Wedged between the Black Summer bushfires and the pandemic pushing into full bloom, Charles Osborne pitched in and launched Dazma Wine Company, with fruit sourced from Northern Victoria. That first release consisted of three wines, a vermentino, a shiraz and a field blend of some 13 varieties – including such exotica as kerner, muscat ottonel, ehrenfelser, scheurebe, siegerrebe and rotgipfler – that were picked and fermented together. His wines are all vineyard specific, and they are all very much in the lo-fi camp, with Osborne keen to make democratically affordable and enjoyable wines.
“I have many non-wine-drinking friends,” says Osborne. “I wanted to make wines that were approachable for the people around me. A wine that could be drunk from a mug around the campfire or a glass over dinner. The wines are approachable and don’t discriminate to any type of beverage drinker.”
Osborne’s first vintage was in 2015 alongside Sam Cook and Alastair Reed at Konpira Maru, with the pair remaining a big influence. “I am lucky enough to have been around Konpira Maru from the early days of my career,” says Osborne. “They have been an undeniable influence on my winemaking style. Al and Sam have little trepidation when it comes to developing a new wine, and this has definitely influenced my approach.”
“I work with multiple sites throughout the valley. I have vineyards that are high elevation and low elevation, which gives me the opportunity for high-elevation cool climate wines as well as moderate-climate wines.”
While that influence has been a steady one for Osborne, he also worked at Yealands in Marlborough, New Zealand, and in 2018, he took a role with a local commercial winery. His day job as a lead cellar hand saw him “crushing upwards of 18,000 tons a year for Coles and Aldi” until 2020, when he launched Dazma, while also cementing an assistant winemaking role at Konpira Maru, where he makes his wines. “Al and Sam have been a huge part of my journey and helping me get Dazma up and running,” says Osborne. “I look forward to working alongside them for many years to come.”
Working for a large-scale commercial operation also gave Osborne plenty of grape-growing contacts. “One of the first wineries I worked at I contract made wine for large organisations,” he says. “Most of the fruit came from the King Valley, Riverina and Sunraysia. It felt fitting to continue working with growers in these regions and further grow my knowledge of the areas. I work with multiple sites throughout the valley. I have vineyards that are high elevation and low elevation, which gives me the opportunity for high-elevation cool climate wines as well as moderate-climate wines.”
The Dazma range has expanded from those first wines to include a gewürztraminer from the Cavedon Vineyard in Whitfield that spent a few weeks on skins, was raised in a mix of new and old oak, then bottled cloudy under crown seal. A vermentino pét-nat joined the light skin contact version, with both from the Chalmers Merbein Vineyard, while the ‘Field Blend’ (pinot meunier, friulano, pinot gris, riesling, chardonnay, traminer and small parcels of kerner, muscat ottonel, ehrenfelser, scheurebe, siegerrebe, rotgipfler and zierfandlers) made a reappearance, but this time it spent 13 weeks on skins.
Osborne’s work at Dazma runs parallel to his role at Konpira Maru, where he is helping to pursue a more sustainable approach, while growing his own brand. “We’re creating a water-friendly winery with greater wastewater treatment or recycling, where a winery can use almost 100 per cent treated recycled water,” he says. “It’s a project myself and Al are currently working on. In the next 5 to 10 years, I would love to continue growing Dazma and continue working with the amazing winemakers around me. As well as being able to continue growing relationships with my growers and learning the best way to approach their fruit.”