La Petite Mort is Andrew Scott’s outlet to make wine with ancient techniques as his inspiration. Working out of the Bent Road winery at significant elevation in Queensland’s Granite Belt, he crafts wines using alternative varieties – including, tempranillo, saperavi, marsanne, nebbiolo… – and methods that include plenty of skin contact for whites and fermentation and maturation in amphora buried in the ground. His wines are complex, intriguing and layered, and with no adds except for sulphur.
A love of wine was fostered early in Andrew Scott’s career, although it took some years to take stubborn control of him. Scott racked up a formidable resumé in restaurants in Adelaide, including a stint at The Chesser Cellar with Primo Caon, and another with James Erskine (Jauma) at Augè – old-school and new-school legends right there – before moving to Noosa to ply his trade. Scott dipped in and out of education, and worked for some time as a ski instructor, but hospitality and, more significantly, a deepening passion for wine eventually won the tussle.
“My wines are often referred to as alternative and/or experimental, and I suppose they are definitely outside the mainstream. But interestingly, most of my so-called experimental wines are based on styles and techniques that are rooted in history as opposed to being ground-breaking or pioneering. I hope to bring attention back to some of the old ways of winemaking. I still see much validity in some of these styles which have stood the test of hundreds if not thousands of years!”
Glen Robert of Bent Road Wine, in Queensland’s Granite Belt, shifted Scott irrevocably towards the dark side, when a chance meeting saw him sitting in on Robert’s MW training group. One thing led to another, and when infrequent ten-hour round trips to the winery – to help and to learn – from Noosa to Ballandean turned into fortnightly trips, the die was well and truly cast, and Scott took up an offer to become the assistant winemaker at Bent Road.
And while it may seem odd for a lad from Adelaide – with great wine regions in easy reach – to choose a region that is still obscure for most, it is that obscurity that gives him freedom. “The Granite Belt is a fantastic place to explore alternative styles,” says Scott. “We are geographically and figuratively on the fringe of Australian wine, so there is a fantastic sense of pioneering. So many Australian wine regions come with expectations of style and variety and even particular hotbeds of alternative wine tend have their own vibe and agendas. Most consumers have never heard of the Granite Belt or even Queensland wine, let alone formed any expectations.”
While Scott somehow finds time to have almost completed both the feared WSET Diploma and his Diploma of Wine Science at Charles Sturt University, he also takes the mike for Bent Road’s La Petite Mort label, under which he made his first wine in 2014. Scott is now further entrenched in the business as a partner alongside Robert, with creative freedom over the experimental LPM label.
“My wines are often referred to as alternative and/or experimental,” says Scott, “and I suppose they are definitely outside the mainstream. But interestingly, most of my so-called experimental wines are based on styles and techniques that are rooted in history as opposed to being ground-breaking or pioneering. I hope to bring attention back to some of the old ways of winemaking. I still see much validity in some of these styles which have stood the test of hundreds if not thousands of years!”
Scott works without additions, bar a minimal amount of sulphur and varies his methods to suit fruit and objective, neutral oak often, new oak occasionally, but amphora (Georgian qveri, to be exact) more and more frequently. Skin contact on whites is a feature, as well as long contact on reds, and he is also raising wines sous voile (under a protective ‘veil’ of flor yeast, think Sherry or the Jura) maturation and even maderisation, intentionally and for the right reasons.
“I have, as far as I’m aware,” says Scott, “the only garden of authentic Georgian qvevris buried on a knoll in the traditional manner, outside and between our two vineyards. The terracotta and super-extended skin contact are definitely the main speaking points in terms of the techniques that define my winemaking.”
Scott’s description of his most emblematic wine (the LPM ‘VMR’ – viognier, marsanne and roussanne) perhaps best sums up his philosophy: “It is an orange wine. It is a cloudy wine. It is an amphora wine. It is a minimal intervention wine (unfined, unfiltered, sulphur addition only). But most importantly, it is a clean wine and is free from winemaking faults. And this is what I’m all about – old-school, funky, alternative wines are fun and exciting and interesting and educational to make and to drink but none of this is an excuse for poor winemaking.”
Ryan Ponsford’s Entropy label is the result of him being diverted from a successful artistic career to making syrah, pinot noir, semillon and sauvignon blanc in Gippsland’s Baw Baw Shire. With a focus on organic growing and minimal-intervention winemaking, learnt working alongside Bill Downie, Ponsford is also in the process of resurrecting a derelict vineyard, which will form the future core of the Entropy wines.
Ben Ranken has been tirelessly restoring his Wilimee vineyard, which is one of the Macedon Ranges oldest. Converting the vines to being dry grown, while implementing organic practices (not yet certified), his focus is on chardonnay and pinot noir planted to two distinct soil types – granite and Cambrian – with two varietal wines currently made that are reflective of site and farming, with winemaking taking a backseat. Ranken also matures bottled pinot noir underwater for five years – a shipwreck-inspired endeavour.
Matt Gant’s geography degree was spun off course when a wine-loving professor “contrived” a study trip to France to taste wine. That minor diversion led to a terminal detour for Gant, axing the maps and globes for vintages around the world, before settling in the Barossa and co-founding First Drop wines in 2005. The First…