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May 10, 2016

Introducing: Bondar Wines

By making space in the saturated independent wine market, Bondar proves there is always room for a good thing.

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  • Words: Farrin Foster
  • Pictures: Julian Cebo

Andre Bondar and Selina Kelly – the couple behind Bondar Wines – have hit on a reason for making wine that seems to resonate so strongly it reaches all the way to the people drinking their product.


Bondar Wines are holding a Shed Party on June 12 from 11am-5pm as part of the Sea and Vines Festival. See more details at the website.

You can find Bondar Wines at Press*, Pink Moon Saloon, MotherVine, Pepe Bar Cucina and Bar Torino, among other places. You can also buy the wines through the Bondar website.

“It’s what we drink,” says Selina.

“That is kind of our thing – wines that have power and presence without weight,” says Andre. “We also want to make things that are a little bit savoury and really food worthy.”

The couple’s small winery, based in McLaren Vale, has been producing since March 2012 and is growing steadily. Their current five-wine range includes a chardonnay, grenache, GSM, shiraz and sold-out grenache rose.

Before Bondar, Andre had worked in the wine industry for years – mainly as head winemaker for Nepenthe in the Adelaide Hills, while Selina had careers in law and marketing. The decision to start up their own label wasn’t taken lightly – they were acutely aware of the glut of small winemakers popping up.

But the desire to do their own thing was too strong.

“I always wanted to have my own business. I can’t even go to a gym class because I get mad at the person trying to boss me around,” says Selina with a laugh.

For Andre, their own label meant a chance to make the wines he was interested in, without the need to work within the restrictions of an existing brand.

“I love it – it’s that outlet of creativity but it’s still really technical so that works for both sides of my brain,” he says. “Wine is wonderful because you make something tangible –  you spend a lot of time on it and you’re really proud of it and people really enjoy it.”

There are a couple of key differences that have helped Bondar become visible in the crowded market place. The first was a decision to take on not just a winery, but also a vineyard.

Selina and Andre invested in the Rayner Vineyard on Chalk Hill Road in McLaren Vale soon after Bondar came into being. Growing shiraz and grenache, the land has allowed them to have greater influence over the wines to which they are putting their names.

“We realised how important it is to have your own fruit source and be able to control it,” says Selina. “You intervene quite a lot in the vineyard and not so much in the winery.”

“Yes,” adds Andre, “You try to get it right as a fruit.”

The second difference is a strong emphasis on how their wines relate to food. In both the way the wines are made, and the way they choose to sell them, Selina and Andre focus heavily on the how what they do is part of a bigger experience.

“We’d love to sell the majority of it through restaurants – that’s where we want our wines to be,” says Andre.

“You get it out to so many people who might not try it otherwise,” adds Selina. “To buy a bottle in a bottle shop from a new winery you have never heard of is quite a big gamble. But to buy a glass in a restaurant where you know that someone takes the time to think about the wines they put on the list – that’s much less risky. That’s really good for us.”

This appreciation for wine within a larger context also shines through in the way Bondar have put together their upcoming Sea and Vines event, which will mark their first time as part of the festival.

“It’s pitched at people who want good food and good wine,” says Andre.

“The idea is you come here and stay here most of the day,” says Selina.

Modelled on an event they held last year, the Bondar Shed Party takes the emphasis off heavy drinking with music by Ripley and DJ Driller; and food by Snap Crackle, which is run by Bar 9 chefs Rocky Oliveira and Duane Tilka.

“The food is nice and light and we keep it casual because we’re casual kind of people,” says Rocky. “At the end of the day everything has to reflect you in what you produce – your personality will come out in whatever you do.

“So this year we’re doing some truffled mushroom arancini balls – it’s a home run. We do local squid too, and a host of other things. With Snap Crackle we try and do everything ourselves, we make it fresh and try and support as many local people as possible.”

And since truffled mushroom arancini balls make things that are already good even better, the event seems like the best way to try some wines you might not be familiar with, but which are likely to become favourites.

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