|Grapegrower & Winemaker||Wine & Viticulture Journal||Wine Industry Directory||
||Daily Wine News||
Wine’s wild man rides into town
ALPHA BOX & DICE is short two vowels and a fistful of consonants.
Big deal. Justin Lane, the man behind the brand, is talking so fast you would have no hope of knowing.
This guy is literally jumping out of his skin with excitement about his wine, the wine of his friends, the wine he spilt last week, in fact any wine.
His own wines were originally planned to fill an alphabet - like a traditional special bin range but without the numbers.
He got from A to G, then scattered a couple more across the alphabet, and the rest is a work in progress.
So you won't be surprised to be told Lane adopted somewhat of a maverick approach to this most august and ancient of industries.
No study for him. No time.
A child of the Hunter Valley - but not from a family vineyard or winery - Lane has got where he is by, as he so cleverly puts it, 'a road less travelled'.
While many of his peers were slaving away at universities Lane was bouncing from one vineyard and/or winery to the next.
Around Australia and around the world.
CELLAR DOOR EPIPHANY
Joining the cellar door at the fledgling McGuigan Wines back in the early '90s Lane knew he was 'home'.
'I went to school in Sydney and during the holidays would go jackarooing with mates whose families had farms,' Lane said.
'Where I discovered a career which could be both lonely and underpaid at the same time,' he laughed.
'But a vineyard and a winery - you've got it all. Farming, production, lots of people, marketing, selling.'
Nowhere near as lonely as jackarooing but still underpaid.
If you want to keep up with Lane, who by now is going 20 to the dozen, you have to lean into the conversation, at which point you're in danger of getting a good clip around the ears as he waves his arms around with wild enthusiasm.
When Grapegrower & Winemaker caught up with him Lane was sporting a searing scar across his forehead, the result of getting too close to a downlight while trying to juggle a barrel at Cantina Sociale.
Hang on. Cantina what?
No, it's not a hangout for Marxist agitators. At the quiet end of Sturt Street, in arguably the quietest corner of Adelaide's CBD, this Energizer bunny has the local crowd hopping and bopping.
With business partners Angie Bignell and Georgie Rogers they have opened a veritable hole-in-the-wall wine bar.
DARLING OF THE ONLINE CROWD
Seating just 35, with a pyramid of nine barrels from floor to ceiling at one end, you would miss it if you blinked.
With no signage of note, it has still become the darling of the online crowd.
Opening from 4pm on Wednesdays to Sundays, Lane is religiously there three of those days every week.
Which is when he is not scouring the 19 blocks of the 13 growers at McLaren Vale, Langhorne Creek, Kuitpo, the Adelaide Hills and, of course, the Barossa whom he has contracted to supply Alpha Box & Dice.
'I am a field man. If the fruit is not right no amount of science and trickery in the processing is going to give you a truly beautiful wine,' Lane thundered.
'That was rammed into me during my 'apprenticeship' in the south of Italy, hammered into me in Bordeaux and not even escaped in Moldova,' he said.
'Look at this,' he said waving those deadly limbs around the room causing regulars to grab their wine glasses and well-practiced staff to duck and weave across the small room.
'No pretence, no branding, no labels. Just nine barrels of full-blooded, earthy wine.
'None of the wines in these barrels is available for commercial release. When each one is gone that's it. And we replace it with another.'
The essence of Cantina Sociale is not as a shopfront for Alpha Box & Dice. The wines in those nine barrels come from all over the shop.
They are all barrel-fermented, no filtration, no fancy tricks. And many of them are genuine one-offs because the rest of that vintage has gone into blends in other wineries.
'It's as close as I can get our customers to the traditional wine business, but I am going to have a real crack at it during the Adelaide Festival.
'On the banks of the Torrens we are going to turn on a real lesson in wine history when we stage a Babylonian wine-making exercise, right down to amphorae.'
It's hard to know what slows Lane down enough to get a good night's sleep.
Clearly the cogs are always whirring; in those rare moments of hush in Cantina Sociale you can almost hear those changing gears.
'This city is changing so fast,' he said.
'For a long time it was so quiet and now all of a sudden things are happening everywhere, and happening so fast.
'Although my hands might be a bit full running a winery, running a bar and raising three boys (and staging a fitness club at Heyward Park two mornings a week, much to the chagrin of the local council's sticker licker who could no nothing to stop Lane's gang of reprobates because it was a social, not commercial, gathering),' he added.
Next minute his hands were full again - of a wine glass and a tea towel - so fidgety after being still for about 30 seconds.
'Look at this,' he enthuses about the press of humanity in Cantina. 'Wine does not discriminate. We get every demographic here. They don't care about pretence either; they are just here for the wine.'
