Made by Monks is “a creative outlet” for Luke Monks, where he crafts an eclectic ensemble of wines from his Hobart base, with the emphasis taken off seriousness and placed on playfully challenging norms. With no set range, Monks has worked with chardonnay, pinot gris, gewürztraminer, riesling, syrah, pinot noir and semillon, often coupling them in non-traditional blends, and always making them in a lo-fi way. They’re statements of possibility in the Tasmanian wine landscape that is so dominated by classic styles from classic varieties.
Luke Monks grew up in Tasmania, not far from the Coal River Valley, but moved to Melbourne in 2004. That was to further his education with postgraduate studies in communication design. To pay the bills, a job at the Carlisle Wine Bar saw a burgeoning interest in wine fostered, with a move to the City Wine Shop in 2007 cementing it further. That was at a particularly fertile time for the Spring Street institution, with Monks crediting it as a formative period: “I learnt a great deal and had many mentors and friends throughout this period… too many to list.”
In 2014, travel took him to work for 6 months in Sicily at Planeta, as well as for a time with Dave Fletcher in Piedmont. Before returning in 2015, Monks also travelled to France, Germany, Spain and Portugal, visiting wineries and vineyards along the way. On his return, he started work with Nick Glaetzer, an old friend whose wines he had sold to the Melbourne trade while working at the City Wine Shop. Monks helped Glaetzer establish his new winery, while also doing time with Conor van der Reest at Moorilla Estate, on the peninsula of Berriedale that juts into the Derwent River and also accommodates MONA.
Monks still works with Glaetzer at his winery, which is where he makes his own label, with the first vintage coming in 2016. “Made by Monks is a creative outlet. It’s fun and playful and doesn’t take itself too seriously. I’d like to think I follow suit with many of my peers embracing a contemporary and modern take on Australian wine. I saw a space in the marketplace here in Hobart for local wines that were less about ‘Brand Tasmania’ and classic styles and more about the use of our great quality fruit spun into something a little more eccentric.”
Monks’ wines have roamed a little over the years, including chardonnay, pinot noir, a pinot gris and gewürztraminer blend, a chardonnay and riesling blend, a pét-nat made as a co-lab with Hobart’s Sonny and a bespoke rosé for Hobart’s Templo. A semillon and semillon fumé from the Iron Pot Vineyard in the Tamar, and a syrah and semillon blend, from Iron Pot and Meadowbank, make up the current release, and all from the 2019 vintage. The wines are made very much in a lo-fi manner, with no adds bar sulphur, and that is minimal.
Monks notes that the quest for making slightly “eccentric” styles is not always easy, with Tasmania’s plantings dominated by the familiar. “I want to make wine that represents Tasmania in a contemporary national context. Too much of wine made in Tasmania relies on ‘Brand Tas’ and is boring in its scope. For my business and the market I pitch toward, fruit costs are a concern in Tasmania – quality is high and it drives prices and demand. A lack of or accesses to non-classical varieties is also challenging.
“I’ve only had five vintages making wine so there’s been plenty of misses and spectacular fails, though also many serendipitous moments of ‘how the hell did I do that!’ For me, it’s how you manage these ups and downs and find ways to express your creativity without compromising yourself to produce something you stand by.”
And while there may be some limitations in the range of grape varieties available, not to mention accessibly priced fruit, Monks also sees great possibilities. “Hobart is a great place to live and in close proximity to three very different subregions: Coal, Derwent and Huon. Opportunities are everywhere! I see a younger generation wanting to come together and pool resources; there are conversations about growing the future collectively and little co-labs starting up everywhere. There’s a real shift towards a broader winemaking landscape.”