Heart of the Na­tion

The Weekend Australian - Magazine - - Front Page - Pho­tog­ra­phy An­dre Castel­lucci By Ross Bil­ton

Deep in the Ade­laide Hills, down a long dirt road that winds through a quiet, forested gully, you come to a pi­o­neer cot­tage built in 1880. There’s a lit­tle creek be­side it, chooks scratch­ing around, the bab­bling of happy kids. It’s the fam­ily home of Am­ber and Taras Ochota, and also their win­ery, Ochota Bar­rels. From this mod­est place they pro­duce small batches of un­usual wine that has gar­nered fans around the world, Mick Jag­ger among them.

How small? Some of their re­leases, like the Home Pinot Noir – made with foot-stomped grapes from a vine­yard the size of a ten­nis court – com­prise a sin­gle bar­rel. And how un­usual? “I’m not in­ter­ested in mak­ing wine like any­one else,” ex­plains Taras, 47, a cheer­ful for­mer punk rocker who spent years as a fly­ing wine­maker in Europe. He sources grapes through hand­shake agree­ments, picks them early, and lets nat­u­rally oc­cur­ring yeast work the magic of fer­men­ta­tion, adding noth­ing but a pinch of sul­phur at bot­tling. The re­sult? “El­e­gant, fem­i­nine” wines, low in al­co­hol and high in nat­u­ral acid­ity – a re­fresh­ing counterpoint to the block­buster drops that Aus­tralia is fa­mous for. It’s all about “scratch­ing that cre­ative itch”, Taras says, and cus­tomers are on board: his tiny out­put is now ex­ported to 14 coun­tries. Word of mouth even reached the Rolling Stones, who stopped by for a long lunch at the cel­lar door dur­ing their 2014 world tour.

Taras’s dad Yari is pic­tured help­ing out, dis­man­tling a bas­ket press to re­veal the “marc” – the grape skins left af­ter a press­ing. This boozy mush isn’t wasted; it’s a treat for the fam­ily’s nanny, Ger­tie. “She loves to eat it then fall asleep in the sun for hours,” says Taras. Eh? “Good times for a goat!” Oh, that sort of nanny.

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