Heart of the Nation
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.