Heart of the Na­tion

The Weekend Australian - Magazine - - FRONT - Pho­tog­ra­phy Ta­jette O’Hal­lo­ran By Ross Bi l t on

At first glance it looks like a scene from The So­pra­nos but don’t be alarmed, these blokes haven’t just dis­posed of a stiff, they’ve been stomping shi­raz. That’s grape gore on them. The trio founded Noisy Rit­ual, a “peo­ple-pow­ered ur­ban win­ery”, in the be­lief that “mak­ing and drink­ing wine should be a cel­e­bra­tion: re­laxed, loud, in­clu­sive and fun” – and if it gets a lit­tle messy and un­hinged from time to time, well, so much the bet­ter.

The project was born of serendip­ity: four years ago Cam Ni­col, on the right, moved into a prop­erty in Mel­bourne’s Thorn­bury and dis­cov­ered a big con­crete tank lined with beeswax un­der the house – an old wine fer­menter in­stalled by an Ital­ian fam­ily in the ’70s. Ni­col knew zilch about mak­ing wine ( he worked in the music busi­ness) but was in­trigued enough to ask his wine­maker friend Alex Byrne, left, how hard it would be to have a crack at it. The an­swer: not hard at all. So they bought half a tonne of grapes and en­listed a bunch of mates to help with the labour, cul­mi­nat­ing in an old-fash­ioned stomp, which turned out to be the se­cond most fun thing you can do with your pants off, Ni­col says. A day later the wild yeast started work­ing its magic, con­vert­ing sug­ars in the juice into al­co­hol; six months later they had their first bar­rel-aged shi­raz.

These days Noisy Rit­ual has its own premises in Brunswick East, where it op­er­ates a cel­lar door and low-tech wine­mak­ing work­shops for in­ter­ested pun­ters. It’s all about de­mys­ti­fy­ing the process and bring­ing peo­ple to­gether in a spirit of joy­ous co­op­er­a­tion – an Aussie equiv­a­lent of the Ital­ians’ pas­sata day. As Tony So­prano would say, It’s a beau­ti­ful thing. Sa­lute!

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