Ministry of Clouds
Bernice and Julian are the winemaking duo behind the McLaren Vale label Ministry of Clouds. Having had "No relatives to leave us grapes we didn’t like,” they relish in the freedom to source grapes throughout their home in McLaren Vale, the Clare Valley, and as far as Tasmania.
Both self-professed control freaks, the name of their label comes from a motto and their own ‘life lesson'. Ministry represents the control they demand in their joint 30 years of winemaking and marketing experience. Control which is even more present when making wine under their own names. Clouds, which are ever evolving, represent the risk, their future, and freedom, and remind them that even under the most stringent conditions, grapes are always a bit of a gamble. The name Ministry of Clouds is their resolution to keep the certain and the uncertain in check with one and other, and "at the end of the day, to just have a glass of wine and relax.”
The Ministry of Clouds label came out in 2012 with six wines, a surprisingly large range owed to their decision to make a clean break and never have to divide their attention between working their own label and working for others.
Bernice and Julian
Friendly, camera shy, and hilarious. Bernice and Julian were the life of the party. Julian introduced their wines by saying that “Everything we show you tonight is funded by a mortgage on our house," and, "Our dog back at home hopes you love it.” We did.
Bernice told us that before working together, she and Julian had made “Quite fierce competitors,” in the wine industry. The two were frank about a lot of debate going on in the process of their winemaking together, all in order to ultimately come out with the sort of wines they are proud to sell and love to drink.
Something which both Bernice and Julian stressed was the relationship between wine and sense of place, they spoke about the soils, climate and elevation of the numerous vineyards from which they sourced their grapes, and found themselves fond of the tendency for old world winemakers to celebrate not who made their wines, but where the wines were made.
While their grapes come from different locations, their wines all show a similar desire and direction and each of the wines we tasted were acid-forward, light, complex and dry enough that each sip had us ready for the next. They stood in stark opposition to the number of blubbery, ‘shapeless' wines which can come to dominate Australian wine stores.
This Grape To Glass kicked off with their Riesling, a punchy, citrusy number which we couldn't get enough of. Julian told us that riesling was a very transparent grape which shows you where it’s been grown. Because of this they are sure to only pick as high quality fruit as they can get, and from vineyards they are very proud of. In this case this includes one very old and high grown Clare Valley vineyard they are particularly proud of, and from which they take the entire crop.
Moving onto their reds, we began with the Grenache, "Grenache delivers what Pinot promises" said Bernice, before adding "I have to be careful saying that in Victoria, because they do some amazing Pinots." We found the Grenache full of refined berry flavours, both was subtle and beautiful. We followed with their Tempranillo Grenache, a light, chuggable blend which we could see ourselves drinking all night. Bernice told us that they often work backwards from wines that they love, and this particular blend was born of a holiday in Europe and one particular night of drinking gin and red wine until the early morning.
We finished the night with their Shiraz. Unexpectedly refined and subtle, we were taken back to when fellow South Australian Winemaker David Bowley of the Adelaide Hills distinguished his wine as "Not your dad's shiraz," and indeed this too had none of the boisterousness which has come to define so many run-of-the-mill shiraz wines. A portion of the grapes which form this wine were grown in the couple's own recently acquired vineyard, the dry grown, low yield, high intensity vines are from their acquisition which they "Couldn't make it taste juicy and ripe even if we wanted to," are blended with Blewitt Springs Mataro grapes which sit in a deep sand and provide fragrance and lift.
Grape To Glass
We spent this Grape To Glass event in the laneway whiskey bar Helvetica. We've always loved the brilliant Scotch selections and the dim, moody lighting at Helvetica, and were delighted to be taking over the upstairs area for an intimate wine tasting. The staff were lovely to us, and the food delicious. We had nothing but good times.
This was the penultimate instalment of this round of Neighbourhood Event Co.'s Grape To Glass series. We finish off with LS Merchants at Young Love Mess Hall on September 21st. We hope to see you there!
See the rest of our coverage of Grape To Glass.