When it comes to wine, we don’t hear a lot about Moldova, an Eastern European country wedged between Ukraine and Romania. But that’s where this story starts.
“We went to this old cellar with qvevris [large clay pots used for fermentation, storage and ageing] buried in the ground where everything was done by hand,” Lane tells Broadsheet. “Working in Italy and France I saw a lot of tradition, but nothing like that. I thought it was a freakin’ museum.”
Since that trip, things have changed a little in Australia. “These days a lot of guys are using clay pots,” he says. “But go back to 2006 and see if you could find anyone in this country using them. Nope, nobody.”
Lane is bringing these ancient techniques to Adelaide Fringe hub Gluttony. Making wine in a public park is an undertaking in itself. But at Lane’s old Babylon cellar door, he’s making it like they did 4000 years ago. “You’re working with a seriously reduced toolbox – no electricity, no stainless steel, no machinery, no temperature control,” he says.
Sound familiar? This isn’t Lane’s first Babylonic rodeo. It’s a new-and-improved revival of a pop-up he ran at Lola’s Pergola during the 2014 Adelaide Festival. “We didn’t manage to execute all the things we wanted to do with it there,” he says.
This time around he’s sourced half a tonne of nero d’avola from just outside McLaren Vale. “I’m gonna drive them down,” Lane admits. “If we were really being true to type we’d get some donkeys.”
Anyone – of any skill level – can join him for a free, hands-on lesson in ancient winemaking on three consecutive Friday nights from February 22. Togas are optional.
You might be tasked with de-stemming grapes by hand, grape stomping, or passing grapes through a basket press. And then there’s the drinking. “At the end we’ll decant some fresh wine off the top and have a party,” Lane says. That’s how it would’ve gone down in Babylonic times. “The best wines were the freshest; as wine aged there would be more spoilage,” he says. “Age-worthy wines are only a very modern concept.”
After Mad March the wine will go off-site for secondary fermentation and bottling, and be ready for you to crack into at Gluttony next year.
Learn the art of ancient winemaking on Friday February 22, Friday March 1 and Friday March 7, from 6pm to 9pm, at Gluttony. Entry is free.