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Gareth Belton - #005

Gareth and Rainbo Belton are the founders, owners, winemakers and vineyard people of Gentle Folk, a winery based in the Adelaide Hills.  Originally phycologists (seaweed scientists) diving the coastlines of Western and South Australia, they have since shunned the wetsuits and dived fully into vineyard life.

Gentle Folk Website
Instagram @gentlefolkwine 

  

LINKS

Koerner Riesling
Seaweed Conference
Phycology
Ningaloo
East End Cellars
James Erskine
Anton Van Klopper
Tom Shobbrook
Alex Shulkin
Basket Range Wines
Taras Ochota 
Whisson Lake
Dylan Grigg
Mac Forbes
Shaw and Smith
Brian Croser - Petaluma
Ashton Hills
Overnoy
Ester
Nomad
Love Tilly Devine
Town Mouse
Puncheon Bottles
Embla
Blind Corner Governo
Jancis Robinsons Wine Encyclopedia
Governo
Gentle Folk Ashton Chardonnay
Emu Export
Carnelian 
Blind Corner Cellar Door

 

Dodgy Transcript:

 

Gareth:
For me, that's more important than probably most other things that people argue about with natural wine, whether it's filtered or whether it's got sulfur or not. For me, until we deal with the vineyard side of things, I think it's totally irrelevant those sort of conversations, and that's it [inaudible 00:00:24]

Ben:
Hello, and welcome to another episode of Real Wine People. Before we kick off with today's guest, I'd just like to apologize for the time gap between this episode and the last one. Been a little bit busy in the Winery and Vineyard at the moment. Spring's in full bloom and you might notice, due to this, I've got some snottiness, as the mid row crops in the vineyard are flowering and firing up my hay fever.

Ben:
Originally with this podcast, I was hoping to get out one episode per week. This has proven a little more difficult than first anticipated. However, I will try and get them out a little more consistently from now on. Today's guest is Gareth Belton. I caught up with Gareth and Rainbo at their winery in the Adelaide Hills recently, where we spoke about a wide range of subjects including seaweed, Wendy the ostrich, organic farming, and most importantly, the terroir of the local pubs. Gareth and Rainbo have just released their much sought after spring wines from Gentle Folk, which can be found at their website, gentlefolk.com.au. You can find this, and links to all things Gentle Folk, and some of the things we spoke about at our website realwinepeople.com.

Ben:
If you are listening to this via the Apple Podcast app, please leave us a rating and review. Amazingly, we are climbing the charts in the food category in Australian podcasts. And recently, apparently, hit number one. Probably for about one or two seconds at 4am on a Tuesday, I'm sure. I don't know how these things work, but a big thanks to everyone. Please enjoy this conversation with Gareth Belton.

Gareth:
[inaudible 00:01:55]

Ben:
I know. I'll just push record anyway. All good?

Ben:
All right. Well, thanks for having me here at Gentle Folk and Basket Range. I'm with Gareth and Rainbo in their little winery, drinking delicious Kerner Riesling. You guys haven't always been in Adelaide Hills? So, originally from the area?

Gareth:
No, I grew up in South Africa.

Ben:
All right, that's a bit of a way.

Gareth:
Rainbo is from Far East Gippsland, which is pretty much just as far away, once you drive there.

Ben:
Sure. And did you meet halfway in Mauritius, or?

Gareth:
That would have been nice. No, in Warrnambool.

Ben:
Oh, cool. Victoria?

Gareth:
Yeah, 2007 at a seaweed conference.

Ben:
Really? Tell me more, did he charm you?

Gareth:
And then she asked me on a date but then it didn't work out.

Ben:
What happened there?

Rainbo:
[crosstalk 00:02:57]

Gareth:
I can tell the story. You can get on the mic on if you want. Well Rainbo, apparently was asking me on a date, but I just thought she was asking me to go hang out, and I had a girlfriend at the time, so that didn't really work out very well, did it? But it did now. That's what happened.

Ben:
Rainbo, shaking your head. You can grab a mic if you want? It's just there. You can refute this. So then, met at a seaweed conference. Did you have any choice seaweed pickup lines or anything, that we need to know about?

Gareth:
No. No, I think we were the only two normal people there, so... and then we sort of, I don't know, parted ways. Then I had to go over to do some diving over in Perth, around Rottnest Island in 2010, and I needed a dive buddy. I knew Rainbo was over there doing a PhD, living in Fremantle. We'd just hung out for a few days and then, started hanging out a bit more.

Ben:
Cool. So you're both studying ... What would that be? What's the seaweed study thing called?

Gareth:
PhD in Phycology.

Ben:
Phycology? Okay. And that's the study of seaweed?

Gareth:
Or algae.

Ben:
Right. Okay. You were telling me a story. So, you hooked up again, and the dive buddy was because you were doing your PhD?

Gareth:
Yeah.

Ben:
And you had to dive the coast, all through Western Australia?

Gareth:
Yeah. Well, we had some money to collect a few things sort of around the coastline. And that was one of the trips, and we were actually on our way back from Ningaloo on another trip. We stopped in Perth for a couple days just to dive Rottnest Island, which was good.

Ben:
Cool.

Gareth:
Yeah, because of the way OH&S works, you need like 1,000 dive buddies and Shark Shields so we don't all get mauled and-

Ben:
Never want that.

Gareth:
No. And sucked out to sea because it's been hectic over there, in WA.

Ben:
Can be! Can be. So you dive from Adelaide all the way up to Ningaloo?

Gareth:
That year, we just did Ningaloo for about two weeks, and diving that sort of coastline. Well, not that much further away from the station. Then just around Rottnest Island, and then actually later in 2010, we did a trip from... We pretty much started in Margaret River, and made a way all the way to Israelite Bay, just past Esperance, diving and hanging out.

Ben:
And then what led from ... How did you go from seaweed to wine?

Gareth:
Well, I moved to Adelaide, and I was into the wine before then. And then you move to Adelaide and it's like a-

Ben:
You have to be.

Gareth:
- playground, because there's what, a couple hundred wineries within an hour's drive of the city. Moved here to do PhD and you've got lots of free time, and no one's really telling you what to do. So, I went to Cellar Doors. Started hanging out at East End Cellars doing tastings. They do tastings every Friday night. And then met James Erskine and Anton Von Klopper, and Tom Shobbrook. And Alex Schulkin, when they were doing their things and starting hanging out with him up here. Helping James out on the winery a bit and Alex when he was just starting up.

Ben:
And that was 2010?

Gareth:
2012.

Ben:
Cool.

Gareth:
Then we sort of fell out of love with university life, and university things. So, I just spent more time here and then, I don't know, took a plunge.

Ben:
Took a plunge and bought a place, and started making wine?

Gareth:
Yeah, pretty much. Well we started making wine before we bought up here. Used to drive up a fair bit, and luckily James was letting us use his shed and equipment in the beginning. And then just bought some grapes around here from the Brodericks, because at that stage, there wasn't much fruit... a demand for fruit.

Ben:
And that's Basket Range?

Gareth:
Yeah, Basket Range Wines.

Ben:
Wines. Yeah.

Gareth:
Whereas now, they could sell every berry that's ever come off their property, which is great, but... So yeah, made a couple of barrels in 2013, some Cab Sav, some Merlot, and some... what else did we make? Cabernet Franc. A barrel of each. And then, you know what it's like with wine, a bit addictive. One thing leads to the next. Before you know it, you've spent every cent you've owned on buying stuff, and-

Ben:
Hiding things in the corner from Rainbo, maybe? Where's that-

Gareth:
Oh, the big barrel? It's over there now. It's allowed, it's been forgiven so it's allowed out the front.

Gareth:
May as well use it as a showpiece.

Ben:
Yeah, no, it looks good.

Gareth:
It cost the same price as the rest of the winery.

