THE (NOT SO) WILD WEST IS PRODUCING SOME EXCITING YOUNG, TALENTED WINEMAKERS. FERGAL GLEESON MEETS THE NEXT CROP OF VITICULTURE CREATORS
The times they are a changing in the world of wine. There are adventurous winemakers doing things in the vineyard and the winery that would raise the eyebrows of traditionalists. There’s wine being made with stalks and leaves, infused with herbs, fermented in ceramic eggsshells or stored in clay ‘Roman style’ amphorae pots. Last year a Margaret River Winemaker Dormilona won the Young Gun of Wine competition, held for up and coming wine makers. This year Western Australia’s tripe.iscariot was a finalist. There’s clearly no shortage of new ideas when it comes to Western Australian winemaking.
Jo Perry was the Young Gun of Wine for 2016 for her small batch winery Dormilona, run by Jo and husband Jimmy. The name Dormilona means ‘lazy bones’ in Spanish and reflects their laid-back approach to winemaking and her nickname during her winemaking years in Spain.
“Young Gun of Wine has put small winemakers from Western Australia on the map.
Before winning YGOW there was very little knowledge of us and what kick arse wines we are all making with no hip pockets.”
Jo was always interested in wine. “My grandfather was a brewer at Swan Brewery and he taught me how to ferment from a young age, blowing up lemonade under my parents floorboards. To be honest I have never really thought of anything else,” says Jo.
Do you need to be a little mad to start making your wine given that there is so much wine in Australia and the world? “No, I am not mad, I am totally crazy! Yes there is a lot of wine in the world but every year Mother Nature gives us different conditions and then we can tell a different story from it.”
Jo’s philosophy on viticulture and making wine is simple and purist. “Make wine to express the vintage, the conditions, the site, the soils and with very little intervention. I like to nurture the fruit into wine then bottle. I let the fruit guide me not the trend. All wine is natural. The natural fermentation process preserves. I choose not to add anything to wine as I feel it takes away from what ends up in the glass. Fruit free from fungicides and herbicides are in a happier place.
There is a clarity in the wines.” Jo doesn’t see natural winemakers and conventional winemakers as being in separate camps or having different customers. “No. I am very lucky to have had my wines written up with some of the best in the region, so they are marketed to the same customers.”
What are the must try wines from your range?
“That depends on what floats your boat really. We make a real rainbow of colours and shades. The Clayface wines are made purely in amphora terracotta which puts a different spin on people’s perception of the Margaret River classics when you take away all the oak and make wine with no additions. There is a real purity in these wines.”
South African-born winemaker Remi Guise describes his wines as “extreme, atypical, love/hate!” He was bored with a lot of the Aussie wine he was drinking back in 2007 so when he started tripe.iscariot back in 2013 he decided to make wine that he would like to drink. “There’s certainly much more diversity in Australian wine today,” he says.
The inspired name comes from his attempt to capture his winemaking approach. “Tripe” comes from the “nose to tail” food philosophy which Remi deploys in the grape solids that he uses to make his wines. “Iscariot” is from the apostle who was a “black sheep” which Remi identifies with.
“I like texture in wine and could see there was lots of flavour being discarded. Stalks and leaves could be used in different parts of the process.
The aim is not to make weird wine. The aim is to make it weird good!” says Remi.
“Like any decent winemaker I’m a minimalist but I will add things if I have to best express terroir. People like wine with a real story behind it that they can connect with. Wine sellers want to tell their customers about the people and the land. That’s easier now. This style of wine is at the beginning of a curve.”
Are you customers different to those that drink the classics? “I think they are but I wish they weren’t. They are not necessarily interested in the classics.
That is a point of difference but I hope that if I am still making similar wines in 10 years’ time that they will have become part of the tapestry of Margaret River. Margaret River is still only 50 years old. You could say that only cabernet and chardonnay are established as world class. There’s a lot more to be said for grenache and chenin blanc in this region.”
Special wines to watch out for in the tripe.iscariot range include Aspic “a grenache based rosé made from Karridale fruit. It’s bone dry, made with some stalk, battonage and will age well. Premium grapes making premium rosé as it should be” and Marrow a syrah and malbec blend.
“The two chenin blancs I make in the Absolution Series are also very personal to me. Chenin blanc is an obsession as a South African so I always wanted to make it. But a premium version to counter the old sweet Chenin blancs. Margaret River is just 40 minutes north to south if you drive fast but these chenins are very different in style.”
Remi plans to expand volumes to keep up with supply and have his wines available in more parts of Australia, the UK and Japan, “where they like textural wines. And also because I want to go to Tokyo.”
These young gun Western Australian winemakers are making wines with colours, flavours and textures that are very different styles of wine to the classics. They are expressive and fun wines that all contribute to the choice now available to Australian wine drinkers. I’ll leave the last word to Yoko from Brave New Wine. “These alternative wines aren’t just for hipster, sommeliers from Melbourne. It’s just wine. It’s there for a good time and to be enjoyed by everybody.”