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Patrick Sullivan

Known for his "Bonkers" and "Haggis" cuvées which rewrote the rulebook of Australian wine, Patrick Sullivan burst onto the natural wine scene at just 24. These days, however, with his young vineyard in Gippsland, it's a new chapter. The goal here is to farm & create soul-searching next-level Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

"I have the intention of making the best wine humanly possible, and leaving our piece of land in the best condition possible for the next generation. It’s as simple as that."

People:  Patrick Sullivan

Place:  Gippsland, Australia

Varieties:  Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon, Moscato, Malbec, Pinot Gris and Cabernet Franc

Hectares:  His own baby vineyard, Tumblestone, is one hectare, planted to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Once they’ve noted the right planting protocol, they’ll plant a further three hectares. In the meantime, they have their hands full co-farming other sites in the area: Guendulain, Bull Swamp, Camp Hill, Millstream and Manilla, together with Bill Downie. 

Farming:  Biodynamic 

Wines: Click here

Did You Know?  Growing up, Patrick traveled around with his parents “a hell of a lot” due to his father’s job, so Patrick went to seven schools and got used to a life on the road. For a while, they settled in Heathcote, around a similar time to when the Shiraz boom happened. Patrick was 12, but it left an impression on him, staying in the back of his mind. It led him to work in vineyards and various wine shops, and at the age of 19 he decided to travel across the pond to experience London life. It was here that he got a Christmas temp job at Selfridge’s, but ended up staying for 18 months. 

 

“Particularly in ‘14 and ‘15, there was so much hype around the wines. When you’re 28 and hyped up as hell it’s kinda cool, but it means you have to constantly travel to maintain it, so in the long term it’s not such a good thing. So, I deliberately went against hype. I thought about the fundamentals - I’m Australian, from Gippsland, I’m a farmer. That should be strong enough to do something really good.”

 

So, while Jumpin’ Juice still exists as a project with Xavier Goodridge, the wines of the next Sullivan chapter will be cut from a different cloth. Instead of being wines that were somewhat about breaking the rules, the new cuvées emerging from the Sullivan stable are ones that speak of place. 

“Having a lot of forest around and living in such unique undulating environments, means that you tend to get very unique weather patterns and conditions. Ada River is surrounded by forest - so sees very little air movement. This gives density and tension in the wine, whereas Millstream is quite exposed. That gives it a very different kind of tension. The way the air moves through the vineyard is the single biggest change for us in this region - it creates uniqueness on top of uniqueness.”  

This also translates to the wines. Patrick explains that the Ada River Chardonnay, from its little forest-surrounded nook, comes from rather perfect conditions. He works a little more with the lees to “accentuate its prettiness.” Millstream, on the other hand, doesn’t get as much loving. 

“It has this linearity in its structure and profile. Its personality is so raw, so I leave it alone. That accentuates its rawness. I work in the winery towards the strength of what that fruit has to offer, which means you end up with distinct expressions.”

The Waterskin cuvée is a nod to a vineyard he used to work with and loved dearly, named Britannia Creek, from which he made a field blend. Sadly the vineyard was sold, but Patrick was able to find the same varieties in a vineyard to work with: Sauvignon and Semillon. 

“It’s this continuum of field blends. You can’t benchmark anything against the wine, as the vineyard is its own thing. It’s quenching and nourishing, which is where waterskin comes from, but it’s also about reference points. When people ask, where did it come from? I can point to the vineyard and say, there.” 

"I found myself thinking about the very early days - the first wines I loved - Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. I don’t really wanna be cool anymore. You can go one way, and be very cool, or go the other way and just be the guy who has a really nice time with his family, sells a wine that he’s really proud of and that he loves, and doesn’t have to get on a plane ever. I just want to...

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