Ben:
So, when was the first vintage in here? In the shed?

Gareth:
2014.

Ben:
cool.

Gareth:
So we bought this and we moved in, in January 2014. And this was full of paint and cars and chemicals, and crap. Roped a few friends in for the day and we came up here, and we scrubbed it down, got everything moved out. And in mid 2014 we only did about, what was it? Maybe 12 ton? 11 or 12 ton. So we ramped up a fair bit compared to the year before, which was a ton and a half. And at that stage, I just had like a little hand crank press and didn't have a de-stemmer. There was actually no power in the shed. So we ran extension lead from the top shed down here, and we were hanging some lamps off the ceiling.

Ben:
Really?

Gareth:
Because we'd have to work at night because I was still working on university at that stage. Trying to press things and clean things down here, but it worked. And I probably made better wines than I do now with all this fancy stuff.

Ben:
I remember when I started, we had the four hectares and a shed, so we opened an illegal winery down there. We had three phase power to the shed, but I didn't have anything to plug into it. But we didn't have any running water, so to clean stuff, I'd have to run to the water tank with a bucket, get it and then run back, and scrub it. No forklift.

Ben:
So we'd sort of pick and then begin to plunge in these tubs. And when it came to pressing, I'd have to drag the crank handle press to where that bin was. And then bucket it in, and then once it was liquid... because I had a pump and I had a couple of barrels. But once it was liquid, I could move it to the barrels and then it was like "Oh, that's fine." And then you'd scrape this big, heavy basket press along the concrete to the next bin. Do that again, do that again. But yeah, running water the second year was pretty amazing.

Gareth:
Oh, mate. Makes a lot of difference. Power, electricity. Yeah, we didn't have forklift up until 2016. So we had one of those hand crank lifters, and that was-

Ben:
A hand crank lifter?

Gareth:
Yeah. It's a pain in the arse. It kills you. Especially just trying to lift two barrels, or something like that.

Ben:
Oh, like a pallet jack?

Gareth:
Yeah. No, like a pallet jack, but lifter.

Ben:
Right.

Gareth:
And then we had... but obviously it's got the two legs that come out the front, and then the two tines in the middle, and it goes up. And that kind of worked, but the following year we thought we'd be clever and we hired an electronic one of those. And sure enough, by about half an inch, they don't work with barrel racks. So you couldn't actually get around the barrel rack to put barrels on top of each other. So it was a complete fail of a unit. And it broke down about 100 times. And then it was a bit of a pain in the arse. And then I didn't pay my bills because I was like "This thing doesn't work." Then they sent debt collectors and everything, so... anyway, don't buy at Crown Forklifts.

Ben:
Ohh. Nice! Nice.

Gareth:
Bad people.

Ben:
So okay, you've got the... so did anything transfer from Fightology?

Gareth:
Phycology.

Ben:
Phycology. Fightology would be what? The science of fighting. Maybe. MMA or something. Anything transfer from that?

Gareth:
Yeah, maybe, because Undergraduate was in Botany and understanding general microbiology as well, that we would have had to go through. It sort of helps understanding in terms of ferments, bad bugs, good bugs. Understanding general basic biology, how things work. You can sort of help with [inaudible 00:10:56] things a bit.

Ben:
Work out how ferment is going to be happening?

Gareth:
Yeah. But you can read all that stuff in a book. Let's be honest, wine making is 99% logistics.

Ben:
Yeah, that's true.

Gareth:
As long as you don't fuck that stuff up, you can get anything done. But that's the hardest bit I find, is running... the biggest change was moving over and running a business. That was just like, it was almost a joke. My Dad is a chartered accountant, and I was like... just walls of boxes of paperwork. And everything was on spreadsheets. And he came over here and spent a whole week, pretty much cooped up in the office, going through every bit of paperwork that came through the business over three years, and compiling it all and dealing with it all. And at that stage I was like, "Yeah, right. We definitely need to sort this out." And then got a nice fancy accountant-

Ben:
Oh, I've met him.

Gareth:
You've met him, yeah. And he sort of gave me a bit of a giggle, when we first started hanging out. He was like "All right, this should be interesting, shouldn't it?" And I was like "Yeah. I'm sorry ahead of time." But we sorted it out and since then it seems like everything's been a bit... once you get rid of that stuff, you have more time to think about wine making and growing grapes, and actually relaxing. And looking after yourself, and your family as well.

Ben:
That's the hardest thing, I think, is the balance. Because you're farming, then you're manufacturing, then you're marketing, and-

Gareth:
Yeah. And doing paperwork, and then-

Ben:
Understand it.

Gareth:
And then there's always the alcohol around as well, and that sort of takes up-

Ben:
Which is a motivator. Makes you get things done.

Gareth:
Some mornings I'm definitely not motivated, that's for sure.

Ben:
So you're now running four different vineyards around the Hills, yourself?

Gareth:
Yeah.

Ben:
Getting them all BD and organic?

Gareth:
Yeah. So we've got four sites that we've been looking after now for a while. And we'll probably have another one coming on this Winter, as well. Which is good.

Ben:
Get to buy tractors.

Gareth:
Yeah. Tractors would be good. So we're doing that, and that's been a big learning curve from day one. We took over around June 2014. Taras gave me a call. And we were a bit "What can we do?" Because at that stage, there was no organic grapes around here, at all, anywhere to buy. It was just one of those things that just wasn't happening at all here. We wanted to work with organic fruit, but it was almost impossible to get. And we wanted to work with vineyards up around here, where we live.

Gareth:
Because Adelaide Hills is such a massively large region. From north to south, you go to bottom of McLaren Vale near... or Willunga near you've got Kuitpo. All the way up to Gumeracha and Kersbrook and stuff. Where you're pretty much... mostly in the Barossa by that stage, in Williamstown. we wanted something from around here, so we thought we couldn't do it. And I was getting a bit down. I'm like "What's the point? Maybe we should just... I should just deal with this university and work it out, and keep going in this career."

Gareth:
Then Taras gave me a buzz, and he was like "Mate, there this vineyard, I just met these people. It's in Forest Range, it's amazing, it's big. They want to tear it all out. Go and knock on their door!" And sure enough, I went over there and had a chat with them. That was Scary Gully Vineyard in Forest Range. And the owners were pretty desperate. They'd tried to make it work and it wasn't working. And they'd leased it to people and been screwed over, and there was a few things happening. And they were just keen to get rid of it. And the guy pretty much said to me "Yep. You can have it. All good. I just do not want to step foot in this vineyard. Ever. I don't want to hear about it. You just look after it." And I was like "Okay. Sounds good." And I was like "Now what?" I was like "I have no idea what to do, at all."

Ben:
So before that you hadn't worked in vineyards? Pruned, or?

Gareth:
No.

Ben:
No? Wow.

Gareth:
Zero. And I was like "Oh, shit." I'd done some pruning but that doesn't count if you go out pruning for a few days. It was actually running it from scratch, going "How the hell do we do this?" Even things like "How do I get pickers? Or how do we spray? What are we going to do?" Things like this. And luckily a few things fell into place around that time, like Mark Whisson, who's up here in the hills, he's got a beautiful vineyard called Whisson Lake and Winery.

Gareth:
I just gave him a buzz and he said "Yeah, I know the vineyard." Because he was part of the planting of it back in the day, in '84. So he came on to help with all the tractor work from the beginning. And then about that time as well, I met another guy called Dylan Grigg who, for years, was working with Mack down in the Yarra. And Dyl, he'd moved back to Adelaide from the Yarra because they'd had two young boys, and they wanted to be closer to their family. Because they're from Adelaide and the Barossa, and moved back here to get suppose from their family, which is hugely important as you know, having kids.

Ben:
Yeah.

