Adam Hooper and Elena Golakova, La Curio, SA

Name: Elena Golakova & Adam Hooper

Stylistic interpretation is prominent for a group of young winemakers making their mark in South Australia's McLaren Vale. The world of the 21st century wine industry can be one of high-tech, computerised oenology. But at Redheads Studio about an hour south of Adelaide, the philosophy is Artisanship. Redheads is a place where winemakers can go and experiment with their own ideas and make small batches of wine. The winemakers involved usually have a day job and go to Redheads to be free of their own winery's restrictions.

'Winemaking is art,' said La Curio winemaker Elena Golakova, who with partner Adam Hooper, make their wines at Redheads. Golakova and Hooper have just walked away with a Decanter World Wine Award trophy for their Grenache Shiraz blend, The Nubile. To describe their reaction to winning the award as one of happiness doesn't seem to do it justice. The two young producers are passionate about the wine they make, the region they live in and the lifestyle it provides.

Garagiste is a French term for wine made in the garage and it seems to fit at Redheads. Wine is fermented in rain water tanks cut in half to allow open fermentation. Relationships are fostered with the regions' best growers and fruit is crushed and fermented in small batches. Experimentation seems the norm, wild yeasts are trialled and Hooper says one of his La Curio ferments was on skins this past vintage for two months.

'Taking risks can be scary but ultimately rewarding,' Hooper said.

One of his techniques involves freezing fermenting fruit with dry ice (a lot of it) to drop the temperature of the must. This smashes the cell walls in the skins and facilitates the extraction of colour and a subtle tannin profile. But Hooper says while this method is labour intensive, not to mention all the plunging involved with the open fermenters, the results are worth it.

'It is hard to get consistency but getting the desired outcome is fantastic,' he said.

Redheads is not the only group of young winemakers making the shift to more hands on winemaking. In Bordeaux Garagiste winemakers take to their sheds to rebel against Bordeaux's appellation controls. In the Barossa Valley 34 producers have come together and formed the Barossa Small Winemaker's Centre. They source fruit from quality parcels around the valley and produce more than 90 hand made wines.

With all of these groups it seems the motivation is the same - to stick it to the corporates, create regional branding and to try and enhance their own region's, and Australia's, reputation as a premier wine producer.

'When you work for a large company you can not express yourself,' Golakova said.

'The biggest joy for me is to define my own stylistic interpretation of what I believe a blend of McLaren Vale's two icons should be (Shiraz and Grenache).'

The full article can be found in the July issue of the Grapegrower & Winemaker.

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