“Fuck that, let's go to the wine bar.”
There's a common tale told by many Americans who've fallen deeply in love, as I have, with the international progressive wine culture sometimes called “natural wine”. Its recipe contains three ingredients: overseas travel; influence of new peer groups; and nostalgia for the big reveal, the “ah-ha” moment where everything changes. In coffee it was once colloquially referred to as a “God shot”, or you can think of it as a sort of “red pill” moment—a piquant and moving memory of the specific instant where your relationship to a beverage changed forever.
I was in Australia a couple of years ago, which makes me a puppy in terms of wine palate and knowledge, something that the never-touch-bottom nature of wine's humbling depth and breadth hammers home with every new bottle explored. But there I was, traveling for work as one of the founders & editors of Sprudge, and I was on the hunt for whisky. Scotch whisky, to be specific, with which I was obsessed at the time. I could tell my Speyside from my Islay, and even that Bruichladdich were much cooler before they sold, but woe is thou who journeys to Australia on a budget in search of Scotch. Because while there are some lovely whisky bars in Melbourne—Whisky and Alement chief among them—and beautiful drams made in Australian stills (particularly Limeburners, Sullivan's Cove and Nant), exploring the spirit of Scotland whilst in the Antipodes makes little geographic sense. It will cost nearly twice as much per pour as what it costs in America, measured out by the miserly ounce in a Liquor Control Board style unthinkable back home in Portland (“Home of the Long Pour”).
Luckily my newest friends in Australia—two brothers, both coffee professionals with beverage fluency and enthusiasm for the drop— were having none of it. I tried to suggest seeking out a cocktail den or beer bar or some such, but was told succinctly, and with great conviction, a phrase that would change my life and come to be something of a mantra for my own future travels: “Fuck that, let's go to the wine bar.”
And so we did, to a wine bar in North Melbourne called Clever Polly's, which had barely been open a month. Or maybe it had been open for six months—appropriately for this being an amateur wine recollection, my memories around date and time for this story are somewhat hazy. Fortunately, owner Lou Chalmers was able to share with me some of the producers from her early days in business. I had no real clue at the time, but I'd stumbled into a boffo list, including Australians like Mac Forbes, Jauma, and Tom Shobbrook alongside international natural wine mindblowers from the Jura (Bornard), Oslavia (Radikon), Sicily (Occhipinti), Georgia (Pheasant's Tears), and even California (Scribe), just down the track from my own home.
I came away stunned. Gobsmacked. Astonished, and convinced that I'd been doing it wrong all along. I had to learn more. Had to read everything, couldn't shut up about it, and needed my next fix. It's the moment to which you can trace the launch of Sprudge Wine.
I still love those winemakers, and would recommend a similar list to anyone just cutting their teeth on the wonders of what wine is, what wine can be, here at the end of the second decade of the 21st century. In the coming months and years, I hope this website is given the honor of pointing you towards many more delicious things to drink, and of suggesting that you seek out many of the lovely, convivial places in which to do it.
But what I recommend to you the most is simply, be open for wine's capacity to change your life, and allow it to happen as part of the friendships you forge in our brief time on this earth. We only get so many orbits around the sun, and these wines—I assure you—make each of them sweeter, more full, more meaningful.
Thank you, to my friends in Australia—and thank you for reading Sprudge Wine, part of the Sprudge Media Network. Let's say it one more time, with apologies to mom for the repeat curses, and may it be a shibboleth for the new generation of wine drinkers across the planet.
“Fuck that, let's go to the wine bar.”
Jordan Michelman is a co-founder and editor at Sprudge Media Network.
Photos by Eileen P. Kenny for Sprudge Wine.
Jordan Michelman is a co-founder of Sprudge. His writing has appeared in T Magazine, The New York Times, Seattle Metropolitan Magazine, and Willamette Week.