Smallfry Wines is a partnership in business and life between Suzi Hilder and Wayne Ahrens. They were both born into the industry and have various trade and technical qualifications and have both worked in most aspects of wine production in enterprises big and small.
Suzi and Wayne are viticulturists bitten by the winemaking bug, and the chance to turn their own high quality fruit into great wine was too good to pass up. Natural ferments, nil to minimal adjustment, old oak a soft hand in the cellar allows the vineyard to speak. The style is food friendly, Euro style, with a eye to balance and subtlety.
The essential component of any great wine is great fruit, and they are lucky enough to own two very special vineyards, one in Eden Valley and the other in Vine Vale in the valley floor.
Estate grown biodynamic fruit is the beginning of everything for Smallfry and then this extends to minimal intervention in the winemaking process. In terms of “natural” winemaking Smallfry are the genuine article, hand made, traditional, bugger all intervention, natural, call it what you want, once you open the bottle you will understand.
Getting the fruit right is most of the battle won and this is why vintage variation occurs. If grape quality were not the paramount concern in the winemaking process then every vintage would be quite similar as all else in the process is under the control of the winemaker. Using their own fruit and purchasing from selected growers is the way that they ensure the best possible fruit for their wines.
The biggest point of difference between Smallfry and the majority of the Barossa winemaking community is that they rely on wild yeast to conduct the primary alcoholic ferment. Why wild yeast? Smallfry’s belief is that the different flavour profile obtained using wild yeast ferments is primarily due to population dynamics. The ferments can take a day or so to get going, during this time preferment maceration of skins occurs extracting a more fruity flavour profile.
Most winemakers would add a cultivated yeast inoculum in a high population at the crusher or in the fermenter with the express intention of getting the ferment going as quickly as possible.
The adherents of wild yeast believe that when James Busby imported grape varieties from the old world to begin our industry, concealed in the buds and bark were the old world yeasts that fermented their wines. These same old world yeasts were later isolated and cultivated to provide the inoculations the modern industry relies on.
Wayne says that the biggest kick he gets out of using wild ferments is the Dionysis thing. “Wine was a gift from the gods because before microscopes no one had any idea of what was turning their grapes into wine. Fermentation was a spontaneous event to be celebrated by giving thanks to the gods, it turned a perishable item i.e. grapes into a storable, pleasant (we hope) health giving product”.
Crushing grapes into a fermenter then later getting in with his bare feet and feeling around for the little warm patches and mixing them into the rest of the must until within a day or two a lovely, healthy, sweet smelling ferment results is a thing of great excitement for Wayne. Which is really what it’s all about. He reckons that if he can’t offer you something he’s excited about he might as well all “pack up, go home and leave it to Jacobs Creek”
I have chosen Smallfry’s 2008 Shiraz Muscadelle in the Winter Launch Selection to demonstrate both a wine made by “natural” methods with minimal intervention along with allowing you to appreciate the aromatic impact from blending the fruit with a small amount of muscadelle.