Gareth:
And he came to a tasting one night, that I was doing. And out of the blue we started talking. And I was talking, trying to make it look like I knew what I was talking about, with vineyards and stuff. And this dude could see right through me straight away. And eventually, he probably felt bad for me and was like "By the way, I do this, and this," and I was red in the face. God, I'm an idiot. I've been called out. And he said "I'd love to hang out and if you've got some stuff to do, or you want some advice, just let me know."

Gareth:
He had just started a PhD in Viticulture [inaudible 00:16:24]. Yeah, we started hanging out and he came on with us for a bit, and helped me out with everything in terms of organics, and thinking about things on a broader scale in the vineyard. Back in the day he'd write me a long list of things, what we wanted to do. And I'd look at it and be like "Come on, man. Can you prioritize these? We've only got a certain amount of money and a certain amount of time, and I don't know how we're going to do all that sort of stuff."

Gareth:
And he... Buddy, do you want to go outside and ride your bike for a bit? Okay, can you not kick the table? Is that okay? Please? We'll see how that goes.

Gareth:
So we had these long lists of things, and it's only really now, this Winter, where I feel like we've actually been able to tick off most of those things on the list.

Ben:
Oh, great.

Gareth:
It's taken that many years to get to a point where we're organized and we're sort of in control of certain parts of the business. To then be able to start biodynamics properly, and start carbo-cropping properly. And look at changing the way the vineyards are pruned on a bigger scale. Not just hoping that we'll finish the pruning before [inaudible 00:17:35] happens, whereas now you can actually be like "Cool, we've got those two months, and that's what we've got to do," and do it.

Gareth:
So without Dyl and Mark, it would have been painful. And it gets addictive because you make Pinot out of one vineyard, and you're like "Eh, I'm not really that into that Pinot, to an extent. But it makes it funny in that style [inaudible 00:17:56] but I want to make something else, and oh look, there's another vineyard. [crosstalk 00:17:58] take that one on, and then take that one on." And now it's sort of got to a point... luckily, in this region, we've got to a point now where people are really into organics. And a lot of the bigger companies who have been living the dream, up here, in terms of grape pricing and lease pricing, things like that with these smaller... because Adelaide Hills, there's not huge, expansive vineyards up in this part of the hills. Because it's so hilly and steep.

Gareth:
A lot of the vineyards are around a hectare or so, that are owned by someone who's got a house and they put in a vineyard. And then they leased it out to one of the bigger companies, or they lease it out to a farm share system with a viticulturist who then sold the grapes off to whoever. And these guys were getting hardly any money. There's lots more vineyards coming up now in some great spots. It's good because people are really interested in organics. It's sort of got to the point now where people are approaching [inaudible 00:19:00] to farm it organically, because they live there and they want to live in a spot that's like that. But I guess that's more of a global thing, in general. People are sort of waking up now to the fact that maybe we should be caring a bit more, and understanding a bit better.

Gareth:
I think we'll get... hopefully I guess, there's that idea that people want to get better, they want to do organics, they want to eat healthier food or fish that are from a decent place, or caught sustainably. Or whatever you want to call it. But whether that can overcome the greed of capitalists' lifestyles, off to buy a new car every three years and go on your holidays overseas. Whether that trumps the... what is going to trump, what is going to be... that's going to be the real question, I think.

Ben:
Yeah I think it's certainly changing. Whether it's coming from the market, or people wanting to care for the soil. We had the same thing in Margaret River, I couldn't get the fruit that I wanted to get. So that's why we doubled down and bought the vineyard that we did, and converted it ourselves. But this was the first year that I can remember in, I think it's 20 years of vintages down there, where there was certified organic fruit for sale, that you could buy. Perhaps there was some here and there, a couple of years ago. But this year... and then I got offered more again. I didn't, there's only so much we can take of course. But it just shows how it is switching. There was zero when we were trying to start up.

Gareth:
Exactly. That's the same story here. From between 2015 to now, it's got massive. And that's been driven by a lot of guys around here as well, who have taken on leases, or wanting to pay more for fruit. In the beginning, for us to get one of our neighbors to go organic, we tried talking about it. And tried to say "This is what we'd like," and things like that, and it just came down to money.

Gareth:
And we're lucky and in a position where we're small enough, we're in a boutiquey style of the market where we get decent prices for our wines, and they're in small volume so we can always sell them out. It's not like we're trying to sell 10,000 cases of something. With that price point, as you know, an extra $1 on a bottle, means an extra $850 for the grower, for every ton. So the way we saw it is like, instead of selling wines for $16 wholesale, let's sell them for $20 and give the grower $3,500 a ton.

Gareth:
And then it's in their own interest to go organic. And that's what people call up now. I was thinking last night, it's like someone calls me up and they don't really give a fuck about organics or anything, they just know they get more money from me if they farm it organically. And that's what they do. And I'm willing to cop that. If that's all it's going to take. And I think we can convince people, and I think people will be happy to pay an extra $1. Not because they're going to see me on Instagram on my yacht, in Bali, drinking cocktails.

Ben:
No, you just send them to me privately.

Gareth:
Exactly! That's in our text message chain. I save up all my old pictures of me in the vineyard, digging holes, for when I'm in Bali, and I post them then.

Ben:
You have to put the old shorts on.

Gareth:
Yeah, and to be able to pay... for us to get more people employed in our business to help us... I guess, not grow, but more to be able to spend more time with the vineyards and farming, and looking after the cellar a bit more. Not that we don't look after it at the moment, but we can't do everything. We're producing 50,000 bottles a year and we're doing everything. Well obviously, the leases that we have, that only accounts between 40 and 60% of what we produce. The rest is bought fruit that I buy from... let's say from my neighbors now. Because they're kids making it, and they need every grape they can get. But there's a lot of other growers up around here that are organic, and I can buy fruit from them. So that helped us grow to an extent, because you can't do everything.

Ben:
No. And especially when you're growing and doing it yourself. It's just a game of compromises. It's like "Well I can't quite mow that vineyard today, so let's skip the mowing. And it's going to look ugly and we'll do it later. Let's go to the pub. The footy's on." And then as you grow and get better, you can afford to... you get the vineyard at least in a way that you understand the seasons, and what needs to be done when, and you can put more concentration here or there. People help you. It's good.

Gareth:
And it's always been the dream, and it's sort of getting to that point around... it feels like now, I feel a bit more comfortable with things. Obviously you've still got to work and keep going but it sort of feels like now, that we can relax a bit about the stressful side of some things. Like where we're sourcing our grapes from, or sales and things like that.

Gareth:
It's now like we know how we can do these things, we've just got to keep on doing it. And push harder, and now we can start refining... or, not so much the vineyards and the wine making but, almost maturing to an extent? Having time now to think. Instead of doing everything at 98%, we can try and push to do everything at the 100% rate that we want. That's always the dream, but as you said it's a total compromise at the moment. And then you have a bugger of vintage, like the one we just had, when there's no fruit.

Ben:
And why was that? Because all of your fruit comes only from the Adelaide Hills region?

Gareth:
Yeah. Just from literally... so we have the vineyards that we farm, there's two in Norton Summit, there's one in Ashton, there's-

Ben:
Which one is near the pub we went to last night?

Gareth:
Ashton. Well that's actually all of them. There's two Norton Summit and Ashton. They sort of surround the pub. Very convenient. And then if you're driving from those vineyards to my other vineyards, one in Piccadilly and one in Forest Range, you also drive past another pub, if you need a beer at that time of day.

Ben:
Is that how you choose your vineyards, mainly? Is it based on the terroir of the pubs that are closest?