Lane makes for a fascinating study.
Take Alpha Box & Dice bottle D.
D is for Dead Winemakers Society. And Dolcetto, the black Italian grape originally from the Piedmont region, from which it is extracted.
Although whether there is any historical link between the wine and the translation of dolcetto - 'little sweet one' - is lost in the mists of time.
Not surprisingly, Lane is also an office holder in the society of Dead Winemakers, which he said started as a lunch club in Australia.
'But its founder was US wine critic Josh Raynolds,' Lane admitted.
'Who has a fair slice of his cellar in Long Island devoted to wines made by people who are, well, dead,' he said.
'Spooky, yes. Tasty? Absolutely.'
With one ear still stinging from an accidental slap, and struggling to find enough questions to catch up with Lane's answers, one thing needed to be resolved.
Alpha Box & Dice.
Well there is no doubt Lane is something of an alpha male but personally he is more enamoured of Box & Dice.
'It sort of covers everything we do,' he said.
'With all the things we are running we've got the whole box and dice.
'And being in the wine business, well that's always dicey isn't it?'
Not only did he get in the last word, he got in the last question.
Contact: Justin Lane. Phone: 61 410 487 739. Email: email@example.com.
Other feature articles
- Natalie Fryar, Winemaker, Jansz Tasmania
- Angelo Puglisi, Ballandean Estate, Queensland
- Dave Cleary, West Cape Howe Wines, WA
- Kim Chalmers, Chalmers Nurseries, NSW
- Tiffany Nugan, Nugan Estate, NSW
- Doug Bowen, Bowen Estate, SA
- Drew Brent-White, Windance Estate, WA
- Ian Hollick, Hollick Wines, SA
- Andrew Nugent, Bird in Hand Winery, SA
- Jim Chatto, Pepper Tree Wines, NSW
- Tony Keys, The Key Files
- Forum in pursuit of Pinot excellence
- Andrew Naylor, Pernod Ricard, NZ
- Samantha Scarratt, Fishtail Vineyards, New Zealand
- Adam Hooper and Elena Golakova, La Curio, SA
- Kathleen Quealy, T’Gallant/Balnarring Vineyard/Quealy Wine, VIC
- Richard Smart, Tamar Ridge Wines, TAS
- Terry Lee
- Ben Glover, Wither Hills, NZ
- David Fonseca Guimaraens, Fonseca and Taylor’s Port, Portugal
- Sam Temme, Lloyd Brothers, SA
- Peter May
- Colin Kay, Kay Brothers Amery, SA
- Mark Deegenaars, Sirromet Wines, QLD
- Peter Dry, University of Adelaide, SA
- Simon Thistlewood, Bimbadgen Estate, NSW
- David Lehmann, Barossa Valley, SA
- Mark Lloyd, Coriole Vineyards, McLaren Vale, SA
- Tom Harvey, Chalk Hill, SA
- Albarino – potentially Australia’s great white hope
- Ian Hendy, Tahbilk, VIC
- Oak trials instigated to create the right balance
- Jason Conti, Paul Conti Wines, WA
- Swan Valley goes organic in its approach to wine production
- 100-year-old vines saved from destruction
- Paul Boulden, Margaret River, WA
- Pinot trophy wine a close call
- Grenache finds its place in the spotlight
- Ashley Ratcliff, Yalumba Wine Company, SA
- Lessons from a fiery day in February
- Prolific Penfolds takes a double triumph
- Great win for Tatachilla Shiraz
- Ian Long, Yarraman Estate, NSW
- Capercaillie looks to future
- Tolley leaves AWBC in good shape
- Julian Parrot, Mandala Wines, NSW
- Yarra Valley’s Sticks grows up
- Rebuilding Bianchet Winery
- Kalleskes take organic grapegrowing to heart
- Vineyards benefit from WWOOF program
- Organic producer in touch with the earth
- BackVintage adopts integrated IT solution
- Lark Hill achieves full biodynamic certification
- Joseph Gilbert of Pewsey Vale – early maker of the classic Australian blend
- Sam Statham, Rosnay Wines, NSW
- Young achiever to study in USA
- Evolving Durif at Morris Wines
- Diane Miller, The Vintage Wineworx, WA
- NZ’s star producer guided by the cosmos
- On the rise: Pinot Gris secures its place
- Killeen wins Winetitles’ scholarship
- Rebecca Wilson, Tamar Valley, TAS
- Liz Riley, Vitibit, Hunter Valley
- The Gilberts of Pewsey Vale: the next generation
- Mark Cairns, Riverside Wines, Hawke’s Bay
- Craigow wins Tasmanian Vineyard of the Year
- Cornwall’s Camel Valley sets Sparkling pace in the UK
- Fred Peacock, Bream Creek Vineyard, Tasmania
- Arneis a winner, no matter how you say it
- WA’s Vanya Cullen named ‘woman of the year’
- McWilliams Mount Pleasant Estate award-winning cellar door
- Planning eases heatwave burden for Mount Horrocks
- Supplier of the Year proves customer service goes a long way
- Meet Ken Murchison
- The journey of Tempranillo to Australia
