Wine

Wine­mak­ers at top la­bels are cre­at­ing their own wine on the side.

Virgin Australia Voyeur - - CONTENTS -

For wine­maker Dan Buckle, a solo project pro­vides a sense of bal­ance. “There’s a dif­fer­ent kind of learn­ing when you are mak­ing all the de­ci­sions your­selves,” he says. “And boy have we made some mis­takes. But you have to own them.”

Buckle is a world-class wine­maker, re­spon­si­ble for the renowned sparkling wines of Do­maine Chan­don, based in the Yarra Val­ley. With ties to Moët & Chan­don, he has the heady job of pro­duc­ing out­stand­ing bubbles, from en­try-level, non-vin­tage house styles, to grand mar­quee of­fer­ings to ri­val the great Cham­pagne houses.

But Buckle also pro­duces high-qual­ity, small-batch wine from se­lect vine­yards in the Morn­ing­ton Penin­sula. Since 2009, he has honed his craft, in­vest­ing hours in plant­ing and grow­ing grapes — then find­ing time to har­vest and fer­ment them — un­der his in­de­pen­dent Circe la­bel. “I’d say the ma­jor dif­fer­ence in the two projects is, at Circe, I use my senses and feel, while it’s quite the op­po­site at Chan­don, where pre­ci­sion and tech­ni­cal de­tail in sparkling wine­mak­ing is vi­tal. I love both,” he says.

Wine­mak­ers, par­tic­u­larly those on the sec­ond rung of man­age­ment, are in­creas­ingly break­ing away to make small batches of wine. It’s a quiet rev­o­lu­tion born of Aussie nous and a thrill in ex­per­i­men­ta­tion. And while not all of it oc­curs un­der the cover of dark­ness, some have had to be clan­des­tine about their side projects.

Wine­maker Steve Craw­ford started his la­bel with a der­ring-do at­ti­tude. He was ini­tially re­stricted from mak­ing other wines by his day job at famed South Aus­tralian win­ery He­wit­son, but his de­sire to ex­plore the in­di­vid­ual ex­pres­sions of grape va­ri­eties forced him un­der­ground on his first re­lease. He made up a pseu­do­nym, Fred­er­ick Steven­son, and set about craft­ing wines from vary­ing vine­yard sources. Fred­er­ick Steven­son’s first solo har­vest came about in 2011 with just a clutch­ful of grapes.

“They were fer­mented in garages and pressed in the mid­dle of the night,” Craw­ford ex­plains. “I was work­ing for other peo­ple, which was in­ter­est­ing as you have to adopt the mind­set of that par­tic­u­lar win­ery, and work to­gether in pro­duc­ing the best pos­si­ble prod­uct within the house style us­ing their ethos… Now the free­dom in ex­press­ing ideas and wine styles is so lib­er­at­ing.”

Craw­ford con­tin­ued to make wine around his day job for sev­eral years un­til he felt con­fi­dent that his ex­pe­ri­ence had so­lid­i­fied his vi­sion for his wines. Today his bot­tles are the op­po­site of his pre­vi­ous em­ployer’s, and thrilling for their in­di­vid­ual ex­pres­sion.

Wine­mak­ers such as Buckle and Craw­ford are part of the great evo­lu­tion of Aus­tralian wine, and are just two of the faces shift­ing the lo­cal drink­ing land­scape. Pro­duc­ers bound to a day job have re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, but that sta­bil­ity of­ten en­ables a greater free­dom when ap­proach­ing their own work. Some of today’s great wine pro­duc­ers will come from this kind of wine­maker, and their im­pact will res­onate both lo­cally and glob­ally.

FROM TOP Dan Buckle; Do­maine Chan­don, where he fo­cuses on tech­ni­cal wine­mak­ing.

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