10 NATURAL NEW SOUTH WALES WINEMAKERS TO LOVEOrganic. Biodynamic. Vegan-friendly. Minimal intervention. For some of New South Wales's most innovative winemakers, it's not just about what you put into the wine, but what you leave out. From the North Coast Orange to the Southern Highlands to the Hunter Valley wine regions, meet the winemakers making waves with their natural wines.

Sam Leyshon of Mallaluka, Yass

Some winemakers like to leave their mark on the wines they produce – but Sam Leyshon takes the opposite approach. Now at the helm of his family winery, Mallaluka, in Yass, a three-hour drive southwest of Sydney or an hour north of Canberra, Leyshon (formerly of renowned Canberra District winery Clonakilla) aims to minimise the fingerprint on his wines, using low-impact techniques such as open-vat fermentation, basket pressing and minimal additives. In addition to cool-climate favourites such as riesling and shiraz, his range includes lesser-known whites including fiano, vermentino and aligoté, a little-known Burgundy varietal. There is no cellar door, but you can buy Mallaluka wines directly from their website.

Sam Renzaglia of Renzaglia Wines, O'Connell Valley

You don't often find a Rosenberg's goanna on a wine label, but there's a reason that Sam Renzaglia's Di Renzo range of wines features wildlife on its labels. At Renzaglia Wines in the O'Connell Valley near Bathurst, a three-hour drive west of Sydney  the focus is on restoring the local ecosystem. That influences how Renzaglia treats not just his vines — minimising herbicides and pesticides and weeding by hand — but also how he treats the rest of the property, introducing nesting boxes and planting more trees to support native birds and koalas. Renzaglia's award-winning wines, which are made without fining and filtering, include chardonnay, shiraz, cabernet sauvignon and merlot.



Richie Harkham of Harkham Wines, Hunter Valley

When Richie Harkham describes his wines as “pure grape juice”, he's talking about what he leaves out of the winemaking process: there are no chemicals, no preservatives, no additives, fining or filtration. At this boutique Hunter Valley winery, which makes a maximum of 20,000 bottles a year, workers hand-pick all the grapes used to make its acclaimed semillon, chardonnay, rosé and shiraz. That's not the only thing that sets Harkham Wines apart: the winery operates according to kosher guidelines, and has an on-site restaurant and accommodation for those looking for a longer stay.

Jared Dixon of Jilly Wine Co, Clunes

A 40-minute drive inland from Byron Bay in the village of Clunes, winemaker Jared Dixon of Jilly Wine Co is hard at work. Jared sources his grapes from the cooler New England region, just a few hours away, where settlers first grew vines in the early 19th century. The crisp highland air suits varieties such as nebbiolo, gewurztraminer and chardonnay, and Dixon uses natural yeasts and avoids fining and additives, apart from a small amount of sulphur. The Clunes cellar door is open only by appointment, but you can pick up a bottle or two at the Clunes Store & Cellars on Main Street in town.

Tony Zafirakos at Ari's Natural Wine Co, Sutton Forest

In the picturesque Southern Highlands, a two-hour drive southwest of Sydney, Ari's Natural Wine Co is all about keeping it simple. Inspired by the techniques used in the Greek village where his father Ari grew up, winemaker Tony Zafirakos uses wild fermentation, and harvests and processes his fruit by hand. His unfiltered, unfined, sulphur-free wines include unusual drops such as Pash & Pop, an orange wine that's made with greco and zibibbo grapes fermented on skins, and Lucky No.5, a blend of the season's varieties. 

James and Meagan Becker of M&J Becker Wines, Hunter Valley

Located in Australia's oldest wine growing region, relative newcomer M&J Becker Wines is all about shaking things up. Operated by a husband-and-wife team, James and Meagan Becker are passionate about making wine that captures its environment with as little intervention as possible – so no fining agents or additives. You'll find pinot noir and chardonnay as well as syrah made with certified organic grapes. A visit to their cellar door, located at the beautiful Roche Estate, will not disappoint.

Bryan Martin of Ravensworth, Murrumbateman

Situated in Murrumbateman wine country in the Canberra District, Ravensworth is a winery with a master at its helm, making wine that is a mixture of scientific exactitude and experimental flair. This is a family affair, with Bryan Martin making wine with his wife Jocelyn and brother David. The wine is made at nearby Clonakilla winery, where Bryan has worked for over a decade, and are mostly aromatic and light-to-medium bodied, with sangiovese being the most popular red variety. Other varietals on offer include nebbiolo, riesling and gamay.

Peta Kotz of Sabi Wabi, Hunter Valley

Another newer winery doing things differently in the Hunter Valley, Sabi Wabi only launched in 2019. With its name taking inspiration for the Japanese term wabi sabi, this winery is all about embracing imperfection. Located on the banks of the Hunter River, the wine is made in very small batches by Peta Kotz, who grew up in the area. Kotz's debut wine, Bright Eyes, was a sunny blend of chardonnay and semillon. For 2021's vintage, production increased and Kotz was able to make a white, red and rosé. Fruit for the semillon was sourced from Tranquil Vale Vineyard in Luskintyre, the shiraz from the rosé and red are from Lovedale, with a cooler year meaning more natural acidity. As always, the wines were made imperfectly, intentionally and with minimal intervention.

Benson Brown and Joel Mucci of Benson & The Mooch, South Coast

Protégées of Tony Zafirakos at Ari's Wine, Benson and Joel of Benson & The Mooch started out making their wine out of Ari's winery before setting up their own space down in the South Coast, near Wollongong. It was their debut pét-nat that put them on the map – called Disco Juice, like their others, it's a good-times wine, made for drinking at sunny backyard barbecues. Grapes are sourced from the Central Ranges and left pretty well alone – with no additions, sulphur, filtering or fining, and everything produced by hand. Other wines in the range have equally as fun names and characters on the label: Purple Rain is a GSM blend with a slight spritz, and Gaucho is a nebbiolo and mourvèdre blend, out in late 2021.  

Charlie O'Brien and Simon Jones of Chateau Acid, Central Ranges

Although their wine is, of course, based on principles of minimal intervention, you'll find the winemakers' personality splashed all over Chateau Acid. Old friends Charlie O'Brien and Simon Jones are both heavily involved in the music industry, inspiring the noughties-style club poster vibe of the labels that Jones – also a graphic designer – created. It's a fun brand but they are serious about their wine, sourcing grapes from the biodynamic and organic certified vineyards of Rosnay Organic Vineyard in Canowindra. The Bianco, vermentino with three weeks skin contact and 12 months in a terracotta amphorae, has been a hit. They've also produced a popular grenache, chardonnay and a rosato – a refreshing and tangy grenache syrah blend.

For more information on NSW Wine Regions go to www.visitnsw.com

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