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July 26, 2018

Orange origin stories: Shobbrook Wines

Before Tom Shobbrook, along with his Natural Selection Theory crew, helped to shift the Australian wine industry's classical paradigm, he was introduced to a life-changing orange wine.

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  • Words: Johnny von Einem
  • Image 1: Daniel Marks
  • Images 2: Johnny von Einem

In 2010, Tom Shobbrook, James Erskine, Anton van Klopper and Sam Hughes – collectively and canonically known as Natural Selection Theory – stormed through the Australian wine industry, dismantling the pretensions of the old school, one demijohn of natural wine at a time (topped with olive oil to prevent oxidisation, delivered to wine bars by wheelbarrow, and served in tumblers rather than stemware).


Not Quite White is happening on 4-5 August from 1pm at Chateau Apollo. Visit the event page or TryBooking for tickets and further information.

You can also revisit past editions of CityMag’s ongoing series on orange wine here:

Introducing Not Quite White

Mark Heidenreich: The winemaker’s potter

Orange wine is a sommelier’s secret weapon

Orange origin stories: Fall From Grace

But just 12 months prior, in the lead up to the harvest of 2009, the fateful quartet sat at a table together with four orange wines laid before them.

“I lived in Italy for six years and I’d seen some orange wines there, but they’d never really grabbed my fancy in a way of wanting to produce them,” Tom says.

“Over about five hours, Sam showed us four wines, all opened at once, from the same producer, and as we kept tasting the wines through those next four or five hours, every time you’d taste the wine, it changed in the glass.

“They were wines from a producer called Radikon, Stanko Radikon and his wife, [Suzanna], and they were really interesting.”

Through this guided reintroduction, the seed of Giallo, the orange wine Tom will have on show during The Fruitful Pursuit’s Not Quite White event, was sewn.

In it’s initial 2010 release, Giallo was made from skin contact sauvignon blanc in an attempt to “make sauvignon blanc interesting” through “working white grapes with skins, seeing how we could start paying with palates a bit,” he recalls.

Giallo now consists of 70-per-cent muscat and 30-per-cent riesling, each with varying lengths of time on skins, and was recently introduced to CityMag by Liinaa Berry (wine director at 2KW and emcee on the final day of Not Quite White) when we asked for an example of a supremely food-ready orange wine.

It has been a long road to the wider acceptance of orange wine, and a lot of the groundwork leading to its acceptance here at home was laid by the Natural Selection Theory crew, who spread the good word that a wine can be cloudy and smell funky and still be interesting and delicious.

The earliest adopters of Giallo were “mostly women in their 60s and 70s at the… it’s a bit like the Adelaide Club but for women in Sydney, and they were smashing bottles of it,” Tom says.

Tom Shobbrook.

“They loved it because it was something a bit different and a bit of fun, and they can sit and have a glass at lunch… and it wasn’t overpowering, and it wasn’t too high in alcohol, and they could sit there and talk amongst their friends and granddaughters and have a bit of a laugh.

“That’s what wine’s supposed to be about anyway. I think people keep forgetting that it’s not just a big journey in making money or making the blackest, darkest, scariest thing you can make. It’s about making things that people can enjoy and share with their friends and family.”

Giallo will be sat amongst dozens of its skin-contact family members, ready for your tasting and rating through the Pursuit of Yum app, throughout the two days of Not Quite White, happening from 4-5 August at Chateau Apollo.

For more information on the event, see the event page, or purchase one- or two-day passes here.

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