They are a breed of Australian winemakers who’ll stop at nothing to find the finest locations in order to create world-beating wines. They are the leaders of a group we at Wine Australia have dubbed the ‘Terroir Hunters’.
Terroir Hunters – the endless search for wine perfection
Now, let’s just get this out of the way right now: This isn’t a discussion about terroir. This isn’t an essay on what terroir is and what it isn’t, what it could be or what it should be. The simple fact that we can all agree on is that some places are much better than others for growing certain grapes and for making wines that speak of that place. While the Australian wine boom of the 80s and 90s may have been built on wines that spoke of a lot of things (oak, alcohol, extract and way too much makeup), it was hard to find a wine that was produced in order to reflect the character of a single vineyard site. Fast forward to today and we find a dedicated army of Australian winemakers scouring the land for sites that allow them do just that whilst producing the highest quality wines.
Terroir for days… And miles
The search for perfection, of course, isn’t limited to winemakers. It has driven many a passionate creative in a range of diverse fields of endeavour to strive for ever greater heights. Take Miles Davis. A restless artistic genius, did he just grab any old drummer, pianist or bass player when he was putting together his first and second great quintets? Or did he seek out the best of the best who allowed him to craft classics like ‘Kind of Blue’ and ‘E.S.P’? Even when others told him that his artistic expression couldn’t be improved upon, Miles continued to push the boundaries and aim for perfection. The same philosophy drives the Terroir Hunters. They seek out the best sites Australia has to offer and once they’ve found them they collaborate with grape growers and viticulturists to ensure these sites produce the best possible fruit. Once the fruit is in the winery they then experiment with techniques to eke out every last drop of site and varietal expression. And when the accolades come for their wines do they rest on their laurels and churn out facsimiles of their classic hits? No chance. The Terroir Hunters aren’t the Rolling Stones, and they sure as hell ain’t gathering no moss as you can tell from the following biographies:
Passions for punk music, surfing and killer wines combine to form one of the most irresistible, unplanned juggernauts in the history of Australian wine. Kind of like how the Sex Pistols changed the music scene in the mid-1970s only without the contrivance or pretence. And just as punk touched a nerve with young Taras, so his wines have struck a chord with wine lovers at both home and abroad. But there’s no chance that the adulation or success is going to Taras’s head anytime soon, the punk ethos is still refreshingly strong in him even after 25 vintages, ‘You have to keep it in perspective. All we are doing is making a drink. It’s not solving world peace… It’s not anything people should have an ego about.’
With a degree in literature it’s fitting that Gary approaches vineyards like they are authors. Each Jamsheed vineyard writes a new story with each new vintage. His job every year is to transition the story from the vineyard to the glass, editing the text as little as possible along the way. While the stories these vineyards tell may be elegant, expressive and timeless, the books that Gary enjoys in his spare time are anything but that. Completing a degree in literature means days, weeks and months pouring over the classics. This can lead to burnout, so today it’s trashy sci-fi books from authors like Neil Stevenson that now scratch his literary itch.
When thinking about David’s wine philosophy that old chestnut of ‘It’s not you, it’s me’ is flipped on its head. It’s not him, it’s you that he cares about when he makes his wines. This makes sense when you know that David was, and still is when given the chance, a killer D.J. Chin stroking is alright for a wee while but does it compare with a pumping dancefloor filled with smiling faces? ‘We're all pretty obsessed with knowing that there are people out there creating experiences, having a great time, laughing and writing their next lifetime memories with wines we hand crafted being part of all of it. Personally it's what gets me up in the morning, and it's something we all believe at Vinteloper.
Sue has been at both ends of the spectrum in the wine industry; going from manager/senior winemaker at a modern 12,000 tonne winery to renovating an old shearing shed and making wines in tiny, tiny batches from her home base in Coonawarra. Sue is a wine explorer and has created wines in great sites around Australia, from Nero d'Avola in the Riverland to Chardonnay in Tasmania and Cabernet in Coonawarra. Her years of experience working for large companies have gifted her the skills and the contacts to ‘pick the eyes out’ of some of our most esteemed vineyards for Bellwether.
The Artisans Tasting: meet the makers, share the passion
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