Resident natural wine writer and meme lord Dave Cosford aka @lo_fi_wine has updated his top 10 WA producers list. Make sure to also hear about his new project at the bottom!
Our Great state of Western Australia has been deep in this lofi revolution for quite some time now and a whole swathe of new producers have appeared whilst some of the old guard have only improved with time – much like a fine wine (I’ll see myself out). If you’ve been wanting to take a sip of the Kool Aid then this list, which is arranged in no particular order, contains some of the best and most approachable producers in the State.
Sarah and Iwo, Rosa Glen, Margaret River
I have openly stated that Si Vintners makes my favourite Chardonnays in WA. I would also go so far as to say they are one of the best natural wine producers in the state in general.
Splitting their time between vintages in Western Australia and Spain they bring a unique and experienced approach to their wines.
In their subregion of Rosa Glen they practice organic viticulture and have started to spread their wings into some biodynamics. They aim to truly express the land upon which their fruit grows with minimal intervention in both the vineyard and the winery.
Si produces incredibly fine, almost Burgundian Chardonnay and Pinot Noir expressions and have some pretty sick Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon offerings.
With a very chill cellar door experience which looks out onto the Halcyon vineyard, this is definitely one to visit when you’re d’outh.
Ruben and Phil, Margaret River
Just two brothers. Two brothers making some vibrant and wildly nouveau Cabernet in a town that is known for it’s world class (and boring) conventional Cab.
Ruben studied viticulture and oenology back in 2008 and then worked for some big wineries in Margs for a number of years. He then became a sparky and kept the passion alive by making a barrel of wine a year for a few years.
It was in 2017 when he paired up with his older brother Phil who was hot off a Chinese night club cum radio show vibe in Asia. They brought their joint passion for winemaking, music and graphic design back to Australia and started up Felix Caspar wines with a new flair. After making some Chardonnay in the Western Yunnan province on the border of Tibet they now make all of their wines in Margs.
Ruben and Phil (whose middle names are Felix and Caspar) pick the highest quality fruit from farmers who respect the land and then use lofi wine making techniques without additions. Specialising in Cabernet and Cabernet blends, their range of Bordeaux blends are made with energetic vibes in mind and flip the script for a tired style entirely.
Fun, disruptive, delicious.
Check out their wines online or in a few fantastic places around town.
Brave New Wine
Andries and Yoko, Denmark
Andries and Yoko are mad scientists in glittering lab coats who make some seriously dank and delicious gear out of the Great Southern of WA.
They tend to a startling variety of varietals and put the fruit through its paces in a number of weird and wonderful minimal intervention methods with some insane results.
They specialise in being special by not specialising in anything and getting a little out there with it.
Despite the glittery presentation, wacky approach to marketing and beautifully hand-drawn labels these guys make some seriously competitive and searingly good Great Southern wine.
Brave New Wine are single handedly levering the long rod out of the tight arses of the wine world everywhere.
Hit them up online or find them in wine stores across Australia.
Nic Peterkin, Margaret River
Nic Peterkin is a superstar. Making some of the cleanest, most powerful and precisely realised gear in Margaret River at the moment.
Working out of his father’s winery at Pierro in Wilyabrup Nic takes a more pragmatic approach to minimal intervention wine. Finding amazing fruit from various rockstar vineyards from around the South West, including Margaret River, Yallingup and Ferguson Valley, he then focuses on getting concentration, flavour and a sense of place out of his wines. Favouring stability and drinkability over absolutely zero additions.
He views what he does at L.A.S. Vino as 1 third Luck, 1 third Art and 1 third Science.
With no formal cellar door experience it’s probably easier to find Nic’s offerings around town in the various bars and bottle shops.
Andrew Hoadley, Great Southern
Hoads is the gentle giant of the WA wine world. Known for his tasteful and perpetual donning of red shirts and Drizabones and, for his savant level skills with wine and graphic design. He founded La Violetta in Denmark in 2008. Andrew (or Hoads) gets all of his fruit from a handful of trusted growers with exceptional vineyards, some of which are among the oldest in the state.
Hoads masterclasses with many, many wines across many, many styles and most of them talk for themselves. From his fun and super high quality Pet Nats, to his razor sharp whites all the way through to his thoughtful and intense reds. Hoadley has a solution for most situations and will gently whisper a whacky story to you about it while you imbibe it.
No formal cellar door situation but his wines can be purchased online and at numerous locations throughout Perth and beyond.
Photo by the legends at Mane Liquor
Swan Valley Wines
Paul and Bree, Swan Valley
Perth’s own wine region, the Swan Valley, is slowly regaining some prestige and has a groundswell of small lofi producers that are slowly gaining some traction. Swan Valley Wines spearheaded the minimal intervention style in the Swan from years back and have made it possible for so many others to get a foot in the door.
Their winery was purchased defunct by Paul’s father in the mid-1980s after the fall of the Valley’s last hey-day. As the radical son of a more traditional wine maker, it was a slow wean from heavy additions and interventions but after a few years Paul and Bree have hit their stride with organically managed vineyards, careful winery work and minimal additions.
If you want to try something from a young Perth family with some serious moves who have agitated against the long overwrought, mechanised and chemical addled region that is the Swan Valley then look no further. Paul and Bree have the hookup and have been doing it for years now.
They operate a small cellar door that offers tastings by appointment and are stocked in some of the best venues and bottle shops around the city.
Dyl and Taryn, Cowaramup
Since 2018 LS Merchants have developed into more of a juggernaut of lofi wines from Margaret River. They have recently acquired a cellar door and some vineyards just outside of Cowaramup which they plan to start managing this growing season. The newly renovated cellar door has been up and running for a little while now and is doing fantastically.
