Heart of the Nation
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!