4 August, 2015 8:44AM AEST
By Mark Rigby
When far north Queensland mango farmer Robert de Brueys' fruit crops began losing money he turned to the bottle, using his love of wine to secure his future.
Robert de Brueys runs his boutique winery along with his wife Elaine and continues to experiment with fruits not normally associated with wine making. "I've been endeavouring to make a pineapple wine," Mr de Brueys said. "I used to make it when I was young, in the back shed with my brother. It was pretty good, good enough for us anyway," he laughed. (ABC:Mark Rigby)
On the outskirts of Mareeba, on the Atherton Tablelands west of Cairns, Robert de Brueys once ran a small but successful mango farm.
But when trade agreements between Australia and China chipped away at his profit margin he found a new way to use the iconic fruit; he began to make wine out of it.
"I'd had this little thought in the back of my mind for some time," Mr de Brueys said.
Nearly 15 years ago now, in 2000 Mr de Brueys and his wife Elaine started to produce wine samples from tropical fruits and haven't stopped since.
"We started off with about 30 different fruits," Mr de Brueys said.
"We soon cut that back down to about a dozen that are really worthwhile making wine out of.
"The other ones made a wine but if I didn't like it, it went down the drain," he laughed.
Mr de Brueys has traced his family history back to its French roots; but despite his heritage, he said wine is not exactly in his veins.
"There was royalty in the family going way back into the dark ages," he said.
"Francois de Brueys was a count who teamed up with Napoleon Bonaparte and went about trying to conquer the world.
"The family were mostly seafarers; they weren't into the wine really. I think I'm the first winemaker."
Mr de Brueys said there is a stark difference between producing wine from grapes and producing wine from tropical fruit.
"Take lychees for example, we don't get enough lychees at once to make a batch straight away," he said.
"So what we do is peel them, de-seed them and then freeze them until we've got enough to make 1,000 litres and that's when we'll start the brew."
Mangoes are not quite as problematic but still require a fair amount of preparation before they are ready.
"We can get enough mangoes over a couple of days to make a batch," Mr de Brueys said.
"But they all need to nice and ripe, just like they're ready to eat. Then we have to peel them and de-seed them too.
"I heard of a guy in Darwin making mango wine by just throwing the whole fruit in a vat and squashing them ... I can imagine what that tasted like and it wouldn't have been good."
Now 73, Mr de Brueys has to think long and hard to find a downside to life as a winemaker but said possibly the most frustrating part is being reasonably successful.
"Whatever you make, everyone tries to copy it," Mr de Brueys laughed.
"The golden rule is you don't tell anyone your recipes."