In common with the New Wave musicians of the late 1970s, the exhibitors at the Artisans Tasting are united in passion; in their desire to create something new, something different, something that reflects their vision of brilliance. Unsurprisingly then experimentation with new and alternative varietals are rife. Whether this experimentation manifests itself in the adoption of minimalist winemaking or a dedication to site selection and expression, these are winemakers crafting wines that are smashing preconceptions of Australian wine. And just like Joy Division, Visage and The Cure, they are creating something unique, convention-defying, brilliant and oh-so cool… The Cool - Australia’s cool climate winemakers –– use their regions as a canvas upon which they paint their thrilling interpretations of the Australian landscape and Australian wine.
Australia's cool climate wines have been taking the world by storm in recent years with Artisans pushing the boundaries of viticulture and winemaking across Australia. The Cool respect the importance of their regions in the evolution of Australian wine, indeed many have been classically trained in leading wineries across the world. These experiences have given them sufficient understanding of the rules to know how to break them. For example; think extreme whole bunch, new varieties, extended maceration and early picking, these are some of the maverick techniques these guys are deploying. They also like to get their hands dirty, reviving the neglected vineyard sites that others have abandoned in search of the extraordinary. In short: they live, breath and bleed The Cool.
‘Given Australia’s combination of climatic diversity, winemaking brilliance and pioneering winemaking spirit, it will be fascinating to witness the evolution and ageing potential of those new-style cool climate wines. The joyous challenge we sommeliers need to embrace is to bring these extraordinary wines to the widest possible audience so that everyone can enjoy a taste of Australia’s new cool climate brilliance.’
Alexis Rojat, Sommelier, Mr Wong and 2016 Australian Dux at the Court of Master Sommelier Exams
Timo Mayer describes himself as ‘a farmer.’ To us he is a German whole bunch evangelist spreading the gospel in the Yarra Valley, working with some of the region's best fruit. He brings an energy, vibrancy and a wicked sense of humour (see above) to a classic Australian wine region. He even named his home vineyard ‘Bloody Hill’ after the expression most people say after they’ve walked up the steep slopes! But back to the whole bunch. ‘I love the stalky, savoury character,’ Timo says. ‘Some don’t like the herbal ‘Campari’ edge it gives. It polarizes people.’ Timo was probably the first to use whole bunch in the Yarra since the region's first golden age in the late 1800s. Now there's a shedload of people across the Valley heeding Timo's call to 'bring back the funk!' And with wines that are glorious enough and funky enough for Bootsy Collins to admire, who’s to argue?
Mac Forbes is redefining the Yarra Valley paradigm; he’s a pioneer of sub-regional wines and experimental batches that seriously push the boundaries. He started his wine journey as a winemaker with John Middleton at Mount Mary in the Yarra Valley and has spent the last 10 or so years exploring the cool sub-regions of the Yarra. As well as exploring the dirt and the land Mac also loves travel, music and surfing. Is he any good at surfing? No, no he’s not. He describes himself as the 'world's worst surfer'. He 'learnt' to surf while working with Dirk Niepoort in Portugal where local surfers were in awe. 'An Aussie surfer, he'll carve it up!' Mac shattered those preconceptions as quickly as he shatters old school preconceptions of Australian wine.
Skateboarder, DJ and winemaker Brendon takes a minimalist, lo-fi approach to wine. He only intervenes where necessary, doing as little as possible to ensure that the wine speaks of the single vineyard site it came from. He’s travelled the world selling wine in the UK, working in vineyards and wineries in New Zealand, California and Argentina before settling in the Adelaide Hills. So why the Adelaide Hills? ‘…because it’s just a cracking great place to live and make wine.’ And do his passions for skating, music and wine have a common thread? Hell yes. ‘They are all creative outlets that work alongside each other. It is personal experiences and goals that we are expressing.’ And there, in a sentence, you have the essence of the Artisans.
Aaron Drummond and Dan Buckle are mates with a passion for cool climate Australian wine styles that explore exceptional vineyards in Victoria. It was after a shiraz heavy vintage at legendary Australian cool climate winery Mount Langi Ghiran that Aaron and Dan decided to head back to the place they grew up to exploit the potential of Pinot Noir in the Mornington Peninsula. So where does Circe come into their winemaking equation? Circe was the Greek goddess of magic and stands as a metaphor for how many are powerless against the seductive powers of their sublime Pinot Noir named Circe. Dan studied arts at university before realising it wouldn’t help him get a job. He then went on to oenology. A wise choice and just maybe the time at Uni didn't go to waste...
Ian and June Marks were part of the pioneering ‘second wave’ of Yarra Valley vignerons in the 1980s. Today their son Andrew Marks is focused on non-irrigated, hand pruned and harvested, low yielding vines producing thrilling cool climate wines at Gembrook Hill. “With Gembrook Hill, working in the vineyard you learn year in, year out that you’re producing a wine that’s a product of the year and of the vineyard,” Andrew said when chatting with Ed Merrison on Bonnezeaux Gonzo. “The most important step is getting the picking day correct. I’m looking for bright, sweet fruit flavours, with the acid balanced.”
The Artisans Tasting: meet the makers, share the passion
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