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The Future makers - Australian wines for the 21st century

The Future Makers - Australian wines for the 21st century, Max Allen, p 239-240.


Minchia. It’s an Italian word. Quite rude, too, apparently. Which is why no Italian-speaking person I know will tell me what it means. But they blush when they see the word on the label of First Drop’s delicious Adelaide Hills-grown montepulciano. So I googled it. And now I understand.

Using blue Italian slang typifies the bold, brash, quirky approach taken by the First Drop partnership of Matt Gant and John Retsas. They’re soldiers of fortune, these two: sourcing grapes from regions circling Adelaide – the Hills, the Barossa, McLaren Vale – stamping them with funky names and labels. The fact that their wines are so bloody good sets this venture apart: there are quite a few new-wave wine ventures out there now with eye-catching designs, punchy names and marketing campaigns, aimed at the You-Tube generation, but none of them are quite as adventurous with what’s inside the bottle as what’s on the outside.

Gant and Retsas met when they were both working at St Hallet as winemaker and cellar door manager, respectively, in the early years of this century. Their backgrounds were quite different: Gant is an Essex boy who fell in love with wine while studying geography in London; Retsas is a South Australian son of European migrants, who made their own wine and sausages in the backyard. But the pair share an attitude of serious fun when it came to drinking, whether the drink in question happens to be vodka Red Bulls in the Tanunda Hotel or the finest wines available to humanity in some flash restaurant in New York. And they’ve channelled  all these influences – street smarts, a serious respect for wine’s traditions, a rude desire to have as much fun as possible – into what they do at First Drop.

 Both deeply immersed in the Barossa culture at St Hallett through dealing with many of the region’s old growers, and this immersion course has resulted in First Drop’s top wines, single-vineyard expressions of shiraz from various sub-regions, collectively called the Fat of the Land: the Ebenezer, from vines planted in the red clay in the north of the valley has juicy squashed red fruit, purple jube flavours and svelte tannins; the Greenock, from the ironstone soils of this increasingly desirable sub-region has more generous, wild bramble berry fruit and furry tannin; while the Seppeltsfield, from red clay loam over limestone to the west has more concentration , greater extract and grippy, dark-chocolately tannins.

Matt and John’s immersion course in drinking Barossa shiraz at the Tanunda Hotel has also inspired a few particularly slurpy expressions of the style. One, called Mother’s Milk, is all purple velvet and blackberry jam, while another, 2 Per Cent, uses a smidgen of savagnin to give life and lift to the sheer darkness of the shiraz fruit.

Matt’s grape-treading experience working in Portugal, Spain and Italy comes to the fore in wines like Bella Coppia (a crunchy pear-textured arneis), Lush (a crisp and tangy rose made from the Iberian red grape, trincadeira – aka tinta amarela), a plush but tight JR Gantos cabernet touriga blend from McLaren Vale, and the throbbing heart of purple fruit and firm but juicy tannin in that cheeky little montepulciano called Minchia. Google it.

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