Natural selection: Darwinian wine?

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”This is where the trip begins. Forget what you know, there are no more styles, no more trends, the past is forgotten and tomorrow may never come. Relinquish your old ways.”

This, from the group Natural Selection Theory, which advocates natural wines, is as close as you will get to a manifesto of natural winemaking in Australia. Like its wines, the group doesn’t mind confronting established views on how a wine should be created. Original members include Anton van Klopper of Lucy Margaux in the Adelaide Hills. He employs handmade paper labels, uses cork exclusively and once attempted to make wine without electricity. Then there’s Tom Shobbrook, the son of Eden Valley farmers, who worked in Chianti for five years. James Erskine is a trained sommelier and a soil scientist and makes wine in the Adelaide Hills under the Jauma label.

Sam Hughes is a Sydney-based winemaker once described as ”part jongleur (mediaeval minstrel, poet), part warlock”.

In 2010 they ”reinvented the wheel” (their words) when they embarked on ”The Egg Project” with Hunter Valley semillon. They fermented and aged the semillon in nine 44-litre egg-shaped ceramic vessels immersed in three different soils: quartz sand for ”isolation,” red clay for ”love” and limestone for ”strength”. The finished wine was released in 900ml ”birthing spheres” and came with a 12-inch LP dedicated to the ”sounds of birth”. Each birthing sphere sold for $161.80.

The same year they released Voice of the People, their ode to a peasant wine, made in a 23-litre glass demijohn with the red wine (”the grapes matter, not the varieties”) topped with olive oil to keep it fresh.

”Have the strength to let it fail,” is their maxim. So far, not a lot of failure has been recorded with sommeliers, some of the strongest supporters of their brand of winemaking.