Cult following for underground wine
A Queensland winemaker has won acclaim for a blend of white wine he ferments in large earthenware vessels buried in the ground.
Glen Robert from Bent Road Wine at Ballandean on the Granite Belt imported terracotta amphoras known as qvevris from Georgia, the old Russian state where they have been in use for centuries.
Equally bizarre is the image of a skeleton on the label of Mr Robert's La Petit Mort VMR 2017, ($35) an attractive and highly aromatic blend of the French Rhone varieties of viognier, marsanne and roussanne.
The wine has a cult following and was quickly added to the wine lists of some of Australia's leading restaurants including Peter Gilmore's award-winning Bennelong at the Sydney Opera House and Red Lantern, the popular restaurant at Darlinghurst in Sydney run by MasterChef Luke Nguyen.
Mr Robert, a biomedical scientist before he turned to winemaking, has a dozen qvevris each capable of holding between 400lt to 500lt of wine. He coats the inside of the vessels with beeswax to ensure they are not too porous.
Mr Robert said his La Petit Mort Viognier, Marsanne and Roussanne 2017 was fermented on skins for 65 days in the method similar to that used to make used to make red wines. It was then "pressed off" into stainless steel tanks.
It's described as an orange wine because of its deep golden hues.
He calls the wines he makes in the qvevris his "other" wines.
"These small batch, experimental wines are produced with minimal wine making intervention and put into bottle without filtering or fining," he said.
He has filled other vessels with a shiraz-viognier blend and some with saperavi, a grape variety that originated in Georgia and was the preferred tipple of Russian dictator Joseph Stalin.