Gareth:
100%. 100% yeah. And where the police are likely to be. But these vineyards, for me to get to a vineyard, I think, "I want to build to get there..." for example, it's hot. Or something is in the middle of the season. I can cruise around and see all my vineyards, and walk them all. In one day, I can do everything, pretty much. And it's because I'm only driving 10 minutes. Then 10 minutes to the next one. Then 5 minutes to the next one. And I feel like that's important. And plus, we're here, and we're on top of the hill here in Basket Range, and we get the weather systems. You can just see it, you can stand up behind my house and just watch it all come in. Which is good and bad sometimes.

Ben:
No sleep tonight!

Gareth:
Yeah, well it's like that. The reason why it's such a shocking vintage this last year... okay, when I say shocking, just volume-wise we're down 50%. But the quality is better than I've seen it, probably since around 2016, was the last high quality year for us. And this was a banging year for... especially for Pinot, which is more than 50% of what we do. It's kind of relaxing and good to feel that we've got a lot of really nice Pinot in the shed this year.

Gareth:
The day we went... we'd finished the pruning, we'd finished the wire-lifts, the green thinning, and we'd done a mow with sprayers. And Rainbo and I, we were going to go on holiday to go see my parents who live in the US, and Rainbo's best friend lives in Canada. So that's a two and half week trip. And then also to meet our New York importers. And we planned it then, because it's before Christmas. And it always rains here during Christmas, New Years time. And I'm like "I don't want to be away then." Because that's when we've lost [crosstalk 00:26:44] to disease over the years. And now I'm here, or I'm somewhere else and really grumpy.

Gareth:
We flew over there, and that day we were flying out, I was looking at the radar and it was like Storm-ageddon. Right behind our plane as we were flying to Sydney to jump on the plane over the Canada. And just seeing this wall of chaos for a few days. And sure enough, hail, heavy winds. And we had also then... because I thought I was so organized this year, I'll get the second wire-lift up. And of course the little fingers were just sticking above the second wire, and they all snapped off. And when I got back the laterals were already pretty big.

Ben:
And you've got to go and do some more green thinning.

Gareth:
Yeah. Well we didn't. Well, we did a fair bit of hedging, more than we've normally done. But I think over that period, it was obvious that with... the hail wasn't so much of a problem. It was more, I think, the wind and the rain, and the cold weather. And it just kept... right at that moment when the Chardonnay was flowering, we copped it real hard with Chardonnay. It was sadly one of those years where we got a bumper Sauvignon Blanc crop, and a Bugger All Chardonnay crop. So I hope everyone loves Sauvignon Blanc because we've gone from being a one or two ton Sauvignon Blanc producer, now to accounting for about 30% of our production.

Ben:
Really?

Gareth:
We've got three Savvy vineyards now, mate!

Ben:
Time to move to New Zealand!

Gareth:
Yeah. Well the thing is Adelaide Hills was planted to sparkling, so Pinot Chard, Pinot Meunier. And Sauvignon Blanc. So where we are up here, that would account for 95% of the plantings.

Ben:
And what was that driven by? Shaw and Smith?

Gareth:
Shaw and Smith with the Sauvignon Blanc, and then Brian Croser and those guys with the sparkling. And they put in... a lot of the vineyards which started getting planted early 80s. A lot of the vineyards were put in by Brian Croser for the Petaluma stuff. And then obviously Shaw and Smith came along a little bit later than that, and Sauvignon Blanc started popping up everywhere. Then with the success that Stephen George had at Ashton Hills with Pinot, a lot of Pinot vineyards were then planted for red wine as well, after that. And that's what accounts for most of the stuff up here.

Gareth:
So when I drive through, between here and say, Stirling, and I've got to drive through the valley, all the vineyards you see... there's some real sexy vineyards in my sights, and Sauvignon Blanc. And for years, I'm like "I'm not make fucking Sauvignon Blanc." And eventually I'm like "You know what? I actually had a few cracking Sauvignon Blancs." Not from here, so much. There are some good Sauvignon Blancs made up here, but more richer, riper styles coming out of France which I was just loving.

Gareth:
We took over one beautiful Chardonnay vineyard in Ashton, and there was a tiny block of Sauvignon Blanc. And I made a little bit, and I'm like "I actually really like that. It's quite good." And I think maybe Sauvignon Blanc could work up here. So now we've found a few beautiful blocks, one in Ashton, one in Norton Summit and one in Summertown. And we make Sauvignon Blanc in every way possible, just to see what we can do.

Ben:
I was just about to ask.

Gareth:
Especially this year, it just kept on coming off. And we'd be like "Really?" I'd go back out in the vineyard and be like "What? We're only halfway through? We've just picked like a million [inaudible 00:29:56] of Sav Blanc!" And we can only press so much, and there's only so much I was willing to have a crack at. And this year, we've done direct press stuff which is my preferred thing. A few days skin contact, then stuff that's a few weeks. Some carbonics, some de stemmed. And I don't know. And it was ripe as fuck.

Ben:
Really?

Gareth:
Which is what I wanted it. The owner was calling me and he's like "Man, what are you doing? Are you going to pick these grapes, or what? You're not going to just leave these are you?" And I'm like "No, no. No. As soon as they stop smelling like a Sauvignon Blanc when I walk through the vineyard, then we're ready to pick." We want them to be beautiful golden. So they were between 13 and 14.5%. Because we picked over three weeks as well.

Ben:
Sure. And the acids are still pretty tight?

Gareth:
Yeah. You can have a try if you want. It's interesting. The carbonic stuff is a bit wild.

Ben:
So what flavors are you getting out of that? We've done carbonic with Shannon before, and we do lots of treatments... treatments is a bad word, but with Savvy. We even air dry some and skin ferment that. That's real wacky. So what does carbonic Savvy look like?

Gareth:
Really aromatic. Super aromatic. And it's sort of tropical to an extent. But there's more to it, it's not that sort of real... and because we're letting things go through full malic fermentation as well... it's hard to explain. For me, they no longer so much represent Sauvignon Blanc to an extent. They start looking more like some of the Italian skin contact wines that are not so much aromatic, but more that texture in the mouth. It's not like a darkness in the wine but it's like this...

Ben:
Weight?

Gareth:
Yeah. And real earthy feels, and it's great. It's interesting to see what it does. Last year we had... I could show you some of the barrels. They're all labeled as Vino Bianco Matarto because we had an Italian intern. And he was like "Can we just do some skin contact wines?" Because he knows I'm like ... I've known him for years, Ally and Daniel, because they used to work at a wine bar in London, they used to sell our wines. And they came out here and they were really push... all the wines they'd bring, they were super generous interns. They'd rock up for dinner, and they'd go to the shops and buy wine. Normally, interns, they're like-

Ben:
Drank all the beer in the fridge by the time you get home?

Gareth:
Yeah, and they text you "Can you get more beer?" Or "Out of wine." And these guys, most of the interns would be hinting at wanting to... "Have you got any [inaudible 00:32:31]?" These guys would go to the shop and buy things, and I'd be like "Yeah, right! Let's give that a go." And you could see they were definitely trying to push me. So by the end I'm like "All right, we've got so much Sauvignon Blanc, how about we just do some Italian wine?" And Ally and Daniel ran with it, and it was good. Who knows?

Ben:
So are you going to bring them all together as one blend?

Gareth:
No. We'll make a pure Sauvignon Blanc for me, and then we'll let Alessandro blend up the rest.

Ben:
So he's still around at the moment?

Gareth:
Yeah. Well he did the wise thing and went up to Queensland, and he's been sitting on the beach for a while.

Ben:
How'd he get that job?

Gareth:
Yeah. Well he spent last Winter... when they first arrived they did Vintage with Xavier, down in Victoria. Then they pruned all Winter at Ngeringa, and green pruned. So they did the hard yards. Now they're actually coming back to redo that. Sadly, not going to prune with me but Erinn got them back which is...but you know, it's still nice to hang out and it's good they're around.

Ben:
Yeah, that's great. Just to get it straight in my head, 2014 was the first release? Or the first vintage? Or?

