Max Marriott Anim

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Max Marriott’s Anim is the realisation of his dream to make wine in Tasmania from grapes he farms. While those vines are owned by others, that commitment to making wine from the ground up was never going to be compromised. He works mainly with pinot noir, with three reds and a rosé made, chardonnay and aromatic whites are also a feature, though a field blend of red and white varieties and a pét-nat made from grapes and Sturmer Pippin apples also cropped up in the 2021 vintage. Working organically (not certified) is the cornerstone for Marriott, with the work in the vineyards the biggest quality driver, and winemaking a thing he will talk about more reluctantly.

“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. “Let’s face it, there’s no money in farming grapes,” he says. “Nor are we grape farmers. We are winegrowers. The true reward, satisfaction and economic sustainability comes from nursing those vines through pruning until harvest, having an intimate knowledge of that site, its behaviour, balance and brilliance, then guiding that fruit with informed intent to a destination based on inherent understanding and respect. Now that might all sound pretty fluffy and wrought with hyperbole, but that’s the thirst that drives our wine brand.”

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 nine red and white varieties, while he also carbonic ferments sauvignon blanc, leaving it on skins for six weeks. Huon valley cider apples are crushed and fermented with pinot blanc, chardonnay and sauvignon blanc to make an unconventional pét-nat, while a lockdown pinot noir project saw 27 locals snipping the stems off pinot noir bunches in the comfort of their own homes for the Hobart 27 project.

“We had friends and colleagues in and around Hobart who were immediately impacted, forced to close their doors, with businesses and livelihoods in jeopardy,” says Marriott. “Conscious of the emotional and mental toll this was having, we were scratching our heads, trying to think of a way we could bring the community together, especially given lockdown had coincided with harvest. Burgundy vigneron Lalou Bize-Leroy has an immense team of sorters who proceed to snip individual berries off each bunch of pinot noir fruit, cutting the grape off with just the small pedicel (green jack) protruding.”

Marriott says that the resultant tannin expression is what Leroy is seeking, so he set out to replicate this with a group of hospitality locals, with the fruit added, bucket by bucket, to a fermenter mounted on the back of his ute. “A heart-warming, incredibly enthusiastic community response saw us undertake what was originally termed the ‘Hobart Wine Project’. Buckets of grapes were delivered to addresses all around Hobart, in the middle of vintage, at night, with a trailer. Part of the impetus for the whole project at the outset was mental health and wellbeing; banding together and bringing the community along for a ride that was hopefully a welcome distraction from the situation and unfolding events of the world.”

And while there is a clear focus on pinot noir at Anim, with three red cuvees and a rosé made from the grape, each season brings new ideas. “We’ve had our fair share of new, interesting things each year,” says Marriott. “Field blends, pét-nats, skinsy things, unusual blends, community wines, hybrids with apples, etc. People are asking me, ‘So, what are you doing this year?’ And I don’t know. Nothing has come to mind as yet. There is often inspiration during vintage, when you see and taste the grapes, so I’m biding my time.”

Marriott firmly believes that Tasmania represents the future of Australian 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’re ever grateful for the wonderful relationships we have with other sites and may add a couple to the portfolio in the coming years as opportunities present themselves. Whatever happens, southern Tasmania and farming integrity will always be our focus. 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.”

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