Latest News From Smidge Wines
In a second new announcement in as many weeks Smidge Wines founder and winemaker Matt Wenk will be hosting and publishing a new curious and interesting Podcast Series – Matt Decanted. Featuring a number of industry icons, winemakers and lovers of food & flavour Matt and his guests talk about all things including wine, where their love of the industry started and the journey there (& much more!).
In his first series ‘on tour’ Matt has toured the state from cellar doors to small goods chatting to South Australian champions such as Corrina Wright, Sam Scott & Andy Coppard as they share stories and the microphone. Watch out the first podcast is due to be published on November 1st.
Matt Wenk, Smidge Wines founder and winemaker offers a sneak peak into the new Houdini range.
Today, Matt Wenk, Smidge Wines founder and winemaker provided a sneak peak into a refreshed wine label for is acclaimed and popular Houdini Range.
“Houdini is one of our original brands and has a firm place in our heart – modernising our original label was never going to be quick or easy ” says Matt. “Our first release was a creatively named ‘2006 Red Wine’ which was actually our first Shiraz Zinfandel. Much has happened since then, with the range expanding regions, varieties and styles – lead by the popular McLaren Vale Shiraz and Cabernet, a McLaren Vale Fiano, Adelaide Hills Sauvignon Blanc and Adelaide Hills Rose.
The journey for refreshing the label has not been an simple one, with more that 6 different attempts over recent years for an update. So what made this one different? Matt says he and wife Trish picked this design as it carefully balanced the heritage of the label with a modern twist.
The first of the new release labels will be available online from October 15.
For something different, this week we sit down with the ‘other’ half of Smidge Wines – co founder and GM Trish to talk about what life is like behind the scenes at a small passionately Boutique Winery.
To kick things off we ask Trish what it’s like living and working with Husband and Winemaking legend Matt Wenk? “busy” she says with a smile. Matt has a relentless work ethic and near enough is never good enough. Sadly for me that doesn’t extend to his sock drawer.
“I think being involved in the industry for 16 years now I am a lot more understanding of the demands and realities of the commitment it takes to make truly great wine.”
What is Matt’s worst habit? ‘That one is easy -calling me when he’s already ½ an hour late to tell me he’s going to be late. It drives me crazy.
Is being in the wine industry and having your own company are romantic as it sounds? Yes & No 😊 With a back ground in Corporate IT if I was ever going to return to my primary production roots the order of wine, from vineyards to bottling would be it. There is something very satisfying creating something tangible which can provide joy and be shared among someone’s best friends on a favourite occasion. The industry is collaborative in a way that still inspires me (very different to IT), and there is something mesmerizing about sitting out on the deck gazing across a vineyard on a summer afternoon.
There is a flipside of course which can be the uncertainty of seasons and weather or unexpected market changes – but even these situations and challenges lead to something new and exciting that would otherwise remain undiscovered.
As a keen surfer it doesn't take much to persuade Matt to watch a documentary on big wave surfing and the minute he saw the break at Pedra Branca some 25km off the coast of Tasmania in the Southern Ocean the inspiration for our project series was born.
In between breathtaking images of big wave riders taming an impossible beast was a story of spectacular, unbridled forces of nature, seen at the rocky outcrop and the unique environment that has been created.
Taking the inspiration from the mystery and power of the location itself, our project series takes what Mother Nature delivers from fruit that is so pure that all of the wines are made with minimal intervention and proceed with wild fermentation.*
Our philosophy for these ultra small batch 'project' wines that are not produced at any commercial level. They are wines that push the boundaries of what is possible with alternative varietals grown in South Australia, or alternative winemaking processes using well-known varietals such as Sauvignon blanc or Grenache. We work to express the rawness and beauty of mother nature that is delivered vintage to vintage and to see what is possible.
You will notice a nod to the topography of the Pedra Branca (meaning white rock) on our label with its name printed in the shape of the main rocky tower called Eddystone Rock.
