Local Escapes

6 Awesome Natural Wine Producers You Need To Try In The Swan Valley

By Jade Barker
21st Jan 2022

The Swan Valley may be better known as a destination for hen-dos than for quality wines, but there’s a new group on the vineyard block hoping to change that perception. Meet the Swan Garagistas. The name derives from the French word “garagiste” meaning a winemaker that doesn’t adhere to the traditions of the region, which seems pretty fitting. This motley gang have banded together over their shared love of creating unique, natural drops while also paying homage to the region.

The collective is the brainchild of Bree Lavell and Paul Hoffman whose label, Swan Valley Wines, spearheaded the minimal interventional style in the region. 

“It's the second oldest region in Australia, it’s something to celebrate. We’re just trying to bring a new way of looking at it, to younger people and people that are passionate about wine and natural practices”, says Lavell. 

Swan Valley Wines is joined by Yume, Ohkela, Chalari, Local Weirdos and Chouette. They also recently asked fellow local lovers of natural ferments, Txoko Brewing, to join the gang. 

“It’s getting that critical mass of doing things together to change people’s perceptions about the Swan Valley and support each other in what we are doing”, says Yume’s winemaker Lou Chalmer. 

The group is holding regular events to give you a chance to try out their goods, so keep your eye on their insta @swan_garagistas. 

Or why not make a day of it? Swan Valley Wines’ cellar door (where several members of the collective make their wines) is open every Saturday from 10am until 3pm, and just down the road is Chouette where you can pre-book a 45-minute tasting experience. 

Here’s more on what you can expect from each.

Swan Valley Wines

This boutique winery is home to some of the oldest producing vineyards in the country. Winemaker Paul Hoffman grew up on the property and while on a trip to the Loire Valley working as an environmental consultant he fell in love with the natural wine scene. He returned to the farm in 2010, determined to work with the ancient vines using no additions of any kind. His wife Bree describes their wine as “old world meets new world”. 

Chouette

Tom Daniel is also a second-generation Swan Valley winemaker. His dad, John, planted vines in the late 70’s which became Susannah Brook Wines. Tom uses that fruit to make wine “that’s alive and has personality”, using natural ferments and minimal intervention principles of production. He’s long championed the revival of the Swan Valley and hopes to showcase the personality of the old vineyards through his wine. 

Ohkela

Gabe Tan decided to turn his passion for natural wine into his profession in early 2019. While Ohkela’s wines are made with a firm focus on minimal intervention, Tan set out to make wines that “would be adored by conventional and natural wine lovers alike”. They are handcrafted and bottled in the Swan Valley. 

Chalari

Chalari is the Greek word for “relaxed” and this small batch wine is made for drinking while chilling with friends. Wine-maker Alexi Christidis wants the locally sourced fruit to “speak for itself in the wine” and intervention is only used when necessary. 

Local Weirdos

This is a collective within a collective. Five friends decided to get together to rehab some old Swan Valley vines and make some lofi wines with the fruit. They say they are making wines “without any trickery, that are fun to drink”. 

Yume

Wine-maker Lou Chalmer is an environmental scientist by training, which shines through in Yume's natural, experimental drops. She started making natural wines in 2016 but when she struggled to find locally sourced grapes when she returned to Esperance a few years later, she also started creating Ambrosia (aka mead or honey wine) from native bees, which she bottles in the Swan Valley. 

Pair your Swan Valley wine tasting with lunch at one of Swan Valley's best restaurants and you'll be wondering why you don't pop out more often.

Image credit: Rebecca Mansell

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