Perpetually afforded the tag of Australia’s nicest and most affable winemaker, John Hughes also has a very serious side, with a slavish obsession to his favourite grape, riesling. Hughes’ Rieslingfreak imprint has been steadily redefining that noble grape, bending it into all manner of shapes, and making perfect sense at the same time. His wines…
Matt Gant First Drop
Matt Gant’s geography degree was spun off course when a wine-loving professor “contrived” a study trip to France to taste wine. That minor diversion led to a terminal detour for Gant, axing the maps and globes for vintages around the world, before settling in the Barossa and co-founding First Drop wines in 2005. The First Drop range is breathtakingly expansive, taking in the Barossa and Eden Valleys, McLaren Vale and the Adelaide Hills, with shiraz ranging from brooding Barossa floor powerhouses to spice-laden Adelaide Hills syrah styles. Add in a mix of Italian, Spanish and Portuguese varieties and inspirations, and there’s not much Gant doesn’t try his hand at. Gant was the inaugural Young Gun of Wine, in 2007.
Matt Gant’s wine obsession began in the old country, England, when one of his University Lecturers sculpted a reason to take the whole class to Burgundy and Champagne in the interests of furthering their knowledge for their geography degrees. The real reason for the lecturer’s trip provoked in Gant the same interest: a love for wine. What followed for Gant was a world tour working vintages in the US, Spain, Portugal, Italy, New Zealand and Australia, where he landed a job as the winemaker at St Hallett, in the Barossa Valley, under Stuart Blackwell.
In 2005, Gant and business partner John Retsas launched the initial volley in the First Drop salvo, which was perhaps surprisingly an arneis. Now, although First Drop have plenty of shiraz (and syrah) in their expansive portfolio, the spirit of diversity has always flooded their thinking. That arneis was followed by a montepulciano, of course, adorned with the somewhat confronting title, ‘Minchia’. Shiraz followed after, including the ‘Dos Por Ciento’ (2%), which paired a dribble of albariño (as it was thought to be then – actually savagnin – but moscatel is now used) instead of the more typical viognier. The aim here was to soften the tannic edges and so avoid fining, while also adding a lick of acid – an indication of the creative thinking and desire to not tinker.
“First Drop offered the opportunity to take my experiences from working around the world (Italy, Spain, Portugal, California, New Zealand and the Barossa included) to make an eclectic and what we hoped would be an exciting line-up. That vision remains to this day,” says Gant.
Today, it’s hard to cover the portfolio easily, given the roster of around 30 wines, but beyond the tiers of Barossa’s lead varieties, from the gluggable to the ponderable, First Drop push heavily into Spanish, Portuguese and Italian varieties and sensibilities, with fruit also sourced from the Adelaide Hills, Eden Valley and McLaren Vale.