For milennials like us, nothing reminds us of our parents getting giddy on wine in the 2000s like a Australian Shiraz or Chardonnay, varietally labelled and heavily oaked, a time when New Zealand, Australia and Chile were the cool new kids on the block taking the crown from snobbish France and tradition-laden Italy. These days however, it can feel like all the winemaking innovation has migrated back to a new generation of European winemakers, mostly farming organically and vinifying with minimal additions. Perhaps that is just due to our location - the doorstep of Europe - it certainly seems that way.
Over in Oz however, and specifically in South Australia's Adelaide Hills, there are some natural wine producers who have quietly gained a following internationally and built an influential domestic scene. They include Anton Van Klopper, Gentle Folk and Patrick Sullivan.
Anton Van Klopper (known by his winemaking pseudonym Lucy M) is a great place to start with Australia's natural wine greats. He's based in South Australia's Adelaide Hills, which rise steeply from the beach to reveal orchards, cherry trees and vines where Anton is one of the pioneers of the low intervention wine movement there. All his wines are on the wild side with plenty of experimental cuvees, but are always beautifully balanced and made with nothing added or taken away, so no fining, filtration or sulphur.
First up is his Chardonnay with perhaps more in common with a zippy French Chablis or a white from Rias Baixas than the heavily oaked Australian Chardonnays or yesteryear. This is one of Anton's top cuvees made in miniscule quantities from the free-run juice of Chardonnay grown in a single plot in the Piccadilly Valley. Lithe and ethereal with great tension between electric lime and lemon notes and a savoury, sea spray minerality.
Tete d'Ouef meanwhile is a funkier blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc from a single plot South-East of Adelaide in Totness. Fermented with a little skin contact, this is headily perfumed and deeply coloured with wild flowers and citrus blossom wafting over invigorating gooseberry and green pear.
Leave your preconceptions about Gamay at the door! Gamay Sauvage is made from grapes grown in a plot in Totness fermented in a mixture of ceramic eggs, amphora and small barrels. While it has that hallmark Gamay freshness and minerality, expect rich earthy blackcurrant and blackberries and baked Mediterranean herb aromas backed up by floral hints. Sublime.
Noir de Florette is Anton's effortless, pure and racy Pinot Noir made from a very light pressing of whole bunch Pinot Noir grown on the Piccadilly Valley. In the glass it's almost more rose than red with aromas of cranberry, pot pourri and a gentle salinity.
Lastly, not one but a set of two funky red table wines! Vin Rouge is 40% Merlot from Hope Valley, 40% Syrah from McLaren Vale and 20% Pinot Noir from the Piccadilly Valley. A savoury and enticingly rustic wine with generous fruit, mouth-filling body and heady spice notes from the Merlot. Vino Rosso is a blend of 70% Pinot Noir and 15% Merlot with the remaining 15% made up of a little each of all his other wines from the vintage. Silky and rounded with bright red fruit, forest floor and plenty of savoury funkiness.
Also working out of the Adelaide Hills under his label Gentle Folk is the universally liked Gareth Belton. Having made the classic move from Marine Biology to winemaking, his last vintage made a huge splash with us and we're delighted to have a fresh drop in the shop.
Firstly, the Rainbow Juice is back! A blend of 23 (yep, TWENTY THREE) varieties from organic vineyards across Gentle Folk’s Adelaide Hills estate including rosé, skin contact white & direct press white. Breezy, wild and untamed from minimal intervention in the winery, it's packed with a cacophony of red fruit and sweet spice flavours. Just pure unadulterated pleasure in a bottle.
Indulging in this vintage's most pleasing trend, Gareth has produced a beautiful red/white co-ferment. Vin de Sofa is a blend of Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris from their Scary Gully Vineyard in Forest Range. Semi carbonic maceration and gentle treatment in the winery makes this a certified red berry juice bomb with a zippy acidity.
But it's not all mad blends. His varietal Clouds Riesling is from the highest block in his vineyard - sitting at 620m - greets every sunrise swaddled in a blanket of clouds, hence the name. During the barrel ageing process the barrel is left only almost full for a few months. This yields some pleasing oxidative characteristics, Jura style. Lemon sherbet and ripe apples give way to through to fresh saltiness and generous, nutty notes once the wine opens up. Truly one to keep up with Mosel's big guns.
Gareth also does an excellent varietal Pinot. It's a lighter, more smashable style of Pinot Noir, perfect for a BBQ with a light chill. Plenty of Summer berry fruit flavours and a touch of savoury clove, truffle and a little tannin to keep it structured.
A final mention goes to Victoria's Patrick Sullivan, specifically his excellent Sunset, of which we have just a few bottles left. A zippy and herbal blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Gewurztraminer and Shiraz. Expect aromas of cut grass and gooseberry, over a juicy core of blackcurrant and raspberry. Now with a screw top for ultimate picnic readiness!
Check out our full range of natural wines from Australia and New Zealand and the rest of the new world here, which we'll be adding to throughout the Summer as more of the 2020 vintage is released.