Simão & Co. Wines
With a range that covers significant territory, from the Alpine and King Valleys to Beechworth, Glenrowan and Rutherglen, Simon makes wine from all five of the North-East’s regions.
“We have a range of fun wines, and then more serious wines,” says Marriott. “The former a product of curiosity and the idea of wine as a social lubricant, the latter based on experience around the world with the more noble varieties. All our wines are the product of fruit that we farm ourselves, to yield transparent wines expressive of site. Vineyard zealot, winery agnostic.
“Anim is about sourcing fruit from vineyards that we lease, manage or oversee. In our model, all the emphasis is placed on the farming. Winemaking is attentive yet minimally intervened. Production is very small. We created Anim as a family project, creative outlet and gambit to challenge the rhetoric and narrative of Australian wine.”
Although Max Marriott was born and grew up in Brisbane, much of his formative career was spent in New Zealand, which is also where he studied. With the course very much tailored to plant physiology and soil science, he studied viticulture and winemaking at Christchurch’s Lincoln University, before working at Central Otago pioneer Felton Road. That work with Gareth King further instilled in him the critical role of organics and biodynamics, as did his work with James Millton from Millton Vineyards in Gisborne.
Marriott completed vintages in the Mosel, Burgundy and Oregon, eventually taking up a role as winemaker for Chapter 24 Vineyards in Oregon, which he was recommended for by acclaimed Burgundy producer Louis-Michel Liger-Belair, who he had worked for in 2011. In 2016, Marriott and his wife, Siobhan, returned to Australia for the birth of their twins, settling in Tasmania, which was their “long-held intention,” after Marriott had first worked a vintage there some 15 years earlier. In 2018, the first Anim wine was made.
“Anim is about sourcing fruit from vineyards that we lease, manage or oversee,” says Marriott. “In our model, all the emphasis is placed on the farming. Winemaking is attentive yet minimally intervened. Production is very small. We created Anim as a family project, creative outlet and gambit to challenge the rhetoric and narrative of Australian wine.”
This focus on farming is an oft-stated mantra, but for Marriott it is an absolute truth. “I don’t think it would be possible to physically extricate the fruit from my hands come harvest time after farming these vineyards each year. The intimacy of farming the fruit and making the wine from the same patch of dirt fosters a deeper understanding and connection with both the fruit and the site.”
Transitioning the three sites they work with to organic management (not certified) over three years, Marriott stresses that they have not rescued derelict sites, replanted or extensively reworked or redesigned. Rather, the focus has been on building soil health to improve vine health and resilience.
“We tend to think about rediscovering fruit quality, rather than increasing it. Conscientious farming with respect to spray programs and cultivation techniques within this umbrella, taking into account soil types, weather conditions, seasonal outlooks and observation. You allow an ecosystem to flourish that by and large acts as the fabric of terroir – a conduit for site expression.”
Bringing the vineyards into best health is also a step towards Marriott’s aspiration to make wines with no additions bar sulphur, and to limit fining and/or filtration to moments of necessity, and ideally not at all. “Minimal intervention, maximum attention,” he says. “Our wines are made from fruit that we farm ourselves. Every year we establish pied de cuve ferments in the vineyard, to then pitch into the main batches in the winery once harvested, to foster a true vineyard biology in every ferment.”
The Anim range is made at the Pooley winery, with some fruit sourced from the Clarence House Vineyard, which Pooley have managed for some years, and now with Marriott’s input. The other two sites are the Tinderbox vineyard on the d’Entrecasteaux Channel, and the Windrush Vineyard on the southern fringe of Hobart, planted solely to pinot noir and dry grown – unusual in the area, with Hobart somewhat surprisingly the driest state capital – with both sites managed by Marriott.
Unsurprisingly, chardonnay and pinot noir are the cornerstones of the Anim wines, but Marriott has more eclectic forays, too. His ‘Field’ is a co-fermented blend of pinot noir, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, merlot, cabernet, tempranillo and muscat varieties, while he also makes a blend of chardonnay and riesling that is oak aged on lees, and an even blend of pinot blanc and sauvignon blanc that sees 70 days of skin contact.
“From a winemaking perspective, we love the use of whole bunches and incorporate this into our vinification, without being dogmatic and ignoring the seasonal and site fluctuations. It’s a conversation we’re having more and more in the local industry at the moment – structure, detail, tactility, especially with reference to pinot. Ultimately, you can guide the wines to an end point that is authentic and consistent, based on all the tiny variables of winemaking that eventually add up to distinction and individuality.”
Marriott firmly believes that Tasmania represents the future of Austrian cool climate winegrowing, and he’s in for the duration. “We’ve based ourselves south of Hobart, in the far south of Tasmania, in the coolest winegrowing region of the country. We take a long-term view – this is the final destination for us and where we will raise our kids and live out our lives.”