Peta Kotz’s Sabi Wabi is her homage to reworking the traditions of the Hunter, of searching for “beauty amongst imperfection”. Semillon is the foundation of the brand she founded in 2019 while working for biodynamic Hunter winery Krinklewood, and she steadfastly says it will remain that way, although her lo-fi making, with no subtractions and no adds, bar a fraction of sulphur, and employment of a raft of alternative vessels is also applied to red wine and rosé.
“I am Hunter Valley born and bred, and I am proud to be surrounded by such rich history and tradition of wine in the Valley, but there is a new wave of like-minded people here doing different things, and I am stoked to be a part of it,” says Kotz.
Starting in wine in the early 2000s, Kotz studied a viticulture diploma at TAFE in 2005, before beginning her bachelor of wine science at Charles Sturt in 2016, which she finished in 2021. “In the early 2000s, it was a little different in the Hunter Valley back then. Fast forward, and after studying a degree in wine science, I decided to do my own thing in 2019, making wines that are not so traditional and shedding a new light onto traditional varieties of the Hunter, with semillon at focus.”
That wine science degree was undertaken while she worked at progressive biodynamic Hunter producer Krinklewood, starting as a cellar hand and becoming an assistant winemaker in 2019, the same year she worked vintage at Le Grappin in Beaune. In 2021, Kotz took a role as assistant winemaker at M&J Becker Wines. While at Krinklewood, she launched her own label with a semillon chardonnay blend from the same vintage.
“Drawing inspiration from Japanese philosophy of ‘wabi-sabi’ – to find beauty amongst imperfection – I strive to make wines that I hope are transportive and take you on a journey,” says Kotz. “With Hunter Valley semillon as the focus, I aim to express this variety in a new non-traditional light. I love natural/lo-fi wines, and being surrounded by tradition… did I mention I love semillon? I want to experiment with semillon and show it in a new light, along with other known Hunter varieties.”
That “non-traditional light” sees Kotz employ various techniques to step outside the regional norm. “Here in the Hunter, semillon is traditionally fermented in stainless steel and bottled early,” she says. “I want to make a more textural style of semillon, fermenting in ceramic and neutral oak, along with skin contact and carbonic techniques.”
While semillon is the clear focus, Kotz also makes a fresh red made from merlot and a shiraz rosé, but she notes that the wines and their style will always be dictated by the vintage. “Each vintage is different, making natural/lo-fi wines without additions or fining really puts the vintage conditions in the spotlight,” she says. “I try to pick early to retain acidity and freshness and produce lighter wines and represent each season the best I can.”
Kotz says that she always wants to make wines that are “textural, fun and take you on a journey”. All wines are un-fined and unfiltered, with minimal sulphur, “expressing the true beauty of the season and landscape. Each wine is small batch, single site. Some certified organic, some not. I try to work entirely by gravity where I can. Hand bottled, hand waxed, hand labelled.”
And while Kotz is busily reimaging regional traditions, she wants to add new strings to her bow. “I want to keep doing what I am doing,” she says, “but I am excited by some of the alternate varieties being planted in the Hunter; there’s so much great stuff happening here. Semillon will always be my true love though!”