Although Abel Gibson’s connection to the Barossa and tradition runs deep, his Ruggabellus label has given convention a good hard shake. Working with sites that enable him to preserve freshness by picking earlier, his reds see varying levels of whole bunch inclusion, and the whites undergo extended skin contact. Neither see any new oak. Aside…
Steve Crawford Frederick Stevenson
Steve Crawford’s wine career began before he could vote, but it took him some time to pitch his own label, wary as he was of just injecting another range, much like the other ones, into a saturated market. Extensive forays into Italy and France gave shape to a sensibility that changed that, and his alias Frederick Stevenson was born. Crawford has a free-spirited approach to making wine, with no easy category fitting his style, but what is always apparent is the wines have an apparent flow, an unforced feel that never dips into ponderous intensity or ragged experimentation – they’re confident wines, but expressed with laid-back ease. Crawford was the Young Gun of Wine Winemaker’s Choice winner for 2015 (well, he tied with Michael Downer, with count backs and re-voting unable to split the pair), and again in 2020.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that Frederick Stevenson is another in a long line of eponymous wine labels, but you’d be wrong. Frederick Stevenson is winemaker Steve Crawford’s nom de plume, or rather nom de vin, a decoy to distract the inquisitive from his side project while he still held down a day (and night) job at a well-known winery. Now, the cat is well and truly free of the bag, not that it matters much now, except to clarify what will be an ongoing point of confusion.
Crawford pitched into the wine game early, with his career starting a year before hitting the legal drinking age. A degree in viticulture and winemaking followed at Adelaide University, and then a rites of passage global jaunt, taking in McLaren Vale, Langhorne Creek, Barossa Valley, Adelaide Hills, Clare Valley, Tasmania, Barolo, Chianti, Rheinhessen and Costières des Nîmes. Those forays, peppered with vintages back home, imbued in Crawford a desire not to tread the well-worn path at home, but rather toy with less-known varieties and to intersect components in unconventional blends.
Vintage 2013 saw the birth of the alias and the launch of the first wines, which have expanded to represent stalwart and less familiar varieties from the Barossa, Eden and Clare Valleys, and the Adelaide Hills. Making here is light of touch, with skins/lees employed on the whites and no additions bar sulphur (and not always) across the range. The ‘Dry Red’, a varying blend of cinsault, grenache, syrah and mourvèdre, is perhaps the best way to capture the range, with the magnifying glass lifted off variety, and detail and drinkability at the fore.
Crawford has also recently launched a duo of Italian-inspired table wines in partnership with graphic designer Carlo Jensen (Pink Moon Saloon, Gondola Gondola, The Happy Motel), under the Giovanni Armani Giorgio label. The red and white pair are all tongue and cheek on the outside, and pure gluggable Italo/Australian deliciousness within.
In 2018, Crawford, along with friend and fellow winemaker Con-Greg Grigoriou of Dilenquente, set up a winery and cellar-door called Oddio in a heritage-listed church (a Methodist one, too – they’re the teetotal ones) in an industrial zone in Bowden, on the fringe of North Adelaide. Eclectic events and other scheduled frivolity accompany winemaking activities, with both makers’ wines accompanied by guest food spots and micro-brew beers.