Melbourne may have been slow to catch the natural-wine spark, but it's starting to make up for lost time. And striking one of the biggest blows for artisanal winemaking in the city this winter is Soulfor Wine, an all-day party for wines made without the addition of sulphur. We spoke to co-convenors Giorgio De Maria and Campbell Burton, of Sydney's 121BC and Fitzroy's Builders Arms respectively, and both past winners of GT's Sommelier of the Year award, to get a preview taste.
Cam, Giorgio, what's this Soulfor Wine business all about?
We really, really like well-made wines that are free of added sulphur. We very much love how wines with no sulphur can be so nourishing, expressive, deep and, yes, digestible. Soulfor Wine is about putting together a stunning selection of SO²-free wines, to show their beauty and deliciousness.
Who's it for?
For everyone! It's really important to us that people have a greater chance to experience these sorts of wines. We want as many regular wine-drinkers there, alongside as many chefs, baristas, sommeliers, butchers and food producers as we can get on the day. We want anyone there who likes delicious food and wine, in short.
What prompted you guys to put the event together?
Seeing the difference between spending a month of drinking wine without a drop of sulphur after many trips to Europe has us convinced we need to get the message out there. We both work closely with European vignerons who are dedicated to making wine without additions in the winery and we both firmly believe that for something to be truly delicious it must contain active bacteria.
Bacteria, you say?
It makes sense when you think about it. Look at some of the most nourishing and digestible foods and drink on Earth - cheese, dry-aged meat, lambic beer, kimchi, yoghurt - they're all alive, and are so great for you (and delicious) because of active bacteria. We want to communicate to people that through hard work and really progressive agriculture, wine can also be genuinely delicious in the same way. It's very important to us, and the chefs involved, that people have this opportunity and to taste a range of things. In addition, it's important to us that the work of these great vignerons is communicated because it's us, as consumers, who benefit from the tiny producer in Beaujolais or Lazio who makes a life choice to be an artisan, work endless hours and weeks and years (alone in many cases) to produce something impossibly rewarding. We feel really strongly about this.
What sort of fun can we get up to on the day?
Picture a great party, but, unlike most parties, at Soulfor Wine the booze and food will be even better than the music. You'll walk in, have a beer from Two Metre Tall, listen to some music, choose a bottle or glass of wine and join your friends for an amazing afternoon. And when we say "party", we mean it. Live oysters from Wapengo will be available all day, the cheesemakers from Holy Goat will be right there presenting some of Australia's best cheese, Tim Varney and Jenni Bryant will be making brilliant filter coffee throughout the day and you'll be welcome to buy a plate of food from five of Australia's most exciting chefs (and true lovers of natural wine), Josh Murphy from the Builders Arms, Mat Lindsay from Ester, Luke Burgess, late of Garagistes, David Moyle from Franklin, and the mighty Morgan McGlone from Belle's Hot Chicken and Bar Clarine. Not only have these five chefs been responsible for some of the most delicious food here in years, they've also been some of the greatest promoters of natural wine in this country, simply because they love it. We're very, very proud to be working with them.
Where's a good place to start vis-à-vis a first drink on the day, if we're new to this sort of thing?
What about with some beautiful Australian wine made just for this event? Gentle Folk Nouveau or Lucy Margaux Pinot Gris fit the bill, and there's plenty more where that came from.
And what about something for the hardcore members of the bottle-stroking community - have you got any real unicorns coming out to play?
There will be some really key names from the no-sulphur world represented on the day, including Jean-Pierre Robinot, Pierre Overnoy, Le Coste and Pierre Rousse, and we will be offering them at very reasonable prices to make sure people who are interested can get their taste.
By what measures will you judge the success of the day?
The vibe, the enthusiasm, and simply how much everyone enjoys themselves. And we'll be working hard behind the scenes (and in front of them) to make sure it's fun, whatever happens.
Soulfor Wine, noon to midnight, 5 July, 1000 £ Bend café, 361 Lt Lonsdale St, Melbourne, Vic. Tickets $20 from soulforwine.com.au