A Note from Christian
If around 80% of all wine produced in Australia comes from larger corporations, it is at the smaller level of operators that we will find producers moving laterally from the masses, moving more freely and sometimes dwelling on fringes in terms of stylistic expression.
Australians tend to cultivate that sense of underdog, rustic-cool that comes with being perceived as small, but let's not fool ourselves that everything small is, in fact, better. Many larger producers are leading in terms of quality but are equally responsible for the sea of bland wines found discounted on your bottle floor stack.
However, if I put together a list of the most exciting wines I've tried in the past year, an overwhelming majority would be the work of producers with just a handful of hectares. Because they tend to have a more intimate relationship with their vines, small producers are more likely to get their wine to transmit that elusive quality that can only come from a particular place, often a conversation with a different dialogue, a sense of authenticity from a particular patch of dirt.
Not having to answer to the rigours of the quarterly sales report, smaller producers are more likely to take risks, whether it's seeking out unfashionable varieties, or trying out radical new wine-growing or wine techniques or even staying true to old-style winemaking. Many in Australia even take an anti-establishment stance making natural wines that defy the corporate attitude and philosophy of the giants' conglomerate producers.
Admittedly, happiness can be found in both camps, but it is at the smaller end that we will find an exploration and a renaissance in linking back with the hearth, humbly assisting nature in the vineyard and with a guiding hand in the winery to craft wines that express local typicity, a sense of place, a certain flavour that only comes from that specific site. Winemaker Marcus Satchell is one of them and has been in Gippsland for around a dozen years, having worked with many of the greats before courageously setting up on his own, well with two friends first who went later on doing other things. The Holgate Road vineyard has been in the baseline of Dirty Three's 'regular pinot noir' since 2012. There are now three single vineyard wines under the Dirty Three label, all accounting for a sense of exploration and the sharing of the local conversation between a winemaker and his vineyard.
Club and Resorts Sommelier