William Downie is this century’s original enfant terrible of wine. Well, in Australia at least. A cheerful iconoclast that scythed through convention long before lo-fi winemaking had taken a firm grip on the emerging generation of makers. With a broad smile and a self-deprecating manner, Downie forged his own path of minimal intervention with scant…
David Geyer Geyer Wine Co.
David Geyer started his Geyer Wine Co. label while working for Pete Schell (2008 Young Gun of Wine), meshing a decade and a half of experience with a desire to make wines in an unfussed way, peeling back some layers and revealing new expressions from a patchwork of old Barossa sites he knew well. Geyer was a Young Gun finalist in 2018.
Geyer comes from a family of Barossa Valley grape growers and undertook a fairly familiar process of gaining winemaking experience by working for top producers around the world. Those travels took him to South Africa, working at Lammershoek Winery in Swartland, France’s Roussillon at the revered Domaine Matassa, as well as to the US and New Zealand. Geyer’s career, however, began with vineyard work at Torbreck in 2002, which started a seven-year stint in the winery.
After Torbreck, and back from his travels, Geyer and his wife, Sarah, settled in the Barossa permanently. Starting in 2014, Geyer worked with Pete Schell at Spinifex – the cradle for many a top young maker – which gave him both the confidence and the critical sounding board to develop his own wines.
Geyer started playing with the first wines for his Geyer Wine Co. and Yetti & The Kokonut labels, toying with a natural approach across the wines, and experimenting to tease out different expressions from across vineyard sites that he knew well. These sites would become the core of the Geyer wines, with tiny parcels of old vines selected and the plots sometimes lovingly restored after years of neglect.
That first vintage was 2015, with The Geyer Wine Co. releasing the ‘Big Easy’, a blend of montepulciano, petit verdot, mataro and shiraz. The fruit was picked early to keep the wine at the lighter end of the spectrum, then naturally fermented and raised briefly in old oak. It was partnered with an old-vine grenache made with plenty of whole bunches and a dry, low-alcohol muscat of Alexandria from 80-year-old vines in the Riverland (Ricca Terra Farms).
A couple of years later, Geyer’s cabernet franc, ‘Seaside’, joined the ranks. It sees 10 days on skins for half the fruit, while the other half is made like rosé, resulting in a super crunchy and bright light red. His chenin blanc debuted at the same time, which is sourced from 100-year-old vines. Geyer leaves it on skins for 24 hours or so, ferments naturally until dry (only 9.5% alc for the 2018) and leaves it on lees before bottling. His semillon – and emblematic wine for Geyer – comes from three old-vine plots that throw very different expression of the grape, then gets whole bunch as well as straight skin contact before being raised in a 70-year-old cask.
While Geyer is constantly testing norms with his namesake wines, he pushes the boat out even further with his friend Koen Janssen. Their Yetti & The Kokonut label captures the wilder side with seriously good drinking but without any of the seriousness. Think common varieties often blended in uncommon unisons and with plenty of skin contact for whites and reds picked super early. The bottles are clear, labels colourful and the capsules are missing – one of the wines is called, ‘Hipster Juice’… you get the picture.