Posted on

Rebel Wine Chats: Mij Patterson + Liv Maiorana from South By South West

If you’ve been getting into natural wine, you might have come across skin-contact whites. Basically, it means treating white grapes a bit more like red ones. Letting the skins, stalks, and juice spend more time together – soaking, fermenting, and imparting their wild, spicy, chalky, skinsy, textural, phenolic flavour profile – natural in avoiding modern techniques to clean up, filter, rub off the edges. Try our skin-contact White pack called the Orange Shake-Up.

Top proponents of the style are Mij Patterson + Liv Maiorana from South By South West (People’s Choice 2019 Young Gun of Wine Awards @younggunofwine) with their  2019 ‘Fieldie’ Sauvignon Blanc Semillon.

“We’re enjoying playing with Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon from our organic vineyard and seeing how we can encourage different directions and expressions of these grapes to something more textural and a little edgy (typically aromatic, clean and crisp). We have been experimenting with early fruit picks for natural acidity, co-fermenting field blends, varying skin contact timeframes, barrel fermenting, and oak maturation. We are constantly trying to find out what works best to express the fruit and create a very smashable wine.”

SOUTH BY SOUTH WEST

Based in Margaret River – the perfect environment for making lo-fi, organic wine. MR is a winemaking movement with trailblazers like Vanya Cullen (Cullen Wines), contemporaries like Jo Perry (Dormilona), all pushing boundaries in one of the most pristine regions in the world. Mij and Liv are advancing the style with their small-batch, sustainable, new and old organic practices. They’re also helping to lead the charge for women working in wine.

What is your view on “equality in the wine industry 2020 and beyond”?

The future is bright for women in the wine industry. Women are going from strength to strength in terms of involvement and achievements within viticulture and winemaking with so many females coming through the ranks to senior roles. From our experience, the focus is just about getting the job done well – whether that be a male or a female.

There have been many women trail-blazers in the Australian Wine Industry, is there anyone specific you admire/influenced you?

Margaret River is a prime example of a region with so many strong and influential women within the wine industry – Virginia Willcock (Vasse Felix), Vanya Cullen (Cullen Wines) and Janice McDonald (Howard Park) all come to mind as trailblazers within the area, all positioned at the peak of some of the most prominent Margaret River wineries. In more recent years, women such as Sarah Morris from Si Vintners, Genevieve Mann from Corymbia, and Jo Perry at Dormilona, are pushing the boundaries and paving the way producing lo-fi, organic wines.

What’s your winemaking style?

Wines that are true to soil, location, and surroundings. Honest, expressive, and delicious.

Do you have a particular varietal you love working with?

That’s a hard one. You will probably get a different answer every week as it changes frequently! For reds, we are really enjoying working with Italian varietals such as Sangiovese and Nebbiolo. Both aren’t widely available in Margaret River, however, we’ve been lucky to source some really lovely, lush fruit over the last two vintages. We’ve had a lot of fun making really juicy, youthful, and vibrant styles of these varietals – our modern Aussie spin on old-world classics.   

 We’re also enjoying playing with Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon from our organic vineyard and seeing how we can encourage different directions and expressions of these grapes to something more textural and a little edgy (typically aromatic, clean and crisp). We have been experimenting with early fruit picks for natural acidity, co-fermenting field blends, varying skin contact timeframes, barrel fermenting, and oak maturation. We are constantly trying to find out what works best to express the fruit and create a very smashable wine.

Fruit at South By South West Wines

What is your proudest achievement to date?

Making the decision to quit our ‘day jobs’, and throw everything in to start South by South West was daunting and scary at the time, however, to see people enjoy and appreciate our wines has easily made it one of the best (and proudest) decisions we’ve ever made. This was highlighted even more so last year when we made the Top 12 and took out the Peoples Choice award in the Young Gun of Wine Awards.

The spotlight is on sustainability across all industries. How important is it to the wine industry to do their bit?

Being involved in primary industry and working so closely with our natural environment makes sustainability key to the wine industry. The ongoing longevity of our industry relies on us as a business to respect the landscape and give back as much (if not more) than we are getting out of the environment. 

Our philosophy has always been about putting the real effort in the vineyard – whether it be the vineyards we manage, or in securing the best fruit we can purchase from local growers. We believe in sustainable natural farming. We organically run the vineyards we manage ourselves and we don’t irrigate. We let the vines thrive off a little neglect and competition to produce grapes that express not only the land where they are grown but the vintage conditions when they were grown in. We don’t label ourselves organic/biodynamic ‘in principle’, we just practice it and more so, truly believe in it – regardless of the label. This is what is most important to us.

Since you started your career in winemaking how has the industry changed in terms of gender equality and opportunities?

As we mentioned earlier, we’ve always experienced equal opportunities within the industry. In saying this, strong, talented women before us have paved the way for us! With women becoming more prevalent within the industry it makes areas such as mentoring more accessible.

What do you consider to be the most important attributes to be a successful winemaker?

Always seeking to challenge yourself and your skills as a winemaker to create interesting, joyful, and thoughtful wines. Not getting complacent.

Do you have any advice for women aspiring to be a winemaker?

Don’t hesitate, just get amongst it!

2019 ‘Fieldie’ Sauvignon Blanc Semillon

Margaret River subregion Wallcliffe Sauvignon Blanc Semillon Field Blend from an organic 40-year-old vineyard. Co-fermented & wild fermented. Blend of 1 to 5 days on skins. Barrel fermented and matured for 6 months in French Oak Barriques. Flinty almost saline notes, smoothly presented, with extra-long mouthfeel. Un-fined and coarse filtration only. Minimal Sulphur added. No other adds. A skinsy, textural wine with notes of ginger, lemon peel, and herbs and a balanced level of acidity and saltiness on the finish.

2019 Fieldie