Could you tell us a little about yourself, and what attracted you to the Swan Valley region?I grew up in Perth and was introduced to wine around university age. A few friends and I would go out for pizza and a glass of wine. That was my first taste and I liked it. I studied science at university and went into the mining industry, but was attracted to wine and wanted to learn more about how to grow and make it, so went back to university in 2001 to study viticulture and oenology. After, I travelled around the world with work, mainly in the USA and eastern Australia, always knowing I would come back to WA. From 2009 to 2019 I worked at Houghton Wines Swan Valley winery (now Nikola Estate) which gave me an intimate knowledge of Swan Valley and other Western Australian wine regions.In the Swan Valley there are many good producers making a more traditional style of wine, and I saw an opportunity with old vine Chenin and Grenache, much of which was going into production of commercial blends, to make amazing tasting wines. With Chenin Blanc and Grenache, when you walk in the vineyard on our hottest days, while other varieties are drooping, they just seem to lap it up with their outermost leaves bright green. This made me think these varieties are well adapted to this region and we should be working with them more. We are also investigating what other varieties can contribute to Swan Valley in the future.That was the original focus of Vino Volta, with Chenin Blanc, Grenache and an Iberian-influenced red blend of Tempranillo, Touriga and Grenache. We are honing-in on what our region does best, looking to both the past and future, and recognizing we are working in a warming climate in a warm region. In Australia, we have always had a Franco-centric focus for premium wines. They are good varieties to work with, but not the only ones. I’ve always enjoyed additional varieties, and found it interesting looking outside the standards. We aspire to making well-fruited wines overall, while ensuring the texture, complexity and savouriness of our wines is a point of difference. When did you start Vino Volta and where does the name come from?We started in 2018. Vino Volta translates into a number of things, the simplest is ‘wine time’ in Latin and Italian. It also translates to ‘the return of wine’, which resonated with us on a fun and a meaningful basis, as in the return of a time for good wine. It’s our new venture as well, so it is jumping off a corporate living to taking all the risk to shine a light on our business, and on Swan Valley fruit. Do you have your own vineyards?We lease a few vineyards, around 7 hectares in total. We may expand in the future if the opportunities present themselves. Part of it is finding grapes for ourselves, part is preserving the wine heritage of the region. We have the Swan Valley Planning Act (which protects priority agricultural land in the Swan Valley including existing vineyards and other areas of horticulture from incompatible land use and development), so for the time being the agricultural character of Swan Valley is locked in. What kind of vineyards interest you?It’s often healthy old vine Grenache in relatively small plots. Old in Swan Valley is 60 years plus, there are some vines 100 years plus, and even 125 years old. Grenache gets special as it gets older, so at 50 to 65 years it is starting to regulate its yield and look much better. It is also about soil type. With Chenin, there are parcels nearly 100 years old, quite a lot 50-65 years old, and big parcels planted about 30 years ago. There are also little fun projects like a vineyard with Cabernet grafted to Chenin Blanc stock that was 50 years old. We cut the Cabernet off the top and are bringing the Chenin back up, which will give us a 50-year old Chenin parcel on the gravelly sands and coffee rock at the base of the Darling Scrape. Chenin is quite versatile, so we are taking parcels off Swan Valley loam, and others off a sandy loam, and they show the terroir of the site – it influences flavour, when I choose to pick the grapes, and what kind of wine I make out of them. It really is unique and tasty. The majority of the 50-60 year old blocks are bush vine blocks. They are low plants which were trellised 60 years ago, but the trellises have collapsed and are very 3-dimensional looking bush vines now. Yields are lower than young vines, but both old Grenache and Chenin crop at 6-7 tons to the hectare every year, and this moderation in quantity together with vine age gives us our best results.What is your philosophy behind sourcing grapes?We want to hone-in on Swan Valley as our major focus, and the next step is sourcing warm-climate suited varieties from warmer regions of WA. If we could source it all from Swam Valley we would. But as part of the experimentation, availability and time, we take opportunities as they come along, like a Dolcetto parcel from Harvey Hills a variety that is showing good potential. Another example, the wine Different Skins uses two varieties that logically would do better in cooler climates, Gewurztraminer and Frontignac (or Muscat a Petit Grains) and as a traditional white this would be the case. However, we make it with 3-4 weeks of skin contact to extract more flavour, and also to get tannin and texture as a balancing point. I don’t need to add acid, it is a textural wine rather than a bright, linear-focused white wine. It is more interesting because of that. Chenin Blanc has some similarities with Chardonnay in the texture and so on, but there are a lot of differences as well. One is umami flavours, so it is very conducive to aging and lees contact and stirring, which gives a saline element. Are you blending them or making single parcel wines?We do both. We make single block wines where the fruit shines to show their uniqueness 100 percent by themselves. We’re okay with blending as well, often to get to a viable size because many of the parcels are quite small, 3 or 4 tons at a time can be a whole vineyard’s production. For example, the Post Modern Seriousism Grenache is a blend from two 60-year old vineyards that are only 200 meters apart, and are on the same type of gravel and sand soils. How do you approach the wines in the winery?I’ve always liked natural ferments that occur with endemic yeasts, and continue to apply and hone what I learnt from close to 20 years of using them. We focus on styles and varieties that shouldn’t require any additions. I’m particular about the flavour and the tannins coming from the grape. So extended skin contact, using whole bunch in the reds to build texture and flavour, natural ferments to add complexity, texture, and savouriness. We don’t fine the reds, and with the whites if we fine we use a small amount of pea protein, so all of our wines are vegan. Most of the wines spend about 9 months in old oak, some 12 months, and we use more large format oak – 500 and 300 liter barrels, so it is more nuanced. The youngest of the barrels are 5 years old. I want savouriness but I don’t want oak flavours dominating in any way. We make three Chenin Blancs, one of them is Pet Nat which is Chenin in its purest form. Pet Nat is the natural wine that makes the most sense to me. You have a ferment that has been totally protected from air all the way through the natural process and then bottled while it is still active, so you don’t need to make any additions. Some of our other wines philosophically are quite natural but aren’t natural by the strictest conventions. How do you approach the Funky and Fearless Chenin and Post Modern Seriousism Grenache in particular?With the Chenin we whole bunch press, natural barrel ferment, lees stir it for a little bit, add sulphur early, 3-4 weeks after ferment has finished, before malolactic ferment starts, which gives the barrels time to settle down and the yeast to finish. The sulphur traps the wine how it is, and is a smart thing to do in a warm region because we want as much natural acidity as we can get, and not any malo. It sits in oak for about 9 months and is then bottled. Ideally people can start drinking it about 12 months after that. Grenache has been typecast with flavour profiles as low tannin, high alcohol and low acid. But when you pick it much earlier, which I consider ripe, the alcohol is 13.5 – 14.5 percent, with good acidity and tannins. We make light-to-medium bodied reds that have tannin, texture, brightness of fruit and length, the kind of wines I prefer to drink. It is worked lightly for an extended period, which gives it delicacy and elegance, with a nice amount of tannin. We press it off and mature it in old large-format oak for 10-11 months on whatever lees might remain, to introduce texture and complexity. I don’t want the wine to be oak dominant, I want the layers and the complexity.