It's a Wrap:
17 December 2013
“If you had have told us 12 months ago that by December 2013 you would have made and sold your very own wine, let alone win the competition, we wouldn’t have believed you. It’s still surreal. We loved every moment of the competition and our approach throughout was to just get involved and ride the experience for all it was worth. Winning was never really important to us, but since it’s happened, it’s awesome,” so says Team Lapalus member Cameron Bachelor. If only you could bottle joy and enthusiasm too.
The ‘winning wine’, aptly named After Hours for the only ‘non-professional’ wine team, comprising of two corporate communications whizzes and a teacher, shows a Beaujolais-like youthful freshness and vitality – the joyous nature of a wine capturing the unencumbered approach to wine brought by Team Lapalus, “I think this sort of project can only benefit the wine world, by demystifying and exciting the subject,” offers winemaking mentor Gilles Lapalus.
A people’s choice-based determination led to the awarding of Team Lapalus the title of ‘winner’ with consumers being the ultimate judge and voting with their feet through purchasing of the wines. All wines have been made available through Vintage Cellars.
The awards night, held at the glamorous Circa restaurant Pool Deck, brought together mentors, participants, sponsors, media and food industry figures and the ‘voting’ was decidedly close at the final stages. “It was a very close contest that went right down to the wire”, offers Baptism of Fire founder and organizer Rory Kent, “I think everyone is happy to see Team Lapalus win; everyone roots for the underdog and they’re such a nice bunch of people too.”
“Next year we’ll be back, bigger, badder and better!” continues Kent, “we’re working on plans to scale up the program and to get it out to more people.”
“It’s a brilliant idea and concept,” says winemaker Lapalus, “it’s a conceptual winemaking performance. The base of the project is spot on with one vineyard, one grape.”
Team Lapalus member Cheyne McKee riffs on Lapalus’ words, “we won't be quitting the day jobs just yet, but the longer term dream of making our own wine seems just that little bit closer to reality. The whole experience has been incredibly rewarding; getting our hands dirty and putting theory into practice has taught us so much and helped us really appreciate the effort that goes into each bottle of wine.”
“We really had no idea how this whole thing would pan out and we started with small goals that kept getting bigger as we progressed. The moment we realised that we'd made wine, it was drinkable and it tasted good is something that we'll always remember.”
All five finished Baptism of Fire wines offer great charm and unique personality. While the Team Lapalus wine trod a more light, vin de soif style, Method & Madness, the sparkling rose style wine honed by Team Forbes, shows gently frizzante and vibrant red fruit crunchiness. Cain & Abel by Team Downie shows a more concentrated, deep, layered shiraz expression with a trail of slate-like minerality. Mast, a tribute wine to the legendary Trevor Mast who held the tiller at Mount Langi for over two decades, shows with dark fruit, pepper, ‘Aussie bush character’ and a medium-bodied finesse. Rounding out the five is Onwards from Team Glover; an expression of great purity, fine chalky tannins and freshening acidity.
Choosing a favourite child comes with all the tribulation of understanding styles and individually appreciating the wines for their winemaker’s intent. The sheer diversity from a single site is thrilling, and the project overall a break through for celebration of wine and its potency as a voyeurs’ game, as well as serious realization of toil. Baptism of Fire is a game changer, cleaving out a new, exciting genre of ‘reality winemaking’ with seriously great results.
“Ultimately we are really happy with the wine we made and the positive feedback we've had from the other teams, the mentors and the people who bought our wine has been so rewarding. Just being involved in the competition and making the wine was the best part for us, winning the trophy really just topped off an amazing experience,” McKee sets the tone for now and future participants in Baptism of Fire.