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Back in 1987 we saw the start of something called "Flying Winemakers"...top young Aussie winemakers flying over to help with the European vintage. Shock! Horror! But...the new ideas, the energy, optimism and talent really benefitted Europe...and...Europe gave the Aussies a lot of ideas in return. Like Red Heads, for example. See...the "flyers" got frustrated when they flew home to dull jobs in the mega wineries of the ho ho! "rationalized" Australian wine industry. They envied their French and Italian mates who made just the wines they wanted to make.
With no money to set up their own wineries, they just made a few barrels in garages. Fantastic wines came out of tin sheds! Wine shippers in Britain and the US loved the stuff. They got backing and set up Red Heads in an old bar that they bought on the road out of McLaren Vale to Barossa. Red Heads was the name of the bar.
Great name! They kept it. This is now where the keenest winemakers come after work to "do their thing." British, American, Aussie and even French customers love the idea of these red wine "heads" frantically working away through the night making the great little wines they always wanted to make.
Justin Lane made just four barrels of his own in his garage. But also had a mate, 'Philbo', who made rather more in a bigger tin shack on Chalk Hill that he'd kitted out for bugger-all with cheap rainwater butts, garden hose, a converted milk chiller, clapped old pumps and casks scavenged from behind Hardy's.
The mantra of Red Heads still rings aloud, 'Drink more wine!' The collective garagistes are still pushing it hard and producing some crazy juice.
The same could be said for Chardonnay in Australia – cuddly, friendly, ready to roll over – and almost every winery owns some. Throw a little splash into a neglected variety like Verdelho and spice it up with some dry Riesling and hooah, one lovely glass of booze. It is said that a dog will reflect the character of its owner and a wine will reflect the character of its maker. Red Heads winemaker is friendly, fun to be with, but we’re sure he doesn’t bite. But, as for his Yard Dog – beware!
Region: South Australia
Varietal: 80% Verdelho - 15% Riesling - 5% Chardonnay
Vineyard: Verdelho (Langhorne Creek) - Riesling (Clare Valley) - Chardonnay (Adelaide Hills)
Vine Age: Varied
Oak: None - Stainless Steel
Production: 5,000 cases
FOOD PAIRING: General Tso Chicken, Korean chicken.
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