With the flurry of vintage over, the cool of winter is a time to slow down, catch up and regroup. We take the opportunity to sit down with Smidge Founder and Winemaker Matt Wenk at the cellar door to catch up with his take on what this means in the vineyard and for the season ahead.
As Matt points to the vineyards outside he tell us "Our vines in McLaren Vale have been dormant for a number of weeks and the task of pruning off last season’s growth in order to shape the vine in readiness for another growing season, is well underway".
While I've never really thought about it & it now seems obvious, he goes on "Pruning is a vineyard activity of solitude. In many ways this is not a downside, although very much a positive. Each vine requires evaluation and to prune well, one needs to focus on attention to detail, ensuring correct bud numbers, shape and spacing"
As our conversation continues Matt comments get a little more t move towards what is next in store "Throughout the growing season, a vine requires soil moisture to help in photosynthesis, the process where basically, solar energy helps convert carbon dioxide into carbohydrate (distributed to the fruit and wood tissue) and oxygen. Once the fruit is picked, this process continues, and these carbohydrates are translocated to the wood tissue of the vines. If irrigation is available, it is often applied to a vineyard post-harvest, especially if the latter part of the growing season has been dry. This irrigation provides the soil moisture for the photosynthesis and subsequent carbohydrate production that is then stored in the vine before dormancy, in readiness for the energy required for budburst and early growth stages of the following growing season.
Over recent years the total rainfall through winter to early spring has been a bit up and down, whereas so far this year in Willunga where the estate vineyard is, our annual rainfall to the end of July is well over 400mm, compared to the average to the same time of 295mm. The soil profile is full, which will help set up the vineyards for a great start to the coming growing season.
Imagine biting into a habanero chilli before being asked to appreciate a delicate Michelin star worthy masterpiece, or to accurately describe a piece of art after immediately removing a blindfold?
In the same way you may temporarily lose the will to live after biting into the world's hottest chilli, or you reflexively squint and recoil from bright light after emerging from darkness, our senses and responses are impacted. Basically, this changes how we interpret information that is normally and reliably delivered to us via our senses.
Our noses are no different. Any strong scent will completely change how we smell and subsequently taste and appreciate a wine or nearly anything for that matter. (Do you remember being blindfolded with a peg on your nose tasting pieces of apple and onion as a kid?)
Those that live with Smidge Winemaker Matt Wenk think he can be a little extreme in the lengths He’ll go to protect his sense of smell when tasting. Matt’s wife & Smidge partner confirms “dinner won't be cooked, coffee won't be brewed - even starting the fire is a no go zone. And don’t get him started on scented candles or diffusers – both of which are much loved in the house – just not by Matt when it is time to taste”.
Matt goes on to add “there is an unspoken (or maybe it should be spoken) rule regarding perfume or scent (this rule does not apply to deodorant and the alternative can be just as damaging!) when going to a tasting, masterclass or wine dinner. It’s the classic less is more – the less ‘other smells’ exist, allow more ‘wine smells’ to shine through.
Can this conversation be awkward going to an event with someone? Matt adds “Put it this way, I’ve known my wife since I was 16 and she can tell you the day I asked her not to wear perfume to a wine tasting”.
This is the extension of the trial that started with the 2017 Cabernet. To select a parcel of Cabernet from the estate block, put it into 100% new French oak and see how far we can push it.
The vineyard in Willunga was attached to a small winery that shut down many years ago, which was called Akeringa. The sheds have been used as a mechanics workshop since, although you can see where the winery drains have been filled in with concrete. When I was the winemaker at Two Hands Wines, a large portion of the Cabernet was sold to them and over a number of years some of the fruit ended up as the base for the Aphrodite Cabernet sauvignon and so I have always known what the block was capable of. Hence, I have being quietly trialling a few things over the years and now here is the birth of the Akeringa Cabernet sauvignon.
No fancy winemaking tricks here. This parcel was made in the same way as the 2018 La Grenouille description, except that the chosen parcel went to 100% new extra tight Cadus Hogsheads.
To access a pre-release allocation please click here.