It’s becoming a familiar story. A business venture beginning not in the boardroom but in the Zoom chatroom. It was over “a couple of bottles of wine” (and the internet) that six indie Victorian winemakers came up with House Wine, a new collective putting together a sixpack of wine each month for delivery.
“We’re all close friends in that lo-fi, natural wine space and have done a lot of things together over the years,” says winemaker Jordy Kay. “Ninety-nine per cent of our sales [are] to restaurants and wine bars that are closed. [We wondered], what can we do to stay afloat?”
They decided to band together and sell direct to the public.
Alongside Kay, the House Wine group is comprised of likeminded winemakers from Minim, Bobar, Little Reddie, Dirty Black Denim and Ephemera. All prize self-sufficiency and sustainability in their winemaking, and each adds a bottle to the rotating monthly packs.
“We’re all just one-man-operation-type producers,” says Kay. “All of us either farm our own grapes or work closely with vineyards that have sustainable or organic practices in the vineyards.”
Don’t expect the crystal-clear wine of mainstream producers. House Wine drops are sometimes cloudy, sometimes fizzy reflections of their growing environment, and the bottles come wrapped in their makers’ personalities.
“It’s about making wines that taste like they’re from a vineyard, not a winemaker,” says Kay. “It’s about creating wines that taste like a time and place, without large amounts of sulphur or new oak.”
The May edition of the pack showcases Victoria’s supremely varied growing regions.
Kay’s contribution is the Otways Rouge – a light, bright pinot noir-syrah blend from grapes grown in volcanic Otways soil.
He calls Little Reddie’s Pat Underwood the “nebbiolo king”, referring to Underwood’s time in Italy’s Barbaresco and Barolo regions, but Underwood’s fizzy, funky Pat’Nat Nebbiolo from the central Victorian town of Colbinabbin is anything but traditional.
Minim’s Tim Sproal brings a zingy fiano-vermentino blend from Castlemaine, and brothers Tim and Lawrence Scanlon of Dirty Black Denim rep Melbourne’s west with their skin-contact sav blanc out of Sunbury.
Yarra Valley winemakers Tom and Sally Belford’s Bobar bottle is a delicate, earthy and lightly spritzed syrah. And Rhen Dodd, who Melburnians might know as the front-of-house manager at Brunswick East restaurant Faye, adds a floral and fragrant skin-contact Heathcote vermentino by his label Ephemera.
Faye, which is closed at present, is also House Wine HQ, and members of the team, along with other hospitality workers who’ve lost income, pack and deliver the wines.
“We all wanted to look after hospo orphans, because the industry has given us so much over the years,” says Kay. “The whole natural, lo-fi wine movement has been propped up by the Australian hospitality scene. Ten years ago none of our wines existed and none of those styles of wines existed in Australia. It was with the excitement, enthusiasm and support of restaurants and wine bars we were able to [grow]. Had none of them bought our wines and supported us over the last few years, then we wouldn’t exist.”
House Wine sixpacks cost $160, including Australia-wide delivery.