Ten years ago all Australian wine was going in the same direction, right? They were big, brash fruit bombs that were particularly appealing to a few well known critics? Well actually, no, not really. They had started to make wines closer in style to the cooler, classic French regions, such as Burgundy. That is to say, in short, with more freshness and less oak.
Even more recently, a new generation has emerged and turned its back on conventional methods of winemaking. It has taken inspiration from the natural wine movement and minimised chemical additions, in particular sulphur dioxide. These new wave wines are typically fermented without added yeast, unlikely to have acid or tannin added, nor is it exposed to new oak. Successfully made they are like inhaling a big mouthful of fresh, mountain air – vibrant, fruit-driven, and textural and reflecting their terroir.
So, is this counter culture wine-maker a hirsute hipster wearing a Nick Cave tee and Hunter gumbies (wellies in Blighty)? A sort of Shoreditch meets Seppeltsfield (a Barossa Valley sub-region), right? No, not always, but the wild approach to looks and the hip wardrobe is reflected in their highly creative, eye-catching labels.
1st Drop Wines
Take Matt & John’s First Drop wines as a starting point. At their ‘Home of the Brave’ winery in the Barossa , they use the absolute minimum amounts of sulphur and age in large old oak, resulting in bright, elegant styles of wines that are very smashable. Added to the mix are those imaginative labels, which reveal that they have been having just a tinnie-winnie bit too much fun!
Then there is Deliquente Wines, whose strap line is “drink like a delinquent”. Don’t stop reading here as Greg of DLQ makes small batches from unusual grapes in the most unlikely of regions, Australia’s Riverland, the engine room of the bulk wine industry there. He befriends the less popular, immigrant kids in this vast playground and transforms them into something super-cool. His Screaming Betty Vermentino, a grape of Sardinian origin, has just 11.8% alcohol, zesty pink grapefruit freshness and is far more sassy than a savvy (Sauvignon Blanc).
Australia is reinventing itself and on the crest of a beautiful new wave – only they are riding it more naturally and stylishly than before and wearing beards this time.