For those who aren’t familiar with Formula One, Italian-Australian racecar driver Daniel Ricciardo made his mark by being one of the most exciting figures in the sport. After winning his first race at the 2014 Canadian Grand Prix, Ricciardo followed it up with five more podiums and two more wins before the end of the season. Over the next eight years Ricciardo had 24 podium appearances and a handful of wins, including a very memorable victory at the Italian Grand Prix last year. But it’s Ricciardo’s curiosity and attention to detail that led him to become involved with renowned Australian winemaker St Hugo, the official wine supplier of the Australian Grand Prix since 2019.
Two years later, Ricciardo and St Hugo released the first of the limited edition wine series DR3 x St Hugo, a cabernet sauvignon. Ahead of the North American debut of the second collaboration—South Australia Shiraz 2020 and the Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2018—on 6 October 2022, we spoke with Ricciardo and chief winemaker at St Hugo, Peter Munro, in Los Angeles to talk about the partnership, family and food.
Both Australia and Italy are respected for their wines, and your family deeply appreciates wine and the craftsmanship that goes into making it. Do you think there’s some genealogy at play with you going into the winemaking business?
Daniel Ricciardo: Well, Peter says I have a pretty good palate, so maybe! I grew up in a household where meals were always at the table, it was family bonding time and wine was always an important component of that experience. Sunday lunch at nonna’s, you would have all the pasta and wine. You’d have my grandfather, my dad and his brothers—they did homemade wine, which honestly tasted like vinegar. I didn’t like it, but they were all about it. So it was kind of as I got older and started traveling a lot for work that I developed an appreciation for wine and I guess my palate as a result of that as well. Now it’s really fun because I get to share these wines I’ve had a hand in creating with my dad, so it’s really come full circle.
Tell us a little about how you built the flavor profiles.
DR: Obviously Peter is the pro here, I’m nowhere near on his level, but that’s honestly quite freeing for me. I can really just say what I want and he can just take me to my answer, like what I’m really trying to get across with just throwing words out there that I’ve picked up from talking to sommeliers while traveling. You know, you get a wine list at a restaurant and you have the somm come over—for years I’ve just been fascinated listening to someone so knowledgeable talk about wine.
How does the DR3 x St Hugo series differ from the other St Hugo wines?
Peter Munro: The DR3 wines are a more modern take on the classic St Hugo style. St Hugo wines are typically quite serious and dark, very tannic and aged 15 to 20 years. The DR3 wines, on the other hand, are a reflection of Danny’s focus on fruit-forward flavor and being more approachable as a younger wine.
What are a few of the most surprising things you’ve learned about winemaking from Peter?
DR: The back and forth, the details, the small things with blending to get a wine just right—it has surprised me how similar it is to me working with my engineers on a race car. Trying to tweak something on the car to get perfect corner entry which sets you up for a smooth corner exit, it is very relatable to trying to get a certain flavor profile up front on a wine, which is then complemented by the finish on the back end.
Images courtesy of St Hugo