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Gentle Folk - Vin De Sofa 2021 (750ml)


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Producer Gentle Folk
Country Australia
Region South Australia
Varietal Pinot Noir Pinot Gris
Vintage 2021
Size 750ml

Gentle Folk Description

You kind of count on meeting some kangaroos in Australia; but the first time it happens for real (no sanctuary, we’re talking real wilderness here), it’s a hilarious feeling. Our first specimen was about 5ft tall and calmly chewing on something despite standing head-to-bumper with a massive Hilux ute early one clear summer morning. Nudged with a honk, the kangaroo eventually turned around and leisurely hopped off, letting us continue on our way to do some vineyard work, wondering if Australia is always this laid-back (and often, it is).

The wines made by Gareth Belton – the man whose driveway up in the Adelaide Hills served as the setting for this marsupial encounter – surely do exude similar ease. Just like their creator, they’re highly likable, generous, on point, fun to spend an evening with while eating a huge plate of lasagna or BBQ and talking until late, as it happened to us more than once during our multiple visits to Beltons’ beautiful Heritage-style house in Basket Range. No wonder that one of the wines is called “Vin de Sofa”, a tongue-in-cheek pun on the French term vin de soif, wine of thirst. (Poking fun at anything or anyone taking itself too seriously is a typical Australian pastime.) Or take Rainbow Juice, a juicy rosé blend of many varietals that may or may not be named after Gareth’s wife and fellow ex-marine biologist Rainbo, a wine that drinks perfectly while dangling your feet into the irresistible salt-water pool next to their property. (Oh, how we love that pool.)

Pleasurable as these blends are, the fullest focus of this South-African-born fan of fine food, Queen and cricket (just Commonwealth things) goes to his Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays, two grapes that Gareth enjoys immensely, mainly in their classical Burgundian incarnations. Similar to this approach, he vinifies all the different Pinot and Chardonnay plots separately, with the best barrels then bottled as single vineyards and the rest blended into pleasurable “Village” wines. 

Of course, the Hills ain’t no Cote d’Or, and Gareth is far from claiming such a thing. The temperatures obviously get higher here than in Europe, but, thanks to its altitude, the area is a bit cooler than some other Australian wine regions, and gets a fair bit of rain in winter. Hence, when in the hands of a skilled grower like Gareth, you get lush wines with good acidity, refreshing mineral bite, and distinct personalities. It’s really fun to taste the different slopes one after another: Pinot from Little Creek, a sunny amphitheater dotted with fruit trees and chickens, owned by Beltons’ close friends, has a very generous, spicy flavor profile; Scary Gully, considered one of the best plots in the whole region thanks to its altitude and old vines, yields wines with more density and precision, whereas Picadilly is full of dark fruit joy. 

In 2021, there’s a fourth plot coming – a 1.3ha Pinot vineyard in Ashton: “building the Burgundy Down Under one by one”, we joke together. But Gareth’s dedication to finding the best terroirs and respectful viticulture is no laughing matter – he’s one of the few-and-far-between Australian winemakers to actually truly farm his vines, and he goes to great lengths in that. Since starting the winery in 2015, he’s been steadily growing the number of vineyards he cares for (from a tiny, whimsical field-blend starter plot up to the current 11 hectares), and adding more and more talent to his congenial vineyard team, including a consulting top viticulturist Dylan Grigg. There’s also intense communication with local growers, be it for grape purchases and inspiration (like his friend Erin Klein of Ngeringa, an admirable biodynamic farm nearby, where Gareth gets grapes for his succulent Syrah), or trying to shift others towards more natural treatments and less irrigation in order to get higher quality organic fruit with a smaller carbon footprint. This is a truly honest, farming-first, time- and labor-intensive approach (oh my, all that netting… great workout, though), which is based on Gareth’s clear and very legitimate conviction that wines are made in the vineyard, not in the cellar. 

This opinion is also reflected in his attitude towards sulfur (which he uses a little of while pre-bottling): “I don’t understand why so much attention is given to the SO2 debate; it’s literally only the last couple of percent of the time I dedicate to the given wine, whose story actually started two years before that with my decision on how to prune that vineyard. This is where the real discussion about natural wine should be for me: looking at the whole timeline of what is in the bottle, not just the final touch. A touch that might at times make it more pleasurable for the consumer – and don’t we all hate faulty wines,” Gareth explains, in line with his creed that he makes wines with “maximum drinkability and enjoyment in mind”. 

Wine Notes: 

The name of this wine is a pun on the popular french term vin de soif aka “wine for thirst”, a fitting name for its very smashable character. In Gareth’s words: “The use of semi-carbonic allows us to ‘infuse’ flavors from the grapes as opposed to extract them through pigeage or pump-overs, and thus, keep the wine as delicate as possible. The use of whole bunches also helps to elevate the pH and soften out the wine even though we pick the grapes super early and with some serious acid.” The sofa is an actual one, existing in Gareth’s kitchen, and yes, many great wines were drunk on it.

Varieties: Pinot Noir, Merlot, Pinot Gris

Method: The Pinot Noir was 100% whole bunch fermented then pressed after seven days, and aged in neutral French barriques. Pinot Gris was pressed, fermented and aged, in stainless steel. Merlot was destemmed, spent ten days on skins then pressed and aged, in stainless steel. 


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