The Wildest Wine I’ve Tasted

Today’s Story: Ochota Barrels

Ochota Barrels is a small, family-owned winery located in the Basket Range area of the Adelaide Hills in South Australia. The idea for Ochota Barrels came about in 2000, when Taras and Amber Ochota were wrapping up a surf and wine trip along the western coast of Mexico in a Volkswagen campervan. Following some time spent as a punk rocker, Taras graduated with a degree in Oenology from Adelaide University then worked as a “flying winemaker consultant” concentrating in Puglia, Abruzzo, and Sicily in Italy. Taras also spent some time making wines in California before he and Amber settled on their 9.6 acres in South Australia and Ochota Barrels launched in 2008. The Ochota Barrels philosophy is to produce pure and fresh wines which, in Taras’ words, are “something delicious and gorgeous for all of us to enjoy with none of the nasties and more of the love.” A blow to the South Australian winemaking community (and beyond), Taras unfortunately passed away last year at the young age of 49 following a long battle with an auto-immune-related illness.

The Ochota Barrels farming and winemaking philosophies center on minimal intervention to produce pure, expressive wines with a true sense of place and variety. Taras and Amber were inspired by the biodynamic producers they met in France, farming their own vineyards with many of the same practices. Fruit is harvested early to preserve natural acidity, and wild fermentation occurs with only indigenous yeasts. Whites see whole-bunch pressing and reds get whole-bunch fermentation and extended maceration with texture an important focus. The wines age in old French oak barrels before bottling with a minimal addition of sulphur.

To learn more or read praise for the Ochota Barrels wines, you can visit their website here. I also previously wrote about their 2020 The Mark of Cain, which is a fun wine made of 100% Pinot Meunier.

Today’s Wine: 2019 Botanicals of the Basket Range

Blend of Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Grenache, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Gamay, Isabella, and Shiraz; 12% ABV

The 2019 Botanicals of the Basket Range is deep salmon in color. This wine leaps out of the glass with aromas of medium (+) intensity and you immediately know you’re in for a fun ride. The nose showcases aromas of white strawberry, raspberry, cherry, rose petal, rosemary, thyme, sage, and chalky mineral. The flavors are of medium intensity, with the palate displaying notes of maraschino cherry, freshly-picked strawberry, raspberry, lavender, thyme, lemongrass, mint, and crushed rock minerality. This dry, vermouth-inspired wine is light- to medium-bodied with high acidity, light tannins, medium alcohol, and a medium (+) length finish. In addition to the grape varieties listed in the blend below, 17 botanicals from the Ochota Barrels garden were submerged in the wine and they include sage, wild fennel, blood orange rind, elderflower, lemon balm, bay leaf, and thyme amongst others.

Price: $55. While I can’t put a value analysis on this as it compares to other wines since I’ve never tasted anything like it, I can say that for me this is absolutely worth the price and then some. This is one of the most unusual and fun wines I’ve tasted so far, all while maintaining impeccable quality, complexity, balance, and length. This is truly magical stuff.

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