You know the marketing lingo on wine bottles – notes of nectarine skins, autumnal berries, pencil shavings and roast thyme; drink it in a moss-covered cabin accompanied only by a cat and a Dostoevsky novel. Georgie Orbach thinks that’s all a bit pretentious. She thinks it’s just winemakers and marketers trying to make their wines seem fancier than everyone else’s.
Orbach is a winemaker too. You may have noticed her label, Georgie Orbach Wines, in the bottle shop or the back bar – hers are the ones with the minimalist labels and the song suggestions. No food pairings or elaborate flavour notes, just simple descriptions and a suggestion for what to listen to.
“I’m not going to sit here and say, ‘Can you smell blackcurrant and cigar boxes’,” she says. “I want music related to each bottle, that’s a fun thing to do. I think of songs related to those varieties, what would go well. It’s just fun.” (For instance: try a 2019 pinot gris with Whitney’s I Wanna Dance With Somebody or a 2017 merlot with a soundtrack of Prince’s Diamonds and Pearls).
Talking to Orbach, you get the sense she doesn’t want to make a drink that’s only for table-cloth restaurants, wine pairings and middle- to upper-class dining rooms. She wants to make delicious drinks that are accessible; well-made wines that are downed at the bar, in a backyard or wherever really, and are priced like that. She wants them to look like that, too.
“Going to a bottle shop can be a puzzle,” she says. “All the labels, it can be really dull and unoriginal. I want to stand out.”
Orbach’s vines are in Griffith, NSW, a part of the Riverina region – a highly fertile Mediterranean landscape that produces around a quarter of all Australia wine. Orbach doesn’t live there, though; she’s in Victoria, and right now she can’t even access her grapes – she’s in a six-week lockdown.
“It’s put a real crush on it. I'll have to do it remotely, sending my instructions,” she says. “It’ll be different, I won’t be hands on and who knows how long this will last. I’m going to just have faith. “It’s crazy, who knew the world would end like this. Dry July probably isn’t happening,” she says with a laugh.
Orbach is confident her wine will be consistent, though, because it’s always been that way, regardless of what’s happened in the past. “I’ll keep going with my core range, and we’ll just keep rolling.”
Griffith is actually new ground for Orbach. She started her wine journey in the Clare Valley in 1992. After high school, she worked the local vineyards, pruning, planting and picking. That’s when she got a taste for wine.
“I never really drank wine until I was in the vineyard. Everyone was like, ‘You gotta drink wine,’ but I was beer and bourbon,” she says. Then a Margaret River verdelho changed everything.
“That was the first one I really liked. It wasn’t too over the top. Actually, it’s quite similar to what I make now, very easy to drink. I don’t remember where I was, just the taste of the wine stuck in my mouth.” While Orbach was in the vineyard, her dad, Josef, was learning the trade at Leasingham, part of the team behind the winery’s award-winning 1994 Classic Clare Shiraz.
After a long stint out of the wine business, managing the Church Street Pantry and on sabbatical in London, her dad asked her to work with him at Leasingham. “I learnt a lot from watching and listening to him,” she says. But it wasn’t until 2015 that she had a shot to make her own wines with fruit from Griffith.
When we ask her to describe her wines, she shies away from generalisations. “They are wines I’d like to drink on a daily basis. Nothing too obscure or over the top. Every time someone takes a mouthful they say, ‘Wow, this is exceptional. Particularly for the price.’”
One to try: Orbach’s rosé
“It took two years to get it right. I’m very particular. It was frustrating. It was also about the colour; I wanted an onion-skin colour. Only 50 per cent pinot and 50 per cent sangiovese worked. That got the colour and dryness. It’s gorgeous, I love it,” says Orbach. “If you did a blind tasting now with a French rosé in the same price range, I think I’d match up, maybe even tip the French.”
What to pair it with:
“Eat whatever you feel like at the time,” Orbach says – but for music, it’s clear. “The current vintage is Man in the Mirror by Michael Jackson. I like to change it every vintage. Last time it was Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin’. I don’t have a method, it’s just what I feel in the moment.”
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This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with First Choice Liquor Market.