The Australian wine scene has undergone a dramatic revolution over the past decade. Festivals such as Soulfor Wine and Rootstock Sydney have helped the drink throw off its snobbish, uptight associations and become fun.
Partially, anyway. We’re way off wine becoming as egalitarian as beer, but when adjectives such as “smashable” keep showing up on wine menus and tasting notes, it shows we’re on the right track.
When Jamsheed Urban Winery opens in Preston in November, it’ll be another step in the right direction.
“It’s not going to be a frou frou cellar door. It’s going be a dive bar,” says owner Gary Mills. “I’m going have a pool table, a Playstation, some comfy couches … it’s going to be a place where you can come and just have a really good social interaction.”
The huge old warehouse will open in three stages. The first involves transferring all of Mills’s existing stock from the Yarra Valley and installing fermentation tanks so he can begin producing wine. Once he’s feeling comfortable, the site will begin hosting pop-ups and events. The permanent dive bar/cellar door will arrive next year, along with a spacious outdoor deck that food trucks can pull up alongside.
As at so many breweries, the production process will be on show behind a glass wall. “I want to make life easier for myself,” says Mills, who lives in Fitzroy North and currently commutes to the Yarra Valley. “I don’t want to travel too far for work. [Once] everything’s stored [in Preston], I can make everything there, and I can have fun.”
Mills started his career in Margaret River, WA, and spent several years making wine in California and Oregon on the West Coast of the US. He’s been working under the name Jamsheed since 2003, focusing on single-vineyard Victorian shiraz and aromatic whites such as riesling.
In Preston, he hopes to serve his wine direct from the tanks, or in kegs or carafes. “I want to move away from bottled stock,” he says. “I want to go back to the days when you could buy a 20-litre flagon of booze and just stick a cap on it.”
While Mills doesn’t ascribe to the “natural” or “minimal-intervention” labels so in vogue right now, his wines don’t contain added enzymes, acids or other chemicals. Jamsheed’s minimalist bottles don’t advertise the fact, though. Mills is content to let his product speak for itself and counts Blackhearts & Sparrows, Embla, Sunda and a bunch of other reputable restaurants, bars and bottle shops as regular customers.
In this sense, Melbourne has never seen anything like what Mills is about to do. Yes, we have Noisy Ritual, though it didn't exist as a brand before the winery opened. The multi-faceted Jamsheed will be more like Sydney Urban Winery, by winemaker Alex Retief.
“I’m going all out; I’ve got a 20-year lease,” Mills says.
Jamsheed Urban Winery is slated to open in November 2018.