Gareth:
2013, I made some wine and I did sell it. But back then I was printing labels on the printer and gluing them on, and getting whatever free bottles I could find out of wherever.

Ben:
You probably chipping the trees to make the paper?

Gareth:
Oh, mate. It was next level back then. But we got it done. But '14 was the first proper release, when I actually got labels printed by a label house, and actually bought my own bottles which was good. And '14, we got lucky, it was like the perfect year for the style of wines we wanted to make. And especially back then. Just really light, drinkable [inaudible 00:34:21] wines. And that was when it was first sort of starting in Australia, about then, where things were looking a bit lighter, a bit more lifted. A little bit more wild than what we'd seen before. And we got lucky. The wines all turned out beautifully in that year. It was a real light year. The Pinots all looked like rosé, and it was sort of at that moment of Australian natural wine to an extent. We just got... right place, right time for us.

Ben:
Great.

Gareth:
And they sold out in three seconds, and it was-

Ben:
And where did they sell? Were you doing all the sales?

Gareth:
Yeah. So I went over... luckily back then, when I was starting out, guys like Anton and James, and Tom, took me on trips with them. And went around and met people, and sort of sold wines that way. And had no idea what the hell I was doing. It was fun. It was good, and the wines... we just went straight to restaurants and bars. And ever since then, we still to this day, have really strong relationships with the first people that bought my wines. And I still see them every year.

Ben:
Great. Who's that?

Gareth:
Guys like [inaudible 00:35:24] Sydney, and Love, Tilly Devine. So it was super. And Christian McCabe who was, at that time, at Town Mouse. And now he's actually my distributor down in New South Wales and Victoria. He's got Puncheon Bottles and now he's got Embla as well. And the guys back then who were working the floor at Town Mouse are now the guys on the road selling wines, because they've grown up and got families and kids. And they can't do the all-nighters anymore, so they do the all-dayers selling our wine. And it's good. It's a really nice, tight community that first met back then, that we still have quite a close relationship with, which is good.

Ben:
I know for me... did you ever have a moment where you might have been out to dinner with Rainbo or someone, not saying that you were out to dinner with someone behind Rainbo's back of course, but out somewhere, and without knowing it, someone's ordered your wine and-

Gareth:
Yeah, on the table next to you?

Ben:
Yeah?

Gareth:
Yeah, that was always good.

Ben:
Did you stand up and go "Oh hey, did you know I"-

Gareth:
No, I'm not that sort of guy. Sometimes I got people who would just force it in my face. They'd be like "Can you go to that table and talk to them?" And I'm like "I'm here for dinner, man." I'm not fricking getting paid to do that.

Ben:
It's a pretty weird feeling when you pick up a bottle and then look at the label, and you're like "Oh, my God, this is how it's all"-

Gareth:
I know. Well luckily, I think they've shielded me when people have sent them back, and they were like "We can't drink that." But no it's been... it is a strange feeling. I hate seeing people drink my wine. I even struggle to open my wine when people come to my house, to an extent. I enjoy drinking my wine, or some of them anyway, at home with Rainbo to have a look at things, or as it is. But what you've put into a bottle, it's a combination of, for example, this wine here, 2018. We've started working on it in June 2017 with the pruning. Then you bottle it in 2019.

Gareth:
And by that stage, you know you've had to deal with multiple vintages, and you're starting to think about the next vintage. And I think everything gets a bit lost, and then you sort of look at it and you're like "I'm selling 2018s but I've just made 2019s, and I'm just starting on the vineyard work for 2020." And you've got two years of looking back and being like "I fucked that up, didn't I." And then you serve it to people and you look, and you're just like "All I see is..." and that is one of the problems with wine, and the wine community in general, is it's very negative way of whether it's judging wines, or critiquing wines, or social media posts and things like this. There's obviously positive stuff, but I think the way people critique wines, it's always in a negative way.

Gareth:
They see the faults before they see the beauty a lot of the time. They're like "That's faulty," or "that's that, and that's that." They can't see past it. And I think having that from day one, and feeling like that's what it was like, when you see someone ordering your bottle of wine, you're like "Man, they're going to hate that." And you sort of start apologizing, it's really weird! You're like "It wasn't the best year, that one," And stuff. It's a weird feeling. But maybe that's just me. I should just get over it.

Ben:
No, I think because you put so much of your own energy and emotion into doing it... it's a very personal thing making the wine, and to have someone potentially not enjoy it, it's hard not to take it personally.

Gareth:
Yeah. Because we're not like a... I mean, we are a legal company, don't get me wrong. But it's not like we're something without a face, you know? If the wine is shit, they're going to blame me. They're not going to be like "That bloody winery." They're going to be like "That Gareth bloke has no idea what he's doing." And you know, I'd be like "Fine. That's cool if you don't like it. That's good. It's your choice." But it's a fucking painful thing.

Ben:
So this skin fermented Sav Blanc, we... you can take [crosstalk 00:39:20]... this skin fermented Sav Blanc that we made one back in 2010, we made one in '09 and it was a bit rubbish. Hey?

Gareth:
[inaudible 00:39:28] leaders of the pack?

Ben:
Well the problem was, is we had it in a dark bottle. It was from our first release and we called it Blind Corner Margaret River Sauvignon Blanc. And I'd go up to the city to try and sell it, and people would read the label and expect it to be from that time. So there was nothing really crazy around Margaret River at that point, to that extent. So they'd pour it in a glass and it would be yellow and cloudy. And they would go "Hang on, Margaret River Sauvignon Blanc?" And we've got sort of militant Sauvignon Blanc drinkers returning bottles to us. So that was pretty hard.

Ben:
I remember going to Perth to sell wine. And I'd go up, sometimes overnight on a couch or somewhere, and I did a fortnight where I went up trying to sell these wines that we'd made. And came back after a fortnight, back to the house, Naomi, newborn baby, mortgage. Both got no job because I've just jumped into it full-time. There's just no money coming in. And I hadn't sold one bottle in two weeks. And just got back going "What's going on?" And then returns were coming because this skin ferment wasn't understood. And I'm thinking "I'm going around this the wrong way." So over time, things changed. There was a few key moments-

Gareth:
In terms of what?

Ben:
Just, I guess you could say, certain wine lists or sommes who decided to take a punt on it. And then they happen to be the ones that are the influencers, and then people go "Oh, that's interesting." We also took Sauvignon Blanc off the label, and changed-

Gareth:
Yeah? I did that with my first year as well. I took Merlot off the label because I couldn't sell a freaking bottle. Took Merlot off it and yeah-

Ben:
People understood it. We had to take Margaret River off in the end, so then there was no pre-conceived ideas. It was just Blind Corner Governo, which is... Naomi and I were taking turns going through Jancis Robinson's Wine Encyclopedia trying to find a word that sort of described what we were trying to do.

Gareth:
And what does it mean?

Ben:
Got to G, which was Governo. If I remember correctly, it's an old Tuscan wine making technique from the 14th century. I think they would air-dry grapes into raisins, and keep them in case they had a stuck ferment. Then they could pitch in a bunch of sugar to restart it.

Gareth:
Yeah, right?

Ben:
We were doing sort of that? But we got to G and we thought that was close enough, and chucked it in.

Gareth:
Couldn't be bothered going through the rest of the alphabet.

Ben:
It's a big book!

Gareth:
Yeah [crosstalk 00:41:48] it's massive!

Ben:
And then over time, we sort of... the first ones we did were quite aggressive in the way of tannins, like red wines. And then we started to work out how to move it more into texture, and what not. So we were getting better as well. It was pretty aggressive at the start.

Gareth:
Yeah, but now your wines are probably seen as too clean.

Ben:
Yeah, mate. Too boring.

