When 10 William Street opened in 2010, natural wine was scorned by many and drunk by few. Giovanni Paradiso and Giorgio de Maria fought for it, and they have good reasons.
9 years on, it’s 6pm on a Saturday night, the place is pumping. The kitchen is busy, the bar is full. We select a nectar and dive in.
We need to understand that wine is agriculture. It’s a product of agriculture. So growing your own fruit is basic and sometimes people forget this. It’s not about no sulphur, being cloudy, or being orange, it’s not about a fancy label, it’s not about the seal. It’s about commitment.
We do it because we give a shit, we really fucking care a lot. Me and Giorgio, we’re fanatical. People don’t get it but we’re not doing it to make our lives better, it’s not about us. It’s about what we try to do, what we try to start.
If we don’t push boundaries, we’re never going to make things better in the world.
We can’t go back. We couldn’t possibly do it differently because we’re just not gonna do it otherwise. I have no interest in doing something just because it works commercially or just because it’s easier. I want to set a direction. We need to foster creativity, to encourage dialogue between winemakers.
Very often, in wine regions you’ll have people 500 meters away from each other but they may never taste each other’s wines. There’s a lack of curiosity, and it’s quite common. You don’t see winemakers going to meet other winemakers.
That’s why the idea of the festival (Rootstock) was to bring people together, so that they would start to talk and create relationships.
Natural wine can’t be a ‘trend’. It’s the way we need to move in the future. It’s necessary. The biggest challenge of our time is trying to deal with climate change, and the impact on winemaking has been catastrophic.
Because we’ve fucked ourselves. The train’s not gonna stop, global warming is here to stay. Now it’s damage control, how do we manage the earth, mother nature. How do we work now to make things better.
But change is coming because young people now have embraced it and youth is the most important thing.
There’s definitely great people doing great things, those who buy a farm, or are growing their own fruit. And we have to invest in these people. I care about the commitment and that is what’s gonna pay off in a few years. You see, commitment is not just making wine easy and quick.
If I turn up tomorrow with 10.000 bottles of wine that is drinkable, cloudy, with a nice packaging, I can assure you that I can sell the whole thing but it shouldn’t be like that.
That’s why we wanna work with people who farm well, people who work the fields, grow the grapes. It’s almost to a point where we want this one direct entry into the winemaking process. I don’t want to deal with a sales person.
We don’t want manipulation. We’re not fucking Coca Cola.
There are no rules, no books. Winemaking is emotive, it’s personal. Take two great producers, put them on the same piece of land and they will make two very different wines, there’s no doubt about that.
Unfortunately we don’t have a real sense of terroir here, like Europeans do. But that’s one thing we’re starting to learn slowly, how to understand terroir, how it affects what we do in the winemaking world. So I think the more extreme we go, the better it is. Making wine with Anton (Von Klopper) for the last 2 or 3 years has taught me a lot about where we need to head as a country when it comes to winemaking.
There’s a real sense of playing it safe in Australia. And we need to lose the safety net. Let us be the new country here, let us make mistakes.
Bad wine has been made and will be made. And that’s ok. Making bad wine is a part of the process, it always has been. But if we can keep pushing ourselves to explore and understand why we’re doing this, we’re on the right track.
As we open a bottle of what is definitely not bad wine, I notice the label reading « Trauben, Liebe und Zeit » : Grapes, Love and Time. It’s no coincidence. The care and ethics that Giovanni and Giorgio share are embedded everywhere and in everyone around them. Subtle to those who step into their world and visible to those who care to be a part of it.
That’s the beauty of the « new world » : you can be more creative, because you have less restrictions. But the downside is that the main interest is to try to be a commercial success, to sell quickly, to sell out.
Tradition is beautiful but it confines us, and the minute you take away those confines, you’re allowed to go anywhere you want to go, you become open to seeing new things. I like to have one foot in tradition and the other foot kicking down the walls of it.
The sense of agriculture in France, Italy, in the old world in general is very different. People may plant a tree that they won’t be able to see until they’re way dead. But they do it for their children, their grandchildren, for people whose smiles they might never get to see.
Here in Australia, I don’t see that enough. Everyone wants to make it quick. There’s no concept of investing in the future, in something that you may not see.
We had this discussion many times, we walk into a vineyard and we’re like « hold on where’s the history? Where’s your first vintage? Where is your second, third vintage? Don’t you want to have a sense of history of the way you’ve grown as a vineyard, as a winemaker? »
Nothing makes me happier than when we go to vineyards back in Europe. You go somewhere like Le Coste, you see the grandfather’s vintage, still here. We need that sense of history here.
There needs to be a sense of commitment to your property. You shouldn’t worry about that property coming to fruition in your lifetime, you shouldn’t worry about making money out of it all the time. It should be greater than yourself.
And yes there’s gonna be good vintages, there’s gonna be bad vintages. That’s the beauty of most natural wines. The blemishes. I think there’s beauty in imperfection. They’re the things that turn me on more than anything. I like to see something that’s not quite right. It has an individuality. I don’t need something that’s perfect in my life. Perfection is for the unimaginative. And there’s great beauty to be found in imperfections.
I raise my glass to these two Gs and invite you to raise yours. Let us make mistakes, let’s kick down the walls and let’s work together in a direction that leads us all to a better place. Let us plant the seeds so the next generations can reap the fruits of our labour.
Photo courtesy of 10 William St.