South by South West
South by South West – Margaret River, WA.
South by South West produce honest wines with respect for the land, driven by vintage and terroir.
The duo behind the wine, Mij and Liv, aren’t daring to be too different. Their effort is put into making quality wine without compromise. Age-old practices are used in contemporary ways, without being tied down to specifics - region, sub-region, single vineyard, single block, single row. Some independent producers hang their hat on these terms. But this duo seeks fruit from all over the South West of Western Australia, making the best wine from the varieties that the sub-regions grow best.
Their ultimate goal? To make wines they like to drink based on their learnings and experiences. Because of that, there is a considerable variety from release to release.
Holding onto positions as a chemical engineer and a graphic designer has allowed Liv and Mij to nurture both their brand and output. Building to what would become South by South West wine included both women taking positions as hospitality cellar rats, winemakers, vineyard workers across continents - Tuscany and Sicily in the Old World, Okanagan Valley, Napa and Sonoma across the Americas.
A post-vintage road trip between Napa and Lake Tahoe was the catalyst for a dream that would begin to take shape as South by South West. The loose plan was to learn about the life cycle of wine from the vines to the cellars. Working vintages in various locations worldwide would provide an excellent basis for the two to create something when they arrived home to Australia.
Wine was embedded in Liv’s culture growing up. With an Italian father and French mother, wine was a big part of family meals and celebrations - and it didn’t hurt to have family and friends who were also producers and distributors. Getting behind the scenes access to the wine world was always exciting and proved invaluable. Her first degree in Chemical Engineering has many parallels with Oenology, the science and study of wine and winemaking.
While Liv spends more time in the winery, Mij is working their small vineyard or tripping around visiting other growers. With her design background, she is fascinated by how good wine can convey a story - not only through the bottle, branding, label and packaging, but through thoughtful marketing. Listening to her speak intensely about the power to create something which comes from the soil and ends up on a table in a bottle, her passion is evident. With that in mind, she sought about creating a contemporary and considered brand for South by South West - reflecting the owners bright, youthful and energetic nature.
While appreciative of being able to live and work in the Margaret River region, South by South West is not Margaret River centric. As the name suggests, Mij and Liv source quality fruit from other areas such as Great Southern, Geographe and Southern Forests.
Their wines are representative of the uniqueness and biodiversity of the South Western region, from the oceans to the forests. Internationally recognised as a biodiversity hotspot, these influences allow them and others to grow high-quality fruit that reflect their diverse conditions and climate.
On their organic vineyard in the Wallcliffe sub-region of Margaret River, the duo is playing with Sav Blanc and Semillon, pushing what results come from different expressions of these grapes. While typically aromatic and crisp, Liv and Mij want more texture, more edge. They experiment often - picking fruit early to enhance natural acidity, co-fermenting field blends, varying skin contact timeframes, barrel fermenting and maturing on oak - with the goal of finding what works best to express the fruit and create very smashable wine.
Sustainability is key to the wine industry, a primary sector that works closely with the natural environment. Mij and Liv feel the industry’s ongoing longevity relies on businesses to respect the landscape and give back as much - if not more - than they are getting out of the environment.
The pair’s philosophy has always focused on real effort in the vineyard and sustainable natural farming. As they transform the Walcliffe vineyard into a biodynamic practice, they organically run their plots without irrigation. Letting the vines thrive off a little neglect and competition produces grapes that express not only the land where they are grown, but the vintage conditions they were grown in.
They are part of a community of like-minded and supportive winemakers, not just in Margaret River but also across Australia. With a lot of support for small-batch producers and interesting wine styles, it’s great to see their work being embraced by the wider community - evident by their winning the 2019 Young Gun of Wine People’s Choice Award.
Watching wine bring people together was always an experience Liv and Mij both appreciated and respected. Now able to share the fruits of their labour with the world, South by South West doesn’t need to label itself “organic” or “biodynamic” in principal - they practice it and believe it. The results? Quality wines without compromise, reflective of the vintage and terroir.
Our Pick: 2020 Fieldie
The 2020 ‘Fieldie’ is a field blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon with a little Chenin Blanc, Arneis and Reisling added for good measure. Over half the fruit is sourced from the South by South West organic vineyard farmed in Margaret River. This release reflects what is exciting Mij and Liv now – organic fruit, some skin contact and no additions/adjustments outside of minimal sulphur at bottling. Reminiscent of a White Bordeaux though lighter and more aromatic. Pair with a cream-and-lemon pasta to bring out the acidity.