Gareth:
What's happened in 10 years-

Ben:
In the world.

Gareth:
It's crazy, isn't it?

Ben:
It is.

Gareth:
It's been one hell of a journey to watch.

Ben:
Yeah. What are we drinking?

Gareth:
All right. Yep, yep. This is some of the Ashton Chardonnay from '18.

Ben:
Oh, cool. So is it just one vineyard?

Gareth:
Yeah.

Ben:
Oh, I see. Cool. That's Rick's?

Gareth:
Rick's vineyard. And that on the front is Wendy the ostrich, who... Rick is a special human being. He sort of planted a vineyard and then... he was, back then, like "I'll put chardonnay in, everything's about Australian Chardonnay." And then suddenly everything was about Sauvignon Blanc. So there's a Chardonnay block, there's a little Sauvignon Blanc block, and then there's a block that he started converting to Sauvignon Blanc, and he couldn't be bothered. So there's a block of half Sauvignon Blanc, half Chardonnay that was just left in the field. And we took it over and rescued that block.

Gareth:
But he also... back in the day, apparently the next big thing was going to be ostrich meat because of how healthy it was. So he bought ostriches, and started raising ostriches in an enclosure next to the vineyard. And over time he'd kill them and sell them. But then the ostrich business didn't really work out, as now we have not seen any ostrich in the supermarket recently. But he couldn't kill the last one, he felt too bad. So poor Wendy has been living there now for many years, by herself, in a pen in the middle of the vineyard.

Ben:
Really?

Gareth:
And she's a bit... well I've always thought it would just be nice to buy another one and throw it in there to have a look, but she'd probably kill it. She's a bit nuts. So luckily the fence is nice and tall. But that's the reason why she's on the label.

Ben:
This is beautiful.

Gareth:
With the Chardonnay for us, that was just gently pressed, barrel fermented and left in that barrel. And racked and bottled. With a bit of sulfur at the first racking and then just before bottling as well.

Ben:
Nice.

Gareth:
With all of our whites, they're always quite textural and phenolic. Because we're not using heaps of sulfur and stuff at press, and we're not scared of oxygen. But it's a balancing act with these wines as well. With Chardonnay especially, as soon as it's gone through... all the wines go through full malolactic fermentation and if you miss a pick or you pick too late, you can get quite big balls of your round wines. And if you're not using new Oak on them as well, it's a touch and go thing. Because I love white burgundy a lot, and especially Chablis. And recently I've been... I went over to Europe so we could try some more, because obviously it's impossible to afford white burgundy in Australia, unless you are a mining billionaire.

Gareth:
So yeah, I had a look, and when you see things and you're looking... and now we've started the last 12 months, especially this harvest, experimenting with barrels. New barrels, not so much for flavor, but just having more crisper, newish barrels that are a lot cleaner and brighter for the wine. So we'll see. But I went and bought all these new puncheons, had all these Chardonnay vineyards, and then of course we get 30% of the crop we have-

Ben:
Sav Blanc?

Gareth:
- so I apologize to everyone here. We've got very Oaky Chardonnay in 2019 because, instead of it being in 15% of the new Oak blend, it's now closer to 40.

Ben:
Oh, no! That's great. I'm sure it's going to be great.

Gareth:
We'll see. Luckily we've made so many fucking bad purchases over the years, of barrels, that luckily we found that ones that work for our styles now and we stick with them. Then we have one or two experimental purchases each year, and-

Ben:
Right. So you're buying some new Oak every year? [crosstalk 00:46:14]

Gareth:
Yeah. For me, you can do all this work in the vineyard right? You can be out there and grow everything to a tee. Do the best job, spend all this time and money, and blood, sweat and tears in the vineyard. And you can bring the wines into the winery, and you can have the world's best press. But the wine spends an hour or two in the press, you know? Where the money in the cellar, for me, needs to be spent where the wine spends it's time. So for me, having good barrels and clean hoses, and a good pump-

Ben:
Don't want a dirty hose, mate.

Gareth:
Well that's why we just get a new set each year and give the other one to someone else. Which is always clean but it's more... your wine spends so much time there. If you are cheap and then go and buy a bunch of second hand, $50 barriques from someone. They're all eight, nine years old and you have no idea how they've been looked after. For me it seems just stupid. What's the point of doing all that work if then you're going to put it in some crappy barrel? And your wine is going to end up... there might be good ones, but there might be bad ones and you're taking a huge risk. It's not worth it. Otherwise, just use stainless. But I like what Oak does with whites, not so much with reds. So we're giving it a crack. But you know, what [inaudible 00:47:38] Oak barrels? You buy them and you're like "Well there goes that holiday," or "There goes that new tractor part." Or "There goes-"

Ben:
We're going to the Motel 6, we're not flying above it now.

Gareth:
Yeah, exactly! But they're expensive but they... we want to move to larger formats. So sort of have a minimum 500 liter as the base, because obviously they're still affordable puncheons to an extent. But the bigger barrels, which is what we'd like to have, are so expensive at the moment. But we'll start buying them. Because I just feel with making wine, our goal is to grow everything beautifully in the vineyard, and then bring things in here and do as little as possible in here. I'm not for sulfur, I'm not against sulfur. I'm for wines that are delicious and reflect the year and the person, and the site. And it's more, if we could do that without adding sulfur to the wines, that would be... that's the dream.

Gareth:
I think there would be a lot of winemakers [inaudible 00:48:40] would say that. I think you'd find very few who wouldn't say that, as a winemaker, being able to grow beautiful fruit and make it without any additions whatsoever, and make a beautiful wine is something that's, for me, top of the pyramid. What we want to get to. But unless things are nailed down to a tee in a winery, you're always going to take some level of risk. And that's fine, if you don't mind doing it, it's all good.

Gareth:
But for me, I struggle with wines that have serious level of mousiness or VA. I can drink most things, and I've drunk lots of wild stuff. I've made some freaky wines over the years as well, and that's fine. But not what I want. I love wines that are pure. Just something you can drink it and just go... it feels like it's not got any wine making influence, to an extent. It's more just this absolute purity in a wine. Which is I think why Chardonnay for me is something... because you just press it. You're just getting the juice. You're not affected by time with skins or things like that. But I guess-

Ben:
Well it's a big subject as well, but I tend to agree. I think if you're using sulfur, and that's stopping things like the VA and mousiness, those two things, VA and mousiness for example, are taking away from your site expression as much as... and whereas, in that situation, sulfur is going to be preserving the site.

Gareth:
I totally agree. With some of the wines, I guess it's not so much of a recipe but we know what we're going to do. We know we're going to pick it, we know we're going to make it in this way. And when it's finished it's ferment, we'll rack it, give it a bit of sulfur, send it to the bottling line and so be it. Whereas the other wines, I guess the ones... especially the Chardonnays and the bigger Pinots, it's more... I like to just leave them and see where they go.

Gareth:
And I think having the best possible barrels, they don't have to be new but they could be new from a few years ago. And we've just been stung, I've bought second hand barrels over time. And a lot have been good but there's been some shockers. And if you're making a wine like this Chardonnay here, this one from Ashton that we've got in front of us, it's four barrel blend. Last year, the one barrel was just...

Ben:
Sorry, we just got a beep in our ear. That happened before, I think it means we've gone for an hour? That's pretty good.

Gareth:
So there's four barrels and I bought a new one. And I bought a fancy one. Someone was like "No, you've got to..." I'm not going to mention the barrel company because I'm sure they're all nice people and they mean well. But "You've got to buy this, it's a special barrel made for Chardonnay. And it's out of burgundy, and stuff." And I'm like "Sick." It's really expensive, and I'm like "Yeah, all right. I'll buy it." Had a look and it was the worse fucking barrel. It was disgusting. It was the best combination of vanilla and coconut, and pineapple juice, in a wine.

