Konpira Maru – Whitlands, VIC.
Starting their wine label after identifying a gap in the Australian wine market, Konpira Maru has taken little time to develop a reputation for exciting, varied releases. With a focus on accessible price points, their tagline of "minimal intervention, maximum care" is reflected in the wine, their partners and their process.
Working across the retail, production and education sectors of the wine industry for many years, Alastair and Sam were searching for a creative outlet to call their own.
The pair bonded over their similar viticultural and winemaking values. Alastair has a background in Forest Science and Genetics, alongside a Philosophy PhD (and he does prefer to be called DR Reed). Al was also Head of Course for the NMIT Wine Science degree, where he first met Sam. Sam was studying under him after years in wine sales and has spent multiple vintages working under Mario Marson, one of Victoria's most experienced winemakers. Over time, the two began discussing wine in more and more detail.
After throwing around ideas over a beer one day, they began their journey in 2014 producing the first vintage of 600 bottles. At the time, interesting, fun, unique, minimal intervention wines that wouldn't break the bank was unheard of in the Australian market. While only six years ago, there were just a handful of quality Australian producers developing wine in this way.
Using their combined knowledge and ideal ways of working, Konpira Maru has developed a process which emphasises simplicity. Across the vineyards they source from, it is a little more complicated as the duo has nurtured a network of growers. Comprehensive research and a great community of like-minded characters have contributed to fantastic opportunities for Konpira Maru to grow and evolve over time.
The catalyst for their journey came when Chalmers Wines in Merbein, Victoria reached out to Alastair. With that relationship established, the dominoes began to fall. Another opportunity to source quality fruit came from Quarry Ridge in Victoria as a previously agreed student position became available last minute.
Stumbling across these relationships might be random in part. However, it has been incredibly beneficial, considering the excellent relationships that have been established, with growers now all the way in Queensland contributing to harvests.
On their own vineyard in the Whitlands, the pair farm organically at an elevation of 800m, high above the King Valley. The vines are rooted in 6m deep iron-rich ferrosol topsoil, surrounded by temperate high rainfall eucalypts. The views here are spectacular, with wildlife spotting a constant feature of day-to-day operations.
The beauty of the arrangement for vineyards and fruit is reflected in the freedom the pair have concerning output. There are no pre-conceptions due to the lesser-known regions they source from, freeing Sam and Al up to get creative.
Their most recent Pet Nat is a perfect example - a blend of Sagrantino, Vermentino and Dolcetto, making for a crisp and refreshing bubble which is completely smashable. So far, after doing some research, we haven't been able to find another Natty with this blend of grapes.
Alongside the differing varieties, soils and climates, there are multiple methods at play tailored to what ideas the boys have. The wines are treated differently from vintage to vintage. There are no standardised methods or recipes, just intuition and experimentation guided by what the fruit is telling them. Production methods change due to vine, climate and terroir - no two releases will be the same.
It's a delightful paradox that has already seen Konpira Maru release multiple vibrant varieties. Regardless of where they are sourcing from or how their production is completed, Konpira Maru makes the most of their "minimal intervention, maximum care" philosophy across each vintage.
Purchase from Konpira Maru and follow their social channels here:
- Regions: Whitlands, VIC; Killmore, VIC; South Burnett, QLD; Granite Belt, QLD
- Vintages: 2019/2020
- Size: 750ml
- Closures: Waxed
- Varieties: Syrah, Cab Merlot, Semillon, Pinot Noir, Malbec, Sagrantino, Vermentino, Dolcetto, Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier, Sangiovese
- Classification: Natural / Park Wines
- Cellaring Potential: Drink now to 2025
We're still researching why the Australian wine industry decided to rename the Syrah grape. But for now, let's focus on this bottle. 100% Syrah, cool climate, light alcohol content but my goodness what a juicy offering. De-stemmed and soaked for a week at low temp, the tannins and colour extracted are beautiful. This 2020 has reached a better balance than the already lovely 2019. Pair with a lamb loin roast or veal meatballs, but let's be honest, by the time you sit down to eat this will be empty.
Combining Cab Sav and Merlot, this release is ridiculously fruity, with good volume and light tannin. On its own or paired with food, it's a faultless bottle - both the 2019 and 2020 vintages are individually great in their own right. Food-friendly in the best way, this is a banger to combine with savoury red meat dishes - Osso Bucco, maybe a sausage ragu. Or throw it in the fridge for a couple of hours and then take it to the park on a sunny day.