2014 has been a remarkable year. It started with a bang and is ending with a flourish…
Way back in February, I was fortunate enough to have the privilege of participating in vintage 2014, in the Hunter Valley, picking grapes, and actually making my very own wine. Thanks to Ross McDonald of Macquariedale, I was able to learn, first hand, some of the ins and outs of winemaking, including a valuable lesson in mindfulness and keeping an eye on the one percenters. I had made two styles of wine, an orange and a red. The orange was a whole bunch co-fermented blend of semillon, chardonnay, and verdelho, while the red was a de-stemmed merlot and whole bunch shiraz carbonic maceration creation. After 5 months élevage, we bottled the red first, and when it came time to bottle the orange, which was an incredibly vibrant amber colour, in my excitement, I forgot to clean the lines of the hose we were using to pump the wine out from the beer keg that the wine had been raised in. So, in my rush to bottle the orange wine, some remaining red wine from the hose spilled out into the keg and discoloured the orange wine, changing it from a copper coloured thing of beauty to a murky shade of pink! Certainly not ideal! However, the wine itself still smelt and tasted great (in my humble opinion), so, in that respect, it’s ok. But, had that been a wine I was making on some sort of commercial scale, and was relying upon it to earn an income, pay staff, or feed my family, then that colour would be pretty much unacceptable to sell to my hypothetical customers… even if it is a natural wine. Thankfully, I wasn’t making this wine on a commercial level (only 2.5 cases were made!), so I think I got away with it… but, lesson learnt.
During February the second ever Rootstock was held at Carriageworks. It was a great couple of days, and featured many, many natural, organic and biodynamic wines from all over the world, many of whom I’d written about previously on thewineidealist.com. I was also lucky enough to secure a brief interview with global natural wine advocate Alice Feiring, which you can listen back to by clicking on the link.
In March, I was invited over to New Zealand to visit the MaNa group of winegrowers from Marlborough. These seven winegrowers are all certified organic through BioGro, with many of them also practicing biodynamics, in their vineyards. It was an inspiring five days, where I was able to see the passion and enthusiasm each of these growers have for the proper care of their environment, as well as taste the resulting wines that come from it. A particular highlight was swimming in the Wairau river, which flowed right past my accommodation, and was every bit as refreshing and revitalising as the wines that are grown nearby.
The following month, in April, I was invited to London’s Real Wine Fair to host a seminar on “The (Not So) Secret Australian Wine Revolution.” It was a very special privilege to be able to return to the genesis of wine idealism and represent Australian wine, alongside Iwo from Si Vintners. A great supporter of The Wine Idealist, (Sir) Doug Wregg, had asked me to come to London and speak about what is happening at the moment in Australian wine, based on my many writings and meanderings from thewineidealist.com in 2012 and ’13. Together, we assembled a table of booze that we thought best showcased the current mood of Australian and New Zealand natural, organic and biodynamic wine. This included a couple of Domaine Lucci’s, a Jauma Tullah Grenache, a Bobar Syrah, a Patrick Sullivan skin contact sav blanc and shiraz, a Cambridge Road Martinborough Syrah, as well as a couple of ethereal samples from Pyramid Valley, New Zealand. It was a wild couple of days, promoting the Aussie and New Zealand gear to satisfactorily shocked London wine lovers, from both consumer and trade. In fact, I’m pretty sure a few orders of these wines came about as a result of my talk… if so, you’re welcome!
After returning home from London, I set about officially releasing my first ever book(let), ‘Wine Idealism; A brief introduction into the changing state of Australian wine,’ as a free, downloadable eBOOK and physical publication. I had taken a few physical copies over with me to London, where it was promptly distributed amongst the eager trade and consumers at the Real Wine Fair. Even Jamie Goode and Isabelle Legeron got a copy! Back in Australia, I had some orders for the physical copy to be sent to a few places in Australia and New Zealand, as well as Finland, of all places. You can still download and read the eBOOK, for free, by signing up to The Wine Idealist mailing list, where you will receive the latest edition, which comes out every Friday morning, as well as any inside information about any other activities that have to do with wine idealism. If you’re after a physical copy of the book, just get in contact with me here!