Ben:
Really?

Gareth:
And I was like "Wow. Cool."

Ben:
Pina Coladas.

Gareth:
Well we had five barrels and then the wine ended up being four, because you can't put that in your wine. You can't drink it. It was undrinkable wine. I'm sure someone would love it. But for me, I'm like "That's it. So much for that experiment." That's the last barrique we ever buy, for sure. And the last barrel we buy from that company. But it's frustrating. Especially with a lot of these wines, there are only three puncheons of it, or two puncheons of it. And it's frustrating when you buy something and you... we are at the end of the Earth here. I'm not going to say it's a conspiracy against us, but whenever I see Export on anything barrel-wise, I'm like "Oh, fuck [crosstalk 00:52:15]"

Ben:
Like Emu Export?

Gareth:
Yeah exactly! And I'm like "Oh, God." So I'm willing to work with... we've worked with, now, a few companies. We're using stockages and [inaudible 00:52:27], and I just love them. For me, they're adding to the wine, they're not taking away from it. And if I whiff coconut in a barrel, it's out. It's gone. I'd rather just use it for firewood. Sometimes they get good after two to three years, but I think that... I don't know what you've seen, but once that coconut is in there, it's almost like I'm biased against that barrel and I hate it anyway. So it doesn't matter what I put in it. Maybe just fill it with Merlot because with Merlot you can't really do any wrong. You could put Merlot in anything and it just tastes like Merlot.

Ben:
Just hugs it.

Gareth:
Beautiful thing about it. But... yeah, frustrating.

Ben:
Over the years with barrels, we've bought them from a few different people. But we've sort of got a bit of a secret supplier now, which is nice. So we get three year old Chardonnay Oak consistently, and-

Gareth:
That's an old barrel at Margaret River though. That's super old.

Ben:
Yeah, it is. Yeah, that's it. Well we actually find them at the tip.

Gareth:
Someone's burnt part of it [crosstalk 00:53:18]

Ben:
Yeah, that's it. We wait there and think "Oh, big bonfire the next day." We just drive in the night before and get what we need. No, it's not quite that bad. But that's the thing is you have to buy a barrel that doesn't work with what you're trying to do. Otherwise you won't learn to not go there next time.

Gareth:
I know, but it's an expensive fuck up.

Ben:
So what do you do with that barrel?

Gareth:
I give it another chance. It's so funny, you come in here on... if it's an afternoon and I've finished work. And I go down to the winery because I want to check the bungs, and check the seals are all... you know? And everything is still okay. This time of year, especially. It's a nice time, May, June, for me are the down months, when I don't do any vineyard work, I do bottling... well we do some vineyard work, but it's just tractor work. That's quick. And come down here and you'd be like "Well I'm here. Rainbo is out with Leonard, I've got an hour. All right, I'll just try some barrels." You try and make it legit. You put your glasses in a line, and you're trying things and you're like "Those are all the Little Creek Pinot barrels," and that stuff. And now I just realized I'm really biased. I've never tried the Merlot. I don't even know what the hell it tastes like, after we've had a vintage [crosstalk 00:54:49].

Gareth:
I like Merlot but I'm not passionate about the... we make one Merlot, right? It comes from one site. And I enjoy drinking it, we make a Merlot that I think, is how Merlot, I wish, was made in a lot of places. It's old-ish Oak, and it's on skins for not too long. And it's just delicious red wine. It's not insipid and light. We pick it ripe and we make it... it's good but I just don't look at it. It's like the Sauvignon Blanc barrels, you know? You're like "Oh, yeah. I think I might try the Pinot barrels first." So it's like that. And I feel like with that barrel that we were talking about, that naughty Chardonnay barrel, I filled it up again with Ashton Chardonnay. Same vineyard, just to have a look.

Ben:
But one year old? One year later?

Gareth:
That's one year later. But I haven't tasted it.

Ben:
Really?

Gareth:
No, I'm biased. I've only got a short amount of time because I've got to go to the house and cook dinner or something, and pretend that I haven't drank five glasses of wine in the last half an hour. And I don't look at them. So who knows? We can look at it. We should look at a Merlot barrel, and that dodgy barrel, and some Sauvignon Blanc. But yeah, it's a funny one. Because I think I'm... it just depends where you're at. I remember in 2013 and 2014, I didn't make Pinot. I got some Pinot because I just was after grapes, and Anton sold me some Pinot off Jim's block. And I just chucked it with Pinot Gris. I did Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and thought "That's going to work." [crosstalk 00:56:30]. And it worked. It worked a treat.

Gareth:
And now there's like a 1,000 Pinot times three, or Pinot [crosstalk 00:56:35] on the market. For good reason. [inaudible 00:56:39] for us is Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris still. Then the Pinot bug hit. And then after that, it's pretty hard, when you've got something that we spend... and I guess to an extent, the question is still even if Pinot works up here. Because I'm not convinced that, besides a few sites through the Hills, I just think it's... if I had a plant at home now, I wouldn't put Pinot in. I'd put-

Ben:
And you are going to plant here, aren't you?

Gareth:
Yeah. We'd probably put Sangiovese in, which is another thing that I'm slowly getting my head around a bit more now. Just because it kind of feels Tuscany up here, and it's sort of warm but not too warm.

Ben:
Good clones out now too.

Gareth:
Yeah, that's exactly... you guys are lucky in WA, you've got clones of everything.

Ben:
It wasn't always like that. I think because of the quarantine laws, they just bought in a bunch of stuff at the start, and then we're all sort of stuck with it. And Sangi was one that I think everyone planted years ago, and it ended up being a variety called Carnelian, because it was a mix up somewhere. The same thing happened with Alvarinho years later, and it was-

Gareth:
And look at that. They were lucky because they planted the trendiest grape in the world at the moment.

Ben:
And Merlot was always not too flash, in my opinion, with the clones there. But now there's great Merlot clones. Some great clones of Sangi as well.

Gareth:
Exactly. So with the Pinot, because we've got so many different sites... feels like now we're working with, including the fruit that we buy, we're working... how many is it? Two, three, four, five, six, seven... seven Pinot sites?

Ben:
Wow. You have got the bug.

Gareth:
Yeah, and just to see the difference, it's one of those things.

Ben:
And do you treat them all differently?

Gareth:
Yeah, to an extent. I'm up and down with Pinot. I don't think I've made one that I actually like so far. I just feel like there's something... you sort of do panic stations at Vintage, and you're like... but I'm a lot happier this year. Pretty much everything is 100% whole bunch in 2019. And everything is in small fermenters. Normally we ferment in those giant four tonners back there, but they just make big, dark, beasty wines.

Ben:
Yeah, so extractive, get really warped.

Gareth:
Yeah.

Ben:
And chilling on it?

Gareth:
Yeah, so we do keep them down. But they never get too hot. But obviously it's the thermal mass keeps it going, and obviously it's nice for fermentation because it gets through real quick, and it's easy to deal with. But it just hasn't worked. Because in 2018 we were a bit disorganized and there was quite a lot of fruit, we actually had to ferment in smaller things. And then looking back at the barrels, I'm like "They're all really good." They're really aromatic and bright, and not too extracted. So this year we did everything in small fermenters. And we've gone back to using some new Oak. Every year it seems different. Who knows, next year I'll probably hate all the new Oak barrels, and we'll just not buy anything.

Gareth:
So I guess, because Pinot is in all the sites up here, all around the place, you see the difference. And same with Chardonnay, same thing. And that's why when I'm down here, I'm like "Oh, I wonder what that's tasting like." And you can see it, they are treated the same way. With Scary Gully, Little Creek, [inaudible 01:00:02], and Norton Summit, they're all 100% whole bunch. Made the same way in the one ton fermenters. And they've gone into similar Oak. So we'll see. It'll be an interesting exercise.

