The man changing the face of Western Australian wine...
Small Batch wine is what we are after. Not just any Small Batch wine. The most exciting. The most ground-breaking. The undiscovered and the unpretentious. We are taking a journey of discovery as we unearth the personality, the passionate and the purpose that goes into the creation.
Day 1. Western Australia. Perth. To some, it is a thriving outpost far, far away from the hustle and bustle of the finance-oriented east coast. To others it is the heart of Australia’s real workhorse and money spinner, the mining industry. Either way, Perth as a city offers an approachable and relaxed culture. The people are blessed with a California-like climate that oozes dry and lasting sunshine (cue 9pm sunsets), some of Australia’s best beaches and an abundance of fertile land to the North and South. Combine these enviable factors with a thriving food and beverage scene and you have yourself a belter of a city.
After a morning of meetings and positive discussions in Perth, we head down to where the magic happens - 2 hours south of Perth. On the way down to Margaret River we stop in at Mazza Wines just outside Donnybrooks where David and Anne are expecting us. As we drive up the 1km gravel driveway towards the house the western sunset is creeping through the tallest of gum tree’s that surround the 2-hectare vineyard. David is up in the veggie patch (not slang for the vineyard, a genuine veggie patch about four times the size of the average Hong Kong apartment) with his two young children - for them, the current crop of cucumbers and roma tomato’s they are going to sell at the farmer’s market is far more important than the stuff dad grows on surrounding vines. David greets us with excitement and takes us, with the kids in tow for expert commentary, for a grand tour… of the veggie patch. The kids love it. It’s theirs and there is nothing more important. Refreshing and genuine.
Ann greets us with a bottle of Rosé (Mazza’s finest, of course) and it’s time to look around their impressive property. David is a passionate man, a man that takes an enormous amount of pride in the vineyard that he hand planted back in 2002 - he oozes excitement as he walks us through each of his six Spanish and Portuguese varieties. Yep, you read right, 100% Spanish and Portuguese varieties. This is a not a trial block in front of the house to show the visitors, or some marketing gimmick to get people interested in the more traditional varieties of Margaret River in Chard, SSB or Cab Sav - all David and Ann grow is Spanish and Portuguese varieties. When quizzed on the rational behind this bold, bold experiment both Anne and David talk of their time living in Europe together; their time backpacking as individuals in their formative years; their time falling in love with the Spanish countryside, people and wine; and most importantly their desire to see these impressive varieties thrive in David’s native Donnybrook region. Without going deep into Wine Wanker territory, the diversity of soil on the property is something to behold - from a shallow clay at the base of the hill, to a deep, rich chocolate base that rises to the top of the eastern facing vineyard. His unique block offers the perfect test bed for experimentation from a varietal and terroir point of view - it is no wonder that he has the CSIRO listed as the most frequent visitor, along with a number of unnamed yet high profile local producers.
David’s excitement levels (and mine) nearly reach fever pitch as we head inside to crack a few bottles. Ann fires up the BBQ while David and I debate which of his eight currently available collections of vintages and varieties we should try - we decide on all eight. Dinner is set. Pork Chops and salad on the veranda. This was a treat, a real treat.
Onto the wines. They were exceptional. Whilst I had my favourites (David refused to name his own, I get the impression he would sooner pick a favourite child than wine), to accept all eight into our eclectic array at Wine Brothers HQ would not be hard. If we are talking specific’s then let’s talk about a 2015 Touriga - hand picked, 240 cases only - my favourite. Think dark berries, think toffee like aromatics, think smooth and lasting finish. A bloody good looking wine in the glass with deep, alluring and bold red colour. If we want to go further into the small batch side of things then let’s talk about the 2011 Tinta Cao. Anyone else had one of these out of Australia? I thought not. Dave is the only one to produce an unblended Tinta in Australia. 45 Cases only made. A learning experience for me, and a truly memorable moment getting it served by the man bold enough to initiate the (successful) experiment himself. Over the next few hours we sat on the front porch and solved (most) of the world’s problems - whilst we made progress the dull roar of our conversation was enough to put the once energetic young veggie farmers to sleep. Tonight was a great chance to get to know some of the most passionate and enthusiastic small batch producers. Small batch production is not a side project for David and Ann, it is a life choice, and a choice they have embraced with unrivalled enthusiasm and passion.
Maybe our eager wine club members will able to extract his favourite when David presents his wines to our small batch loves later this year in Hong Kong… Watch this space.