After having travelled the world making wine, Etienne Mangier settled in the Macedon Ranges, a place that he likens to the Jura region of France, where he grew up. Now with two small vineyards under his management, and without recourse to any chemical treatments, he makes both still and sparkling wines under his North label. The wines, working with chardonnay, pinot noir and shiraz, are made without any additions – including no sulphur.
Mangier hails from the Jura region of France, east of Burgundy near to the Swiss border. He completed his master’s degree in oenology in Lyon, then worked both in France and around the world alternating vintages between the hemispheres. Stints outside of Europe include in South Africa, California, Oregon, Canada, South Korea and then Australia, where he settled in 2010.
Landing in the Macedon Ranges, Mangier took on a role at Hanging Rock Winery, working alongside Rob Ellis. A friendship with Josh Cooper – youthful Macedon royalty, if there is such a thing – helped to push him towards launching his own label, with Mangier crediting Cooper’s encouragement as critical. That sent Mangier on the search for a site, with a tiny vineyard planted to pinot noir, chardonnay and shiraz catching his eye.
That site, which was planted 20 years ago, had been neglected before Mangier took charge of the viticulture. “The owner had stopped looking after it 10 years ago,” he says. “In 2015, I pruned the vineyard back to shape, stopped using any weed killers and stopped using irrigation.” That property, dubbed the North Vineyard, was joined by a second one, two years later.
“I met the landlord of my vineyard at the pub – Australian pubs are truly a community hub! My wife was teaching salsa then, and he was waiting for his wife who attended the class, we drank beers, and the rest is history.”
The Botanica Vineyard, at 630 metres in Romsey, is planted to chardonnay, pinot noir, pinot meunier, gewürztraminer and sauvignon blanc, which Mangier “co-manages with the owners, stopping the use of Roundup, with no more irrigation, and only spraying copper and sulphur on the vineyard.”
And while an increased resilience in the vines through better soil management and the elimination of synthetic treatments has helped to resolve some disease and pest issues, others have required more creative solutions.
“I have a big issue with a herd of wild deer floating around Mt Macedon,” says Mangier. “Even if I would like to have them in a terrine, they are majestic animals, and I don’t want to hurt them. I just walk around the block, peeing on the corners, and smashing rotting eggs, as well as spraying chilli – they do hate Sriracha – on the new shoots.”
The first North wine was made in 2015, at Hanging Rock, and released in 2017, launching his brand. “North Wine was a tribute to Jura, my hometown,” he says. “I wanted to make some ‘vivant’ wines… alive, wines that tell a story about where they are from. Natural winemaking with zero additives – no sulphur. Small vineyards managed without any chemicals, no irrigation… I use wild yeast fermentation. I do not use any filtration, and my sparkling don’t have any dosage. 100 per cent pure grape juice fermented!”
Mangier says that the Macedon Ranges reminds him of his home territory, in the foothills of the Jura Mountains. “Amazing soils, cool climate and beautiful mountains,” he says, drawing parallels. “The cold climate, the great diversity in soil gives the wines, especially the sparklings, a richness of aromatics. Everything is a bit tuned down, but more complex. I have learned to be patient and the wines will reveal themself after some time. I once picked some chardonnay and pinot noir a bit to early and wasn’t happy with the high level of acidity. I left the wine on lees for seven years before I disgorged it, and the wine was superb.”
While Mangier credits Cooper with pushing him to make his own wine, he’s at pains to point out how important other makers in the Macedon Ranges and surrounding regions have been to his process. “Later on, I met all the Macedon Ranges crew, Chris Dilworth and Loique Allain, Owen Latta, Gilles Lapalus… with the same approach and winemaking philosophy. All these full-of-energy-and-ideas people gave me more inspiration to push the boundaries a bit further, but still while keeping a sense of traditional process – I use méthode Champenoise for my sparkling, but I just renamed it method Champen-Oz!”
With the irrigation turned off on both his vineyards, Mangier says the terroir accent of the sites is now clearer in the wines he makes, which is especially evident with the chardonnay coming off the basalt soils of the North site. But this clarity is only expressed when all the other pieces of the puzzle fall into place. “Making wines that are alive starts by having soil that is alive too. Roundup has no place on this planet. I’m making wines that are alive. Making wine that tell stories about where they come from, and about who made them. That’s why I do not want to have any additives, I want my wines to be true even if sometimes that does not please everyone.”