By Neil Prentice
I've described some of our wines recently as 'post punk'. To me, Gravner and Radikon were ‘punk’ when I drank '98 Breg with James Broadway and Kevin McArthy in 2OO2. I had grown restless as a wine consumer and this was my personal 4 June 1976 Manchester Lesser-Free-Trade-Hall, moment.
I began pissing about with unfiltered, skin-contact whites, some with, some without, SO2. Some made commercial release in small volumes, some were blended away. Some made it to lunch but not beyond. Some took on a life of their own.
'Reverse Cowgirl' thumbed its nose at the missionary position, minds and palates of the Australian wine industry.
I made Ramato-style Pinot Gris for several years and these days. Moondarra . after Kathleen puts a commercial twist on unfiltered, skin-contact northeast Italy inspired dry white wine, in a manner which mightn't frighten consumers overly. . after Kathleen doesn't overtly spit at its audience like Johnny Rotten might have, but it was there in the crowd that was. This post punk experimentation has also influenced the way I make Holly’s Garden Pinot Gris, now a wine fermented on solids, with some skin contact and incorporating its pressings component. I may even leave the 2O16 unfiltered. Maybe!
I began dancing with Nebbiolo in 1992, working at Prunotto and planting some at Moondarra. Fred Pizzini witnessed me literally dancing in some Nebbiolo in my knickers in 1994 – he still has the pictures. Almost twenty years later I drank this wine with Max Allen and others at Persillade in East Melbourne. It was astounding and inspired renewed passion for my 'post punk' version of Nebbiolo.
I've always used extended post-ferment maceration with Nebbiolo. Up until my epiphany at Persillade I'd kept Nebbiolo on skins for up to three months after primary ferment. I like the way that this extracts tannin, yet simultaneously softens it through polymerisation, changing the short-chain molecules to long-chain molecules. In 2013, I drained some Nebbiolo off-skins after three months and sent them to barrel. The remainder tasted SENSATIONAL after nine months on skins. Sadly, the variable capacity tank it was in did what variable capacity tanks do and broken seals meant wonderful vinegar.
In 2O15, I was brave enough to try again. I drained off the wine in May 2O16 to barrel and bottled it in August this year. I'm completely biased, but it's the most amazing New World Nebbiolo I've ever tried. When I drained the 2O15 I crushed the 2O16 straight in on top. Let's hope the seals survive!
In light of these extended skin-contact Nebbiolos burning my curiosity, I've ordered some Qvevry for the 2O17 vintage to find an ideal way to pursue ageing Nebbiolo on skins. Some Grigio and Friulano might find their way into one too, just out of curiosity.
So, I see my wines as ‘post punk’ because they were informed by the likes of Gravner and Radikon, but I took that inspiration and reinterpreted it with drum machines and computer programs, rather than mindlessly ape my inspiration, perhaps a little like Sumner, Hook, Gilbert and Morris did in the early ‘8O’s?
So where is the ‘punk’ wine movement now? Does it have the saccharine, and the commercial anger of Green Day, or does it still resonate like The Clash or The Sex Pistols did in 1976 and 1977? Is ‘punk’ wine of 2O16 inspired and inspiring, or is it too many generations removed from its inspiration?
My personal dance with SO2 remains a non-consensual pogo. No ones' toes are safe.