Words by Richard Cornish Images Supplied
From Melbourne sommelier turned winemaker Liam O’Brien comes this tight, bright, cheery pet nat from the Macedon Ranges. A few years back Liam (Cutler and Co.) and Matt Brooke (Crown) decided to spread their wings and do a crash course in winemaking that saw them immerse themselves into the arcane art and explore every aspect from viticulture to bottle ferment.
We saw ourselves as if we were in training. So we called ourselves the Athletes of Wine.
Matt stepped away 12 months ago but Liam carries on the ethos of spartan winemaking working with Brian Martin at Kilchurn in Romsey.
This week Liam released his latest wine, Vino Atletico NV Macedon Pet Nat. It’s a beautiful expression of cold climate Chardonnay grapes, grown at 560m altitudes in the Macedon Ranges. Low-yield, fully-ripe grapes were hand-picked then whole bunch press and fermented in a tank using Champagne yeast. Whilst still undergoing fermentation the young wine was transferred to bottle for further fermentation in a manner the French refer to as method ancestrale.
The wine was then stored in bottle, on lees, for 7 months. The result is a straw-coloured wine that is more misty than cloudy. The bottle fermentation gives the wine bubbles that are fine, which give way to reveal a clean line of acidity. This marries the fresh green apple aroma and the richness of the living yeast. There’s some soft tannins on the front of the palate and a gentle round richness. One mouthful and this wine is screaming out for a food friend. Think seared scallops and cauliflower puree; a bite of pork belly and roast apple sauce; or gnocchi frito with green olive mortadella.
This is a beautiful example of a pet nat, or petite natural wine. A lot of criticism has been thrown at this style of wine-making as there have been a lot of sloppy Australian versions of this old method of putting bubbles in wine. But here Liam is at the top of his game when it comes to understanding how wine is enjoyed. He has gone out of his way to make a pet nat that suits the palates of a broad range of modern diners, who enjoy their wine in the context of dining, not just quaffing. This is a young, fun wine that will stand up for itself in a serious dining context, whilst not taking itself seriously for one moment. It hits the shelves this week and you can order online direct from $35 per bottle.
We wish to acknowledge the traditional owners of this land and to pay our respects to their Elders, past and present.