marco Cirillo in the November-December issue of WBM – Australia’s Wine Business Magazine.