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20Q: Brian Conway, Izway Wines

There’s a saying in the wine world, that great wines will often reflect the person that made them. This is especially true of Brian Conway…

…(one half of the winemaking duo behind Izway Wines), whose laidback and friendly demeanor leaves you feeling – much like his wines – as though you might have known him forever. For those new to Izway, these are incredibly pure and honest wines drawn from dry-grown old-vine Barossa vineyards, not to mention representing some of the best value for money reds produced in the country. Wine aside, we recently caught up with Brian to talk about $1 bags of mixed lollies, sneaking off to the movies on your own, and the inherent ability to spot a good racehorse…


1. What do you do for a living?

Make and sell Izway wines.

2. What’s the story behind Izway wines?

In 2002, I met my business partner and co-winemaker, Craig Isbel, in Brouilly, Beaujolais. We drank heaps of Beaujolais, beer and pastis, and then decided to have a crack at making some wine in the Barossa once back home. We put all our life savings into the business – not much – and have had a crack at it for the past 13 years, after producing one barrel in 2003.

3. How did you come to be in wine?

My late father was a very big wine fan. He was in big business in the 80s and 90s, and I was lucky enough to be involved in the nights out with him when he would always start with a Meursault and then go onto some great Bordeaux. Of course I had no idea what was going on regarding how classic the wines were at the time, but I certainly appreciated how damn good they tasted – I was only 18 or 20.

4. What skill do you possess that nobody knows you have?

Well my dad knew, but I know how to pick a good horse either in the sales ring or at the track. I don’t bet much these days, but I certainly miss that part of my life.

5. What do you miss most about being a kid?

$1 lolly bags that were bigger than my head.

6. Do you have a nickname?

A few, but Billy is the main one.

7. The biggest myth surrounding wine is…

That it is difficult to make. Finding the right site is difficult, but once you’ve done that, it’s simply down to your ability to pick at the right time, and then utilise the skills you have built over time, or build them as you go. Wine is fun, just make your expression of what you want to drink, go and tell people about it, and see what happens. Overthink it at your peril.

8. What’s your knock off drink of choice?

Currently Stone & Wood Pacific Ale.

9. What’s your favourite sound?

Hearing the voices of any of my three boys first thing in the morning.

10. The most underrated grape variety on the planet is…

I have no idea; I rate too many varieties to have an underrated one!

11. Where do you find inspiration?

My family first, and secondly, seeing young people getting into the wine industry across its many platforms. Seeing the fire in their belly, the raw passion and eagerness to learn reminds me of when I was the same age – and still now. Nothing’s better than talking to these folks and hearing what they have to say, always encouraging them and taking a genuine interest in what they have to say. I tell them the wine industry is a tough game, but still encourage them to have a crack. They will either be a raging success, somewhere in the middle, or they may fail, just like everyone else in any other career – this is just the funnest one!

12. If you weren’t making wine, what would you be doing?

Making beer and rum. We’ve had a brewing licence since 2003, but having all your money stuffed inside a wine bottle… you get my drift.

13. What would your superpower be?

Feed, clothe and house everyone in the world.

14. What song do you never want to hear in the winery again?

‘Gangnam Style’.

15. What’s so special about your neck of the woods?

Everything. Outside of vintage, I spend most of my time in Melbourne, but distance will never diminish my love for the Barossa and its people.

16. Whose wines should we be checking out?

Travis Earth, Sami-Odi, Jamsheed, Punch, Whistler, anything by Virginia Wilcock at Vasse Felix, Blind Corner, Unico Zelo etc. etc.

17. The best way to spend Sunday is…


18. Got any guilty pleasures?

Going to see action movies when I absolutely should not be leaving the house based on the boys hitting the sack or running amok and my wife having to look after all three of them. I feel guilty right up until I buy my choc-top (boysenberry). We share doing that though, yeah.

19. Beatles or Stones?

Dead Kennedys.

20. Any final words of wisdom?

Enjoy life. There is no cure for death yet, so pack in what you can and always treat people how you expect to be treated.