Based in McLaren Vale, Somos is the label of Ben Caldwell and Mauricio Ruiz Cantú. The pair work primarily with less-known Italian and Spanish varieties, and they make them in entirely unconventional ways, with a lo-fi and sustainable ethos.
Although now firmly at the tiller of his family’s Gembrook Hill vineyard, Andrew Marks’ label The Wanderer aptly describes his prior travelling and winemaking ways. Marks continues the tradition of fashioning elegant and refined chardonnay, pinot noir, sauvignon blanc and sparkling wine from the cool Gembrook Hill site in the Upper Yarra Valley, as well as his own expressions from across the region, which also include two tiers of syrah. Marks also makes a carignan (carinyena) from 100-year-old vines in Catalunya, Spain, and he distills his MGC Gin onsite at Gembrook. Marks was a Young Gun finalist in 2010, 2011 and 2012.
Ian and June Marks founded Gembrook Hill in 1983, making them some of the early adopters in the renaissance of the Yarra Valley. Importantly, they chose a cool site, some would have said marginal back then, to plant vines. In an area perhaps more seen as sparkling wine territory, that vision has been rewarded handsomely. With a warming climate and changing tastes, the Upper Yarra is now arguably the most prime of territory.
While Marks has been involved in home vintages for most of his life, his wanderlust has seen him amass an impressive resumé of international experience. Beginning as an exchange student in France, Marks spent much of his time there at Château la Croix de Louis in Bordeaux. He later studied winemaking at Adelaide’s prestigious Roseworthy Campus at the University of Adelaide, graduating in 1997, before six years with Penfolds and Seppelt.
Marks has worked with legendary Puligny Montrachet winemaker Etienne Sauzet, in the Languedoc and also in Sonoma County, USA. His longest stint, though, has been at Celler Espelt on the Costa Brava, which is where he developed his El Wanderer wine, the Iberian offshoot to his The Wanderer label. That wine is made from gnarled old bush vines on the coast, near the border with France.
Back home, Upper Yarra fruit informs Andrew’s elegant expressions of pinot noir, chardonnay and syrah under his The Wanderer imprint, with a sadly discontinued chenin blanc (the vines were tragically removed) also being made across six vintages.
Working hand-in-glove for many years at Gembrook with Timo Mayer, Andrew has now taken on full responsibility for the viticulture and winemaking, with a sustainable approach amongst the vines and a gentle hand in the cellar. His is ground-up winemaking, with the time spent in the winery dwarfed by the time spent amongst the vines. Marks’ winemaking is traditional and simple, with additions limited to sulphur, and the oak employed overwhelmingly neutral.