Winemaker in the House - Rasa Wines
The Barossa story has been 175+ years in the making, constructed from literally thousands of individual perspectives, narratives, experiences, vineyards and wines spread across eight generations of grape growing and wine making. Perhaps the most enthralling aspect of the Barossa story is its willingness to embrace renewal as each generation produces a new ‘batch’ of winemakers with what appears to be a shared and simple mission to ‘make wines they like to drink’. Some bear familiar names, extending their family’s association with winemaking, or taking the leap from growing grapes to producing wine. And each vintage, new folk are drawn to Barossa with a desire to achieve nothing more than ‘make some wine’.
If an individual winemaker’s story was a book, then consider this the foreword for Andy Cummins and Emma Welling and Rasa Wines. I’d imagine almost every wine drinker can tell a tale of winemakers, now established and well known across the land, that they discovered as they were just starting out. And this is where Andy and Emma find themselves - in January 2018 about to face up to just the 3rd vintage for Rasa Wines. Because this wine story is in its nascent years, it makes sense to start with the pre-Barossa years. Emma kicks off the story.
“We’re both from Bowral in the New South Wales southern highlands. Andy was a landscaper by trade, and I worked in hotels. We shared a love of wine, which led Andy on a couch surfing tour of European wine regions, and ultimately to a decision to pack up our lives and move to Barossa. Our plan was a winner from the start as everything seemed to fall easily into place. Andy secured a vintage job at Rockford in 2013, and I started working in restaurants and hotels around the region, before settling at The Louise where I’m now Director of Guest Services. We’ve been here less than 5 years, and we find ourselves surrounded by sensational food and wine, and a community of terrific food and wine people. Paradise found.”
And for Andy, all it took was a chance meeting and a bucket load of persistence to land a vintage job at Rockford. “I love the idea of making wine – an opportunity to be hands on, to be fully immersed and in control of the destiny of the produce I am crafting. For a bloke who’d never worked in a winery before, my time at Rockford was priceless. Here I was shown the ‘Rockford way’ of doing things, a brilliant induction that set me up well for my current job in the cellar at Henschke.”
Andy commenced his formal winemaking studies the first year he produced wine under the Rasa label. (Rasa is a Sanskrit term literally means juice, essence or taste, the agreeable quality of something, especially the emotional or aesthetic impression of a work of art.) The first vintage release wines were typically sold to family and friends, which in turn helped support a modest increase in production for their second vintage in 2017. Vintage number 3 is just around the corner, and again with the support of family and friends and a growing list of restaurant customers in Sydney and Melbourne, they’ll produce a few more cases – but production remains tiny in its scale. Importantly, from each vintage experience and from time spent in the company of other Barossa winemakers they continue to learn and evolve how their wines express the Barossa vineyard landscape, the conditions each vintage presents and their own wine beliefs.
Andy is a willing listener when it comes to insights shared by established winemakers, given he’s still to complete his winemaking degree. “We’re so grateful for the guidance of other Barossa winemakers, as we’re still learning and evolving. We’re out to make wines that reflect who we are as people, wines that reflect what we like to drink. We want them to express a deep and obvious connection to the place they were made and when they were made…of vineyard, variety and vintage. We make our wines with the absolute bare minimum of human intervention, only to whatever extent is required to ensure they’re technically sound. Because we don’t filter or fine our wines before bottling, they can be a bit cloudy, but don’t let that put you off. Utmost in our minds is to make wines that are delicious and enjoyable, that create thought and bring about positive mood changes when people drink them.”
That’s the foreword to what I think is a brilliant wine story in the making. Andy and Emma are exceptionally grounded, and share a wonderfully simple and refreshing approach to making wine. They respect the landscape and aspire only to produce wine that reflects when and where it was made, and wine that they and others will derive pleasure from. This approach to wine making and wine enjoying is one we share and celebrate at Artisans of Barossa, and we welcome them into the house this Saturday and Sunday from 12-4pm to present a selection of their wines.