Simão & Co. Wines
With a range that covers significant territory, from the Alpine and King Valleys to Beechworth, Glenrowan and Rutherglen, Simon makes wine from all five of the North-East’s regions.
Matt Purbrick is no stranger to the wine game, growing up on the family vineyard, which just happens to be one of Victoria’s most iconic: Tahbilk. But that upbringing amongst some of the country’s oldest vines on the banks of the Goulburn River didn’t push Purbrick straight to the grape. Instead, with a career in graphic design and a city life not fulfilling his needs, he moved back to the country and started a business and a lifestyle with his wife Lentil that was centred around organic farming.
That business, Grown & Gathered, was as much an exploration of small-scale organic farming, hunting, foraging, trading and cooking as it was a project to document it, with a weighty social media following and two subsequent books on their journey, which included making their own wine. “When we started Grown & Gathered, we also started making wild wines with our mates over the river outside Nagambie,” says Purbrick.
“I grew up surrounded by wine from day one, being born into the world of Tahbilk winery. But I learned this craft from going my own way, following my intuition and always experimenting. For the last ten years, I have worked with food and farming, beginning by farming organic fruits, flowers and vegetables, teaching fermentation and preservation of all kinds, and wild food foraging.”
Those early wines were very much for family, friends and for their own consumption, but when the pair wanted to expand on the wine side, to make accessibly priced wine with a key environmental and sustainable focus, they enlisted the help of Matt’s father, Alister. Starting with a 50-hectare family-owned site in the Goulburn Valley, they put in place regenerative farming practices and began the conversion to organic farming in 2016, with certification granted in 2020 (ACO).
“Our climate is borderline Sicilian come harvest time and getting hotter year on year,” says Purbrick. “The intensity that that heat brings is uplifting to work with. I love what this means for our reds. They are intensely fruited and powerful, yet remain light somehow. Whites and rosés were initially trickier, though… but in the end we have succumbed to the explosiveness they want to bring, picking a little earlier for more natural acid, opting for more skin contact and much more malo in there to soften and weave in complexity. In a way, this is the thing that has shaped the philosophy of these wines most of all – the goal of trying to capture all that intensity and elevated energy in the bottle.”
The first Minimum wines were launched in late 2019, with a chardonnay, sangiovese rosé and sangiovese syrah blend – all in lightweight recycled glass, with all packaging recycled and recyclable or compostable, and with the operation over 100 per cent carbon offset. The range now sees the rosé with some syrah added to it, while the red blend has a little cabernet added. Additionally, Purbrick has added a new line, which takes a less conventional route, with the first wines made and released in 2020.
“Our Short Runs range is for our small batches of un-fined, unfiltered, wild-fermented and experimental wines. These are the wines that we want to drink, made the way we love to make wine. Crushed with the same little crusher de-stemmer and pressed with the same little hand-cranked basket press that we used when we started making wine with our friends, fermented in open buckets, hand-plunged with strong skin-contact. They are fun and free and alive and moreish. Wine by friends. For friends. These are special wines very close to our hearts.”
This personal connection is something that runs deep with Purbrick, with the respect for land and the process driving him. “I do not set out to make any particular thing. I don’t set out to control or coerce. For me, the only joy in making wine is the beautiful and mysterious dance with the ferment. The visceral experience. The connection to the grapes and honouring the life-force of the vines. I want to create wines that are alive with energy. That is all I wish to do.”
Since their conversion to organics, Purbrick has also seen a huge improvement in the condition of their vineyard, with it now sequestering significant amounts of carbon, and a palpable uptick in the quality and character of fruit and wines. “In that incredibly short period of time, we are seeing measurable increases in soil life, massive increases in natural resistance to pests and disease,” he says.
“Every year the flavours are getting more layered and nuanced. Joyful, herbal, floral subtleties that didn’t manifest in the early years. Trusting in the natural processes and just allowing things to be has revealed a whole new landscape of depth in the wines year on year. It comes back to that sense of energy and aliveness again. When the vines are humming with energy, that’s when the wines have a chance at expressing something more than just ‘wineness’.”
There are changes in the winery, too, with a growing familiarity and experience seeing Purbrick increase in confidence. “Since 2020, we only wild ferment, and we use little to no adds, depending on the wine. We don’t fine, and we’re working towards not filtering any of our wines, eventually bringing the main range in line with the Short Runs. I want to do this so that all our wines remain alive in the bottle. I definitely want to capture the spirit of ancestral winemaking in my wines. We are also massive advocates of cork. We are intimate with cork forests in Italy where we spend a lot of our time these days, and believe wholeheartedly in that industry and its staggering array of beneficial effects on the planet. It’s not romantic for us, it’s just by far the most common-sense closure that has ever existed for wine! For me wine is a simple thing, my aim is simply not to complicate it.”