In 2019, Australia experienced some of the worst bushfires on record, acting as an apocalyptic precursor to what would be an even more tumultuous 2020.
As the smoke cleared and the Australian landscape tried to recover, seemingly unaided by an otherwise occupied government, we got to witness the power of community and fellowship at a whole new level, as the world banded together in support for dealing with the devastation.
In the wine world, we realised that even those places that were not kissed by flame had still been affected by smoke. Many growers and winemakers were about to lose most, if not all, of their crops.
The thirsty fire-affected land and grapes caused many winemakers to think on their feet, drawing on alternative techniques, the help of fellow farmers and growers from unaffected areas, and collaboration to get through 2020 to make wine another day.
People like Angus Vinden implemented things like shorter skin macerations to minimise the smoke. Bryan Martin of Ravensworth turned his smokiest grapes into a beer collab with Topher Boem of Wildflower whilst reaching out to Swan Valley's growers to use their fruit. Which, unfortunately, this year experienced terrible bushfires as well.
Sam Leyshon of Mallaluka usually buys a lot of fruit from Freeman Vineyards every year, but even the Freeman family's abundant yield was severely decimated, unable to provide him with the goods. However, in the spirit of community and goodwill, he still invested as much as he could in some of their sauvignon blanc, to make a lightly fizzing pet nat, to see what would happen, to explore this new world of smoke in wine.
The result? A delightfully refreshing, mezcal-margarita like drink that dazzles across the palate while also genuinely transporting you back to a time and a place.
In wine, we always talk about terroir, a wine tasting like where it comes from, and in natural wine, the primary goal is to capture that provenance; there is no cookie-cutting. Every vintage is genuinely representative of what that year provided. This kind of approach is an excellent way of looking at wines like this.
We teamed up with Sam to do a special release of this wine, looking to give back and re-invest in the Country in whatever way we can. 20% of FIGHT FIRE WITH FIRE Pet Nat profits will go to both Firesticks Alliance and Lord Mayors Distress Fund.
Firesticks Alliance Indigenous Corporation is an Indigenous-led network and aims to re-invigorate the use of cultural burning by facilitating cultural learning pathways to fire and land management. It is an initiative for Indigenous and non- Indigenous people to look after Country, share their experiences and collectively explore ways to achieve their goals.
The Lord Mayor's Distress Relief Fund (LMDRF) was established in 1961, following the disastrous Dwellingup fires where 123 people were left homeless and the timber towns of Holyoake, Nanga Brook, Marrinup and Banksiadale were utterly burnt out. The LMDRF was established in conjunction with the State Government to provide financial assistance to individuals to alleviate and relieve distress, suffering, and personal hardships brought about by any disaster or emergency within Western Australia. These factors are declared by the Western Australian Government or for which the LMDRF Board considers assistance is warranted.
This new iteration from Mallaluka is definitely a different kind of wine, but indeed a wine that takes you on a journey and will help many vintages come. You can also donate directly via the links above.