“There’s a romantic narrative in winemaking that should be told more often than what it is,” says Jarad Curwood of Chapter Wine in Victoria, “and that story should be told through the vineyard, not through the skills of the winemaker.”
Jarad is a painter who gravitated toward wine’s black hole, while studying a fine arts degree at the University of Melbourne, and working at Melbourne’s City Wine Shop. There, he was exposed to the mysteries of wine via the dregs of near empty bottles, left over from the evening’s trade.
“Working in hospitality gets a little tiring after a while,” says Jarad, “and I realised that I’m no good at talking about wine. I prefer to use my hands and see myself as a creative person. So, I decided to go down the path of actually making the stuff.”
Jarad isn’t formally trained in either viticulture, or winemaking, but has worked a vintage with Pierre Gaillard in the Northern Rhône, in France, after doing a three year informal apprenticeship as an assistant winemaker with Adam Marks at Bress Wine and Cider in Harcourt, Victoria.
“If you can’t keep up with Adam, you’re off the boat,” says Jarad of his time spent at Bress, “and I knew that if I did a three year apprenticeship with him, then I would learn so much more than if I spent three vintages with a bunch of different producers.”
This informal training has allowed Jarad to be a lot more expressive when it comes to the way he approaches winemaking, drawing upon his artistic influences to create and express a sense of place, rather than just simply making a wine.
“I would be a very different, and probably safer, winemaker if I’d studied at university…” says Jarad, “my mission is to capture a time and a place as honestly and truthfully as I possibly can.”
To capture this sense of time and place in his wines, Jarad sources fruit from a range of different vineyards throughout Victoria, including the Yarra Valley, and a home vineyard in Heathcote, where he has 10 acres of mostly shiraz vines that he owns and farms himself.
“I do as little as possible in my vineyard,” says Jarad, “I’ve had it since 2011 and I’m still trying to learn about the place.”
Jarad’s vineyard is run organically, but only by default, simply because he says he does nothing in the vineyard, in terms of hands-on maintenance.
“I struggle with interference, in nature, in the vineyard, and in the winery as well,” says Jarad. “One year I’ll water the vineyard if it needs it, but the next I might not need to,” he continues, “I don’t believe in spraying with X amount of chemicals just to keep it safe, I’d rather let the vineyard do whatever it’s going to do, and try other ways to prevent disease and manage certain issues.”
Minimum interference extends into the winery too, with Jarad preferring to make sure the fruit is picked at exactly the right time, rather than trying to correct any flavour imbalances later on during the wines transformation from grape to juice to wine.
“The timing of when I pick my fruit is the most important thing,” explains Jarad, “and the most influential step that I have in my involvement with making my wine… I like to pick my shiraz (for example) on the borderline of unripe, because that way I can get the acids to be as high as I possibly can, which gives the final wine better structure in the end.”
True to the Chapter namesake, once the fruit is picked and brought back to the winery, Jarad will then decide whatever’s the best way to capture the wine with that years narrative, and tell the story that appears in the bottle.
“I don’t want my wine, from a specific site, to always look exactly the same,” explains Jarad, “because there’s different growing conditions every year. I want my wine to show vintage variation, not a Chapter wine style… I don’t want Chapter wine to have a style.”
The idea behind Chapter wine is to tell the story of each vintage, in each year, and express the differences that occur as vintage variation in the vineyard site, where the wine is grown. You could say Chapter falls into the category of a natural wine, but Jarad is reluctant to assign himself to that, so called, style.
“I’m very hesitant about the term natural wine, because I’m concerned that it will become a fad,” says Jarad, “I love drinking natural wines myself, but I don’t want them to battle with conventional winemaking because it’ll just end up becoming a “them and us” situation, and I don’t think that’s good for the industry.”
Writing down memoirs with wine is the ongoing story for Jarad that’s almost as infinite as wine itself. Making Chapter wine allows him the freedom and flexibility to continue the story elsewhere, wherever that may be.
“One of the original ideas for Chapter was the ability to be able to move somewhere else to make wine,” explains Jarad, “To be able to say, ‘the story in Heathcote is now finished, and I’m moving to New Zealand to now make wine from there’.”
The word ‘Chapter’ is written with a typewriter style font, which Jarad says, “connects people to the idea that this is liquid literature.”
“I just find it a fascinating industry, in the sense that you’re just continually able to learn, and there’s no finish line or end to making, or even drinking wine,” says Jarad, “you’ve just gotta keep up with the story.”
D// – The Wine Idealist
- Chapter Wine – ‘You need to work on your website, Jarad!’