Mid way through the year, in August, I was invited up to the Biodynamic Agriculture of Australia‘s annual conference, in Coffs Harbour, where I was able to listen to biodynamic farmers from other disciplines of agriculture, besides winegrowing, and hear them talk about how biodynamics applies to their properties. The one thing that seemed to be consistent amongst all the speeches given by these farmers, was the unbridled enthusiasm that each and every one of them had for their farms. Inspired, I wrote an article about this enthusiasm that seems to be pervading the young winegrowers who utilise the tools of biodynamics to grow their grapes and make their wines. The article featured first time farmers Matt Eastwell from Freehand Wines, and Sarah Morris from Si Vintners, both in WA, and Pete Windrim from Krinklewood, in the Hunter Valley, who is a second generation winegrower.
In September, inGRAPESweTRUST presents, held the second annual celebration of natural, organic and biodynamic wine from Australia and New Zealand, in my hometown of Newcastle, which is called… What’s In Your Glass? We had over 30 winegrowers represented at the event, from right across Australia and New Zealand, including Avani, Small Fry, Castagna, Jasper Hill, Dormilona, Blind Corner, Cloudburst, Clos Henri, Hans Herzog, Te Whare Ra and so many more. Plus, four of Newcastle’s best restaurants, including Subo, Reserve Wine Bar, Casa de Loco, and Fortunate Son, who each cooked a pop-up style feast to accompany the incredible wines that were on show. Oh yeah, and we also sunk and surfaced six wines into the Newcastle Harbour, and aged them for three months before tasting them at the event… you can read a full wrap of what went on here.
By November, I helped to organise another fundraiser for The Umbrella Foundation Australia (TUFA). We wanted to celebrate the delicious diversity of our local farmers and their produce, so we held a Hunter Valley Locavores evening, where everything that was served was sourced from within the Hunter Valley, including the beef, veggies, fruits, cheese, beer and wine. It was a pretty special evening, full of amazing food cooked by Blackbird Artisan Bakery and, thankfully, we raised $1,500 for disadvantaged children and their communities in Nepal. TUFA is a special charity that I support, and if you would like to find out more information, or indeed make a much needed and generous donation, please click the link above.
Lastly, in December, things had been frantic behind the scenes of The Wine Idealist, with plans in place to launch a brand new website, as well as launch two new experiences for you to enjoy. You’ve mostly likely seen, by now, the new look and design of The Wine Idealist website, which was created by the awesomely talented Ben Mitchell, who also worked on the ‘Wine Idealism‘ book(let) and eBOOK. He also helped me to design the logos for TOURS and VINTAGE::2015. These are two projects for readers of The Wine Idealist, and lovers of the kinds of wines I write about, who want to actively participate in the idealism of wine, by experiencing an all-inclusive tour of the Hunter Valley’s premier natural, organic and biodynamic vineyards and wineries… plus, a concept that emerged off the back of my own winemaking experience, back in February, which gives you the chance to experience making your own wine, during vintage 2015 in the Hunter Valley! You won’t just pick the grapes, or have a hand in making some wine… VINTAGE::2015 is the opportunity to make your own wine, including picking, crushing, fermenting, labelling (plus design) and bottling! More information about both these experiences can be found here and here.
So, that’s it for 2014. As you’ve just read, it’s been an enormous privilege to be a wine idealist this year. As well as all this, I’ve had the great pleasure to interview and talk with many talented and inspiring winegrowers and makers from right across Australia and New Zealand. To all those who have contributed in any way, shape, or form over the past 12 months, a big hug and thank you to you! Also, a special dedication and thanks to my mum, who edits The Wine Idealist each and every week, without fail. Thanks heaps, Mum!
I want to wish you all a merry and well earned rest over the Christmas period, and a productive and happy 2015. And to all those amazing farmers, winegrowers and makers, all the very best for an exceptional 2015 vintage!
D// – The Wine Idealist
*This is the final edition of The Wine Idealist for 2014. Keep an eye out for new projects, more frequent podcasts, and many different voices featured on thewineidealist.com in 2015… if you find yourself getting withdrawals, jump onto Twitter, Facebook and Instagram!
*p.s. Thanks for indulging this (humble brag) wrap of 2014. I usually throw these types of Christmas letters, from relatives and friends, out! 😉