Up until this year LS has worked with farmers to source high quality fruit from trusted vineyards. Some of the fruit they source is organic, some is minimal inputs and some is more conventional. With the acquisition of their new vineyards they hope to move toward sustainable organic practices.
In the winery they focus on minimal intervention winemaking and eschew the term ‘natural’ due to its lack of clarity in an often far too serious (and sometimes fundamentalist) industry. They work with high quality fruit, use minimal intervention and create delicious wines across a broad range of styles.
Dyl describes his winemaking as hand made, sustainable, artisanal and minimal intervention.
Having just sold out of all of their wines they will be re-opening the cellar door later this year for their new release!
Ryan O’Meara, Great Southern
Ryan has been at the helm of Express since its inception in 2011 and firmly believes that wine should display terroir (a sense of place) and boy-howdy do his wines smack of Western Australia’s Great Southern region.
Over the last 3 years Express has seen some pretty significant development in terms of size and quality. Ryan is now leasing and managing 6 vineyards with organic practices and has sites between Mount Barker, the Porongorups and Denmark.
Humble as ever Ryan says that he is still sounding out his vineyards and trying to see how the fruit is best represented and feels as though he is getting a little closer the longer he manages them.
Express focuses on making skin contact whites, especially Chenin Blanc, Semillon and Riesling, whilst also making approachable light red styles from Syrah, Grenache, Mouvedre and more.
With no cellar door currently it is best to purchase wine online or find it at your favourite local.
Naomi and Ben, Quindalup
The dudes at Blind Corner have it pretty sorted out. The certified organic vineyards on their beautiful plot of land in Quindalup have a co-located winery, biodynamic vegetable patch, apiary and half pipe.
They make a range of high quality, clean and surprisingly affordable minimal intervention wines and have become one of the more popular producers in some of Perth’s favourite natural wine hangouts.
They have a fantastic cellar door where you can have a tasting, meet the gang and even buy some posters from the amazing Gianluca Cannizzo of @mypostersucks.
If you want to get to know Ben a little better I can’t recommend his podcast ‘Real Wine People’ enough.
Tom Daniel, Swan Valley
Chouette is a modern Swan Valley Wine label. Its primary focus is to enlighten the Perth population that has historically often overlooked its local region. Tom is part of an emerging group of young winemakers that are trying to prevent vines from being pulled up for horse-land and make minimal intervention wine in the Swan.
Tom’s fruit is sourced from around the Swan Valley and he has a focus on keeping vines in the ground and working with farmers to move toward sustainability. His long-term goal is to secure a large patch of old-vine Grenache to go with some Chenin Blanc he recently acquired with the hopes of farming them organically into the future.
In terms of winemaking Tom uses mostly Grenache and Chenin Blanc, picks early, uses wild ferments and uses no additions except for up to 50ppm of Sulphur depending on the wine. He makes bright, vinous wine with tension, that is fun but has a serious side too.
The Cellar Door is operated via occasional event days to celebrate new release wines & special events, with live music & pop-up food trucks. Enquiries re: appointments for Private tastings/tours are welcomed.
Phew! Far out that took a while to compile. Now for a sneaky 11th entry, please indulge me as I wax lyrical about the little project my mates and I have been working on:
Sam, Charles, Matt, Larry and Loafy, Swan Valley
5 friends who got together to rehab some old vines and make some wine with the resultant fruit. Owned by Gino Valenti and family, our block is situated on Whadjuk Noongar Boodja, nestled in the south-eastern pocket of the Swan Valley, at the foot of the Darling Range.
Gino’s Block was established in 1986 on Loton’s gravelly sand over deep clay, and is planted to Semillon, Grenache and Chenin Blanc. This soil type, well-suited to all three varieties and known locally to produce fantastic quality fruit, occurs only as you move east toward the escarpment – onto a strip of land ideal for viticulture termed ‘The Golden Mile’. The free-draining sandy topsoil is perfect for Grenache in particular, while the clay that sits underneath provides magnificent water-holding potential that is made available to the deep root systems of the vines in the hot summers of the Swan Valley.
The block has been dry grown for upwards of a decade, and the vines show incredible resilience in continuing to thrive.
Once a source of valuable fruit for Houghton’s, the vineyard suffered the same fate as many in the region in the early 2000s, squeezed by tightening grape prices and plummeting demand. Much of the vineyard ran wild as Gino decided against continuing to operate it at full capacity. As such, since taking over the lease we’ve been working toward bringing the majority of the Chenin and Semillon plantings back to fruitfulness, which we will hopefully achieve in time for the 2022 harvest early next year.
We leased the vineyard with the intention of regenerating it to its former glory whilst also keeping it dry grown, converting it to organic practices and improving soil health and fruit quality. Currently proper organic certification seems like it may be a logistical and pragmatic problem, considering that we don’t own the land.
We farm the block ourselves, with the help of a fantastic community of friends and family, taking care of everything from pruning to picking. Fortunately, we also still have occasional help from Gino and his rustic collection of Massey-Ferguson tractors, otherwise the management of undervine growth may have fallen to one of us pulling a strip-digger like a cart horse!
We are now into our second vintage and have managed to make some wines from our Grenache, Semillon and newly rehabilitated Chenin Blanc and have even managed to find some cheeky Great Southern riesling as a nod to our head winemaker Sam Jorgensen’s label Old Mate Wine.
No cellar door but you can find our wines in a bunch of awesome establishments across the city – 2020 Reds aged in oak puncheon release soon and 2021 wines will be out toward the end of the year! Yeehaw.