Gareth:
And I've always loved that idea of making single site Pinot Chardonnay, or anything really, doesn't matter what it is, but it's just what we've up through this part of Adelaide Hills. And making them same way and expressing it, it's something that's not really done that much in Australia. We just make wines and they're not vineyard specific to an extent. Anton did it in the beginning. Mack's always done them, which I've loved. His wines over the years, to be able to sit down and be like... you can sit down with him and look at five Pinots and five Chardonnays, and just go "Fuck. That's just beautiful to see." And explain it with the aspects and the year. That's something we just decided now that we would do. And I think I'd probably just get too bored if I just had one Pinot vineyard, and making one wine.

Gareth:
Which is what happened with Scary Gully, so now I've got these little ones here and there. We're lucky. They're all old-ish clones, we've got none of the fancy ones, so much. But they work well, they've been here for so long. There's some clones, of course I'd love to get rid of. But when you've got two hectares of it, it's a bit hard to be like "Yeah, just chop it all and do something else." Because the bank doesn't like that one. They're like "So you're going to make no wine from that vineyard, and it's going to cost you heaps to graft and..." "Yeah, that's a good idea, isn't it?"

Ben:
"And no money will come back from it for five years."

Gareth:
Yeah, exactly!

Ben:
"That's what we're thinking, yeah."

Gareth:
Yeah. You can see why, if you sit back and look at it, you're like "Yeah, I guess I can understand why they'd say no. I would say no." And I should say no to myself. But as you know what it's like with wine making, money comes in, money goes out.

Ben:
Yeah, you just try and grab some of it on the way.

Gareth:
Yeah. Somewhere.

Ben:
For a holiday. So do you have any plan for next? Are you just rolling with it? Seeing what's happening?

Gareth:
Yeah. I'd like to build a new winery.

Ben:
Cool. Here? On site?

Gareth:
Maybe. We'll see.

Ben:
Mysterious.

Gareth:
Yeah. Well plant here. We've got about four acres we can plant here. It's steep as all hell, so whether we do it or not, we're not sure. So that's always the other option, is to maybe buy a bit of land that's a bit flatter. And we can build a winery and put in a vineyard. We've got someone coming on full-time from next month, which is a big change for us. So good luck to them.

Ben:
That's amazing.

Gareth:
Yeah. Sort of feel all grown up. I'll be a boss. Well, Rainbo's the boss, sorry. Not me. And I think for us, there's that side of things, and then we sort of mentioned briefly before, now we're farming all the blocks bio dynamically. And we are going to get them all certified. And that's going to be... now that we have some one helping, and my wine is getting bottled offsite, I've got time to fill out some paperwork and pay people more money.

Ben:
Nice.

Gareth:
But it's been important to us from day one. So we've got the time and, not so much the money but we'll find it to do it. But it's worth it for me. It's part of growing up, and I think in general, natural wine in Australia will have to grow up and everyone is going to have to come on board and do that I think, over time.

Ben:
I think so, yeah. I tend to agree with that. It's so hard. The to and fro with certification. At one point, it was like "Do we even put it on the label?" And then you put it on the label and it's like "Should we take it off the label?" Every time we put the symbol on the bottle, it's 1% of turnover. So there's the financial part of that as well. But I think you're right. Everything is just progressing, it started off-

Gareth:
Yeah. And I think once you get to a certain threshold, of number of people doing it, everyone's just going to follow suit. And for me, that's more important than probably most other things argue about with natural wine. Whether it's filtered or where it's got sulfur or not. For me, until we deal with the vineyard side of things, I think it's totally irrelevant, those sort of conversations. That's a personal preference but it's not something that... if someone starts asking about sulfur at a tasting, I just give them the answer, but I get semi-annoyed.

Gareth:
Because I'm like "But you could have asked me about the vineyard." What's more important? Me farming or do you just want me to go and buy whatever fruit, and not add sulfur to it? Because I can do that for you. Trust me. I can go and get a $500 ton fruit from somewhere, make some cloudy thing, put sulfur in, and sell it to you if you want to pay $20. I'm ready to go for that. You know? It's not been the dream. And I'm not saying anyone is right or anyone is wrong. But for me the important thing is step one, and that's the farming.

Gareth:
And there's a lot of assumptions with natural wine. Everyone just assumes that everything is bio dynamic or whatever it is, and it's not. And most producers would be just buying fruit. And there's nothing wrong with that. I know it's expensive. Look around here, to buy a block of land is going to cost you a million bucks. And that's unaffordable for most people that are starting out. And I totally get it why, there's nothing wrong with buying grapes. But you could pay your growers a bit more and they can get certified. It would make them feel happier, they would have a better product that they can sell on the market if you go away or leave them, or whatever. So it's beneficial for-

Ben:
Yeah, I think it's helping to improve the region, improve the farming practices. By you paying that little bit more and converting things. As you say, even if you do walk away, you've left the world a better place.

Gareth:
Yeah, and hopefully the guy then gets someone knocking on his door and paying good money for fruit. Not just going back to spraying herbicides because it's all too hard.

Ben:
Yeah, that's it. Nice, mate. So anything else? I think I'll go try that Singa Colada barrel.

Gareth:
Yeah. And some Sauvignon Blanc and Merlot. Aren't you lucky?

Ben:
Saved the good stuff for me.

Gareth:
You've come all this way from Margaret River to try Merlot and Sav Blanc. But you know, you could tell me where I've fucked up.

Ben:
So people can find you on Instagram if they want to buy your wine? Can they buy it from the website?

Gareth:
Yeah, most of the time I'm in Bali on my yacht, so-

Ben:
Oh, cool. That's right, we've got to talk about that, because I've got to bring all that burgundy up for you.

Gareth:
Yeah, that's right. Yeah.

Ben:
For the carry on.

Gareth:
Yeah. That's what I do most the time so-

Ben:
I'm your burgundy mule.

Gareth:
When I get email reception, I'll get back to people. So yeah, we're pretty easy to find. We don't really have visitors to the winery because the winery is part of our house, so it's a bit hard. And that means I have to clean up and make it look legit, and not be grumpy.

Ben:
God, we just did that 12 months ago.

Gareth:
I know, I can't believe you guys... that's pretty amazing!

Ben:
Opened to the public. I've got to be nice to people. And then, as you said, keep the place clean. We've got lawn!

Gareth:
But it feels good? It's going pretty well though, isn't it?

Ben:
Yeah, it's great. We didn't really know what to expect but, I don't know. Been selling wine since 2010, so like 9 years. And then when we opened the gates, we're like... couple of Instagram posts, "We've opened a cellar door." There was a bit of a build up as we were digging holes and stuff. And it's not fancy, it's just a big table in the shed. It's gone great for us. It's awesome.

Gareth:
Well people couldn't get up our driveway, that's probably their problem.

Ben:
Yeah, it's a crazy driveway.

Gareth:
That's right, keeps them out. Them and everyone else. But yeah, if you want to find us, the wines are available everywhere. On the website or give me a call.

Ben:
Give him a call. I won't give your number out.

Gareth:
We've got a pretty... well I stupidly put it on my boxers.

Ben:
Oh, do you?

Gareth:
No, I did. Until that was a bad idea. Then I was like "Why the hell would I do that?" I was an idiot. But you know, one of those things you learn, right?

Ben:
Yeah, that's it. Well thanks, mate. We'll go try some barrels and you can get off to the footy.

Gareth:
Sounds good. We won't make it to the footy, let's be honest.

Ben:
Yeah. All right, I'm pushing stop. How? That one?

Ben:
Well I hope you enjoyed that conversation with Gareth from Gentle Folk. You can find show-notes, links, and occasionally a transcript at our website, realwinepeople.com. Don't forget to please rate and review, and we'll catch up next time. Thanks again. Bye for now.

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