No strangers to experimentation, at Chalmers we are always excited by the prospect of new projects, but Bucketwine kind of happened by accident. In vintage 2012 myself and my Dutch winemaker husband Bart were at the Chalmers Heathcote vineyard managing harvest while my sister Tennille was working vintage at Kooyong helping to make the Chalmers and Montevecchio ranges of wines. Bart and I were staying in rustic accommodations at Colbinabbin, which lets just say is not the cultural and social centre of Victoria by any means, so just for fun in the evenings we decided to make a couple of small batches of wine. In buckets.
My taste in vino leans more toward the funky, textured and cheesy while Bart is generally into cleaner more pristine styles. So we did a couple of experiments. Bart made a negroamaro rosato with clean racked juice which was deliciously savoury but with pretty red fruit too. I made a trio of fiano from 2 parcels – one was made with whole berries from riper fruit out of our Heathcote site, the other from an early picked high acid parcel out of our Mildura vineyard. The wine was blended 50/50 too. So we ended up with a super phenolic, brownish wine with loads of texture but not much aroma and a tart pineapple, bright fluorescent yellow/green wine which was super zippy. The 50/50 blend was an absolute ripper. And then the idea was born.
Our Merbein vineyard houses the entire collection of Italian varieties we imported through Chalmers Nurseries in the 1990s, about 40 varieties and 70 different clones. What better place to have a play with more small batches? Bart and Tennille both worked full time on Bucketwine vintage 2013, making about 40 different ferments trialling harvest dates, winemaking techniques and new varieties. Some of these varieties had never even been made into wine in Australia before. One variety, Pavana, is that rare that even in it’s homeland in Italy its barely recognised.
Part of the aim of the bucketwine project was to see if we could make balanced, interesting and delicious wines without conventional winemaking tools. Vintage 2013 was done with nothing but a hydrometer to measure sugar levels, a bucket, sieve, funnel and a piece of hose. Grapes were harvested on flavour and winemaking decisions were made by smell and taste.
The finished wines were sold in a pop-up style tasting in Melbourne to a handful of invited wine bars, restaurants and retailers. The response was fantastic, the whole vintage sold out in just 17 minutes! Little red ‘SOLD’ stickers were going on the bottles quicker than we could keep up. Many comments on the day referred to the integrity of the wines, their honesty and trueness to variety. A great result for wines grown in a hot climate which is commonly thought to produce ripe, flabby wines.
Vintage 2014 is off to a flying start with about 35 ferments on the go already, although it is the most challenging vintage anyone can remember with variable spring conditions at flowering/fruit set and massive heat waves in Jan/Feb. Can’t wait to see how the bucketwines fare this year.