Phoebe Grant launched Nature of the Beast barely out of here teens, unveiling a compact but serenely mature suite of wines from the 2020 vintage. Those wines were made from chardonnay and nebbiolo, a rosé, which are varieties that are the cornerstones of her family’s Beechworth vineyard, Traviarti, though grant sources fruit from the Macedon Ranges and North East Victoria. A barbera joined the ranks in 2021, with all wines made with texture and savoury interest as the mainstays.
“My whole life has been driven by food and wine,” Grant says. “I’ve been lucky enough to grow up in a household with a revolving door of dinner party guests, and one thing that always stood out to me was the joy and conversation wine can bring. This is exactly why I make wine; I want to be a contributing factor to a great meal. Nothing has excited me more since starting to make my own wine than seeing people enjoy it over a meal, both in my home as well as spotting it when I’ve been dining out.”
It’s fair to say that Phoebe Grant grew up with winemaking in her blood, with her family owning Beechworth’s Traviarti. “I’ve been indoctrinated with nebbiolo and chardonnay from a young age,” she says. “I’ve spent my whole life at the dinner table thinking about what I’m putting in my mouth, so winemaking was always going to be a natural progression.”
No doubt this home schooling accelerated the process for Grant to make her own wine, with two vintages of Nature of the Beast made and another just commencing, and all at the age of 22 on the eve of vintage ’22. While she has always been involved at the family vineyard, she credits formal vintages at Rutherglen Estates with Marc Scalzo (whose home project is Beechworth’s Piano Piano) as being critical to her practical apprenticeship.
“I’ve done two vintages, 2019 and ’20 under Marc Scalzo’s tutelage, while helping Chris Catlow at Sentiō and Peter Graham at Domenica, along with my father,” Grant says. “Being able to work and taste with Chris and Pete has been an absolute privilege; the way they both spend their time considering every aspect is incredible. The finesse, attention to detail and generosity they convey when tasting has been an incredible motivator for me. Formal studies are not off the table, but I am enjoying where I’m at for now.”
Grant started Nature of the Beast in the 2020 vintage, which was an especially challenging one in North East Victoria, with smoke taint wiping out many vineyards. “I was lucky enough that the vineyard I bought nebbiolo from for rosé was just in the right pocket of the King Valley with the wind on my side,” she says. “The fruit ended up coming off earlier than I would’ve liked, but I still managed to create a wine that was exciting and of the style I was chasing: savoury and textural.”
That wine was released in the same year, marking Grant’s commercial debut, but there was also a chardonnay in barrel from 2020, with fruit sourced from the esteemed Cope-Williams Vineyard in Romsey. Vintage 2021 saw a barbera added, with fruit coming from the King Valley – the Corsini Vineyard in the King Valley township, and the Cavicchiolo vineyard in Myrrhee.
“I grew up in Beechworth, spending a lot of time in the King Valley when my family had a vineyard there, so I know both regions really well,” says Grant. “I also have personal connections with the growers I buy fruit from. I went to school with their children, or I’ve known them since I was a kid driving around vineyards with my dad. It’s so nice to have such a personal connection to the fruit you use, especially when you don’t grow it yourself. It makes it even more rewarding when the wines do justice to all the hard work the growers put in.”
Grant is at pains to point out that she’s at the very beginning of a long journey. “I’m still starting out and trying to wrap my head around what my future holds,” she says, “I’d love to make a Beechworth chardonnay somewhere down the track, but other than that I’m just really excited to expand my knowledge and hopefully reflect that in the bottles I produce.”
Although Grant is clearly leaving her options open, her stylistic focus is not in question. “I’m all about texture,” she says. “It’s my main interest. I try to make textural and savoury wines that are indicative of variety and place.”