Nathan Brown’s Linear Wines is nearly as old as his winemaking career, making his first wines the vintage after he began working at Canberra’s Collector Wines in 2017. With an aim to reflect the great diversity of sites in and around the Canberra District, Brown sources both classic and alternative varieties from across the region. Now working exclusively on Linear, Brown has leased a winemaking space in Murrumbateman, where he has broadened the range in 2021 across eight varieties and with lots of small parcels, and with even more planned for the future.
Nathan Brown came to winemaking via restaurants, with a 12-year career that included owning Canberra’s much-loved Pulp Kitchen. Selling up in 2017, Brown wanted to delve deeper into a love for wine that had only intensified over his hospitality career. “Alex McKay at Collector Wines took me on as a vintage hand for the 2017 vintage,” says Brown. “After this experience, I was completely hooked and stayed on at Collector Wines fulltime, working with a small team who cover everything from the winery to the vineyards and everything in between.”
In 2018, Brown began studying wine science at Charles Sturt University, launching his own label in the same year with two small-batch wines. “I wanted to create something of my own and so began Linear Wines. I was able to access fruit from vineyards in the Canberra District, and I also continue to work with grape growers from Tumbarumba, Gundagai and Hilltops. I created the label so I could go on my own journey and create something that speaks to what I am trying to achieve in winemaking.”
A large part of Brown’s role at Collector was to manage some of the sites that McKay farms. “I oversaw management of five different sites dotted around the Canberra District,” he says. “Those sites all range in age, size and state of condition. Over the past few years, the biggest challenge had been how to implement an approach that will look after the land and in turn help create and grow amazing fruit, with the path forward built around adopting an organic approach across all sites.”
That vineyard focus has become a critical foundation of the Linear Wines, with his time at Collector allowing him the luxury of the kind of viticultural control that is a difficult thing for a new maker with a new brand to achieve. Today, after having left Collector in 2020, Brown is heavily focused on taking on the management of a range of small sites to continue that connection with vineyard and sensitive farming.
“It all starts with balance in the vineyard,” says Brown, “making sure we are trying to show the plants some love so they can produce the quality of the fruit we are chasing. The results are amazing. The depth and layers of flavour and texture are truly visible in the fruit. The end results are for better quality wines that are easier to manage in the winery as the work has already been done in the vineyard!”
The Linear range currently features a pinot noir from Tumbarumba, a fiano sourced from Gundagai, and a sangiovese and tempranillo that come from the Canberra District, with both being a blend of two sites.
“I love the options we have here in the Canberra District,” says Brown, “with shiraz and riesling being the most awarded varieties in the Canberra District, we then have a list of alternative varieties with more and more popping up that love the hot days and cool nights in Canberra. My aim is to create interesting region-specific wines from the immediate region and surrounds.”
In respect to winemaking, Brown is at pains to point out that he is still on a sharp learning curve. “I feel I haven’t yet defined my wine style. I am very new to the game, having only been making wine since 2017, and under my own label since 2018. The first few years for me were all about just learning, I would say, more standardised techniques. I feel like now I can start to test the waters a little more and really start to think about what I can get out of a wine. This to me is just the next part of the journey and learning experience.”
Currently, Brown’s winemaking follows a quite classic path, with whole bunch pressing and cool ferments for his fiano, while the reds typically see a small inclusion of whole bunches in the ferments, with minimal amounts of new oak used, and it’s always French. And while this is where the Linear Wines are at present, Brown is always working towards the best reflection of site, whether through classic techniques or by experimenting.
“I feel the whole process of making wine can be quite personal, and I think that your end product can speak about the person you are. It is a balancing act of the norms of winemaking versus the experimental thoughts, some will translate to great ideas and others might be mistakes. The drive for me is to make something inspiring, something that can help create a memory for someone around family, friends and food. The memory of a great wine and food match in the right company is something that can last a lot longer than a bottle of wine.”