- Successful events have wineries bursting into song
- Jim Barry Wines winemaker chooses biodynamic option
- Meet Belinda Gould
- Hard grind is paying off for Sangiovese
- Biodynamic viticulture benefits Nazaraay Estate Winery
- Monitoring the key to reducing water use
- Consistently improving the quality and reputation of Australian Cabernet
- Making sure vines are true to type
- Lessons from the drought
- A story of Cuban cigars and a good nose
- A Murray Valley winery has released one of Australia’s first 100% carbon-neutral wines
- John Casella: The brains behind the brand
- Quality Tasmanian Pinot Noir stems from varying degrees of stalk removal
- Young leader forecasts positive future for Australian viticulture businesses
- China’s light shines on Aussie export radar
- Driving the blue bus of industry exposure
- Noble wine proves sweet for Australian wine industry
- Solar energy schemes lack uniformity in Australia
- Solutions for the wine industry’s fiddlier labelling jobs
- Carbon neutrality: The new black
- An understanding of excellence: James Irvine and his life in wine
- Can Australia overcome a harsh reality in the US
- Cape Mentelle treats itself to first place
- Aussies export their expert advice to China
- Bruce Tyrell: the Don Quixote of Semillon
- Why the past could help unlock grape’s future
- Brazil opportunities beckon
- Cool wine regions to benefit from research on new pathogen
- Wineries embrace sensory analysis
- Author reveals first steps to marketing magic
- China - emerging market or competitor?
- Young Vine Decline is studied closely in NSW
- Is the Shiraz berry the biggest loser?
- Small players the big winners for tomorrow’s vineyard
- Save money and wine by choosing the right bentonite
- Significant variations in an Iconic Coonawarra vineyard lead to radical solutions
- Sustainable pest control – now and in a changing climate
- Is there value in adding tannin to wine?
- How do country of origin, closure type and label style affect purchase decisions?
- City sellers
- Selective science – from the vineyard to the winery
- Change agenda includes new thinking
- WineCloud provides future direction for winemakers
- The iron(III) tartrate photochemistry of wine: impacts of bottle colour and weight
- How important are wine medals and how much can we rely on those who assign them?
- Big rewards in fine detail
- Italian inspiration for novel Nero d’Avola making
- Oak deserves its fine environmental credentials
- Machinery maintenance is key to vintage success
- Wine: does vine age really matter?
- SA wineries make a positive and lasting impression
- Magazine pages bring history to life for Rutherglen grower
- Coles tells small wineries to ‘work with us’
- Distinguished vineyard sites are essential for quality fruit production says Petaluma
- From vine to bottle: sustainability a core value for Barossa winery
- Adapt and innovate in a challenging wine business world
- Verduzzo - a 'crazy' white
- Australia’s grapevine germplasm collections under threat
- Expo offers suppliers a chance to shine
- Wineries celebrate end of vintage
- Artisan by name and nature
- Barossa symposium delivers tips for Shiraz vineyard management
- Research to reveal best irrigation practice in dry winters
- Lake’s Folly proves its credentials over 50 years
- New research sheds light on flavour additives in wine
- It’s a three-ringed circus
- Trying to paint the world red
- Where do little winemakers come from?
- A chip off the old block
- The rise and rise of Gatt Wines
- Bizot and Croser – a marriage made in the vineyard
- Wine’s wild man rides into town
- Jeff Bond – a licence to thrill
- The Visionary – who’s laughing now
- Chilling out in Australian wine’s own Ice Age
- Quarter of our wines face Chinese ban
- Four-year research project investigates early influence of oxygen
- Australian winemakers’ views towards oak barrel alternatives matures
- Ready…set…tweet! How you can bank your social media benefits
- Wine show season: It seems not all wine shows would earn a gold medal
- January 2015 Grapegrower & Winemaker magazine out now
- Smart & Sustainable: Jana Shepherd
- Lazy bones: Jo Perry’s ironic nickname
- Can’t sit still: Bleasdale’s energiser bunny
- Meet New Zealand’s best young viti
- Suzie Muntz
- Clare Burder: Ideas are nothing without action
- Steve Baraglia: A tale of two valleys
- The terror of terroir - By Tony Keys