Dhiaga is Justin Purser and Joyce Clery’s portal for expressing their love for Italian grapes, as expressed through Victorian vineyards and innovative winemaking techniques. The pair craft both recognisably classic expressions, as well as creative diversions, such as their dry, hop-infused Moscato that’s given gentle fizz through the pét-nat method.
Justin Purser is perhaps best known for being at the tiller of Victorian icon Best’s, in Great Western, where he has been the winemaker for the better part of a decade. But Purser and his business partner Joyce Clery have also been deeply invested in their own project. Meaning heavenly or divine in Irish, Dhiaga is where the pair indulge their passion for grape varieties that excel in Northern Italy, where they have both worked.
Purser studied at Charles Sturt University, which is renowned for its wine science degree, but he actually studied visual arts, before decamping to Sydney to enrol in a graphic design degree, then finally correcting course to graduate in oenology at Adelaide University in 2004. Joyce is an Honours Graduate in Hospitality Management, a trained jazz singer and a qualified chef. The pair met while working together in a fine-dining restaurant in Sydney, after having managed wine lists in various hotels and restaurants around the world, but they both harboured a desire to make wine themselves.
Purser worked at Primo Estate, where Joe Grilli instilled in him both an interest in Italian varieties, as well as a passion for experimentation. Grilli entrusted the management of Primo Estate’s Adelaide Hills nebbiolo block to Purser, as well as the responsibility of making the wine. He credits this as a turning point in his career. Purser also endured an icy time at Peregrine, in Central Otago, before he worked alongside Clery at Azienda Agricola Brezza, in Barolo. Enzo Brezza taught Purser the finer points of nebbiolo making, and also handed him the responsibility of managing the cellar – no small thing at such an esteemed address. Purser then directed a winemaking team at Domaine de Montille, in Burgundy, for four years. Lured back to Australia, he took the winemaking baton at Best’s from Adam Wadewitz in 2011.
The pair’s launched their Dhiaga label in 2018, though it included a nebbiolo made in 2015. Their philosophy begins with a focus on primely sited vineyards of mature vines and follows with a lightness of touch, but not at the expense of expression “We produce wines simply, with little or no processing aids or adjuncts, no filtration, the bare minimum of sulphur or none at all. We want to make wines that push the boundaries without compromising on quality,” says Purser.
Today, a nebbiolo, moscato (the hoppy one), gewürztraminer (arguably native to Northern Italy, and named after the town of Termeno, formerly known as Tramin), arneis and rosé, mainly made from nebbiolo make up the Dhiaga range.