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Beginnings

A love of coffee led me to wine. In 2011 while working behind the bar in Castlemaine, my colleague and friend Jarad Curwood (Chapter Wine) nurtured the coffee, beer and then wine passion. Jarad allowed me to pick some grapes from the vineyard he farmed. I fermented this fruit, 2012 Metcalfe Shiraz, in my dad’s backyard. It was a rustic wine and caught the name Little Reddie, owing to the miniature barrel (resized to hold the miniature volume), and as an ode to the drought hardy, introduced fish we were catching in the local waters.

Since then I have studied in my own way. I worked for several years at City Wine Shop on Spring St, being educated thoughtfully by brilliant mentors. Victorian harvest experiences at Bannockburn (2013) and Gembrook Hill (2014) were extremely inspiring and nurturing.

I travelled well through Chianti, the Mosel, Burgundy and the Northern Rhone in 2013 following up with three harvests 2016 - 2018 with Olek Bondonio in Barbaresco. Olek and Ali welcomed me into their family. I will never be far from a return to them. Nebbiolo remains, perhaps, my deepest vinous love.

I think of the conversations I’ve had with farmers, grapegrowers, fermenters, sommeliers, chefs and other creatives as the catalyst to placing the next piece of understanding into the wine puzzle. I love this process, it often involves wonderful travel and forms real and valuable friendships.

Little Reddie Wine started properly in 2015, simultaneously with a collaborative project called Boomtown. Boomtown is a co-operative cellar and wine label based in my home town of Castlemaine. Jarad, Tim Sproal and I worked intensely to establish the winery. Boomtown is now owned and operated solely by Tim, the wines are charming and I encourage you to seek them out along with His label Minim.



Process

After locating the site, farming and varieties that I believe in, I think choosing the right day to pick the fruit is the most important part of my job. Vintage and vilification methods are the prisms through which the picture of a particular variety, grown a particular way, in a particular place can be seen.

My winemaking methods are very much a wine to wine, vintage to vintage proposition.
I tend to bottle wines with some sulphur, but regularly without. I occasionally adjust the acidity of must or wine - however I aspire to make wines without doing so. I use oxygen and temperature as tools to control fermentation.

I also use elevage (time and vessel) to allow certain elements of the wine to be seen more or less so. I do not like to filter wines.

An individual wine can be seen as a combination of texture, flavour and most importantly shape. I want these characters to be traced back to place and variety.
I passionately work with Central Victorian grapes from individual sites. You will find the name of the specific town or hill from where the wine is grown on the back label of all of my wines.

The soils and exposition of the site dictate the style of wine that will be bottled. I love to use fermentation to preserve a sense of the land that I grew up on. I am astutely aware that this european tradition takes place on unseeded, Aborignal land.

You will find the name of those people who are the traditional owners of each site on the back of each bottle, with the notable exception of wines from Colbinabbin, where it is a more complex story to uncover due to the dispossession and destruction of the people and their history. I continue to try to understand the history of these places through conversation and research.

I acknowledge the traditional owners of these lands and pay respect to them and their history.

 

Onwards

I am not a grape grower (yet). The growers I work with are all considerate, they all have a strong sense of connection to their land. I have views on how soil and grapevines are best taken care of and expressing and discussing these views is at the center of the relationship that exists between the growers and I.

All of the growers I work with are in the process of improving their viticulture and each vineyard demands a unique path to achieve the best possible outcome. I am not particularly attached to prescriptive farming methods. Soil health and vine health are the most pressing concern for me.

I find making and drinking wine very stimulating. I hope my bottles will bring you to good conversations with good people, or that you bring them to good conversation with good people.


Pat Underwood