While natural wines have made a splash on the market around the world, they’re just a drop in the glass in Malaysia. Things are beginning to change though: with both an increase in knowledge about wine production and concerns over sustainability and health, natural wines are starting to get some of the attention they deserve.
Smallfry Natural Wine Dinner, Grano Pasta Bar
Malaysia’s top wine importers are hearing more cries for “organic, biodynamic, sustainable, ethical and natural,” from their customers and, while the general population might not yet differentiate the finer points of the terminology, they are raising a topic worthy of discussion. Getting that conversation going recently, was Wayne Ahrens, guest speaker and producer of Smallfry natural wines from the Barossa Valley, Australia. In a wine dinner held at Grano Pasta Bar, Wayne led guests through a tasting of vintages from his winery and gave some insight into the industry’s growth in Australia.
Guest speaker, Wayne Ahrens, Smallfry Natural Wines
Wayne and his business and life partner, Suzi Hilder, first began making wines themselves purely so they’d “have something to drink.” They’re both self-proclaimed foodies, so making wine that also goes well with food is important to them. Extensive work in the field and a childhood-induced aversion to chemicals, have led Wayne down the path of biodynamics. Using wild yeasts, Wayne believes that the individual terroir of his vineyard is best expressed, and “getting out of the way of nature” reflects the inherent biodiversity of the environment. Offering minimal interference in life’s natural cycles enables Wayne to gently capture each year’s climate and character in every bottle.
Smallfry Natural Wines
2016 Smallfry Barossa Riesling 2016 (biodynamic and organic)
The 2016 Smallfry Barossa Riesling kicks off our tasting with an off-dry example filling the mouth with the bolder traits of the grape along with notes of citrus and the tropics. It makes a gracious partner for the Gigli Rigati al Frutti di Mare. The fruits of the sea are fresh and just cooked making them tender and tasty. Prawns, crab meat, mini cuttlefish, roe and clams are seasoned with saffron and chilli flakes which do particularly well with the fruit elements in the wine. The seafood is all tossed together with gigli rigati (striped lily pasta) – a handmade speciality that Grano Pasta Bar has become known for.
Smallfry Barossa Tangerine Dream 2017
For those who have begun an interest in natural wines in Malaysia, the Smallfry Barossa Tangerine Dream might be a familiar label: the orange giraffe on the front is a memorable icon. The pale amber hue and cloudiness in the glass mean there’s no mistaking that this drop is a natural wine. The nose offers orange zest over an earthy graininess and the mouth fills with multiple layers. Time left in the glass is well spent as the palate becomes more complex with air. A puffy-edged sourdough circle of ciccio bread comes topped with smoked salmon and roe as its mate. Burrata cheese gives a decadent creaminess, which is only heightened by a smoky aubergine spread. There are plentiful herbs and a hint of spice in the recipe, which seem to develop a sharper edge to the wine. The general consensus at our table is that the wine flows in harmony with the food.
Smallfry Schliebs Garden 2015
Our third wine is a blend typical of the Barossa; Grenache, Mataro and Shiraz – otherwise known as GSM and honours the previous owner of the vines with the name Smallfry Schliebs Garden 2015. The vines were planted as a “garden” interweaving grapes with other fruit trees as was once the tradition amongst German vinedressers. The abundance of fruit in the glass seems to trip the light fantastic around the mouth hitting each crevice with its suave moves. Along with an escalation in intensity in the wine comes a parallel with the food. Aged French duck breast is rich in flavour and sautéed kale, cabbage pancetta and a raspberry sauce counter-balance its heaviness partnering in the waltz around the palate.
Smallfry Barossa Shiraz 2015
Another varietal highly regarded in the Barossa is presented in the final wine, the Smallfry Barossa Shiraz 2015. Dark plum in the glass, the hue mirrors the depth of flavour in the palate. Fruit comes to the front of the mouth and then quickly gives way to textured tannins, which yield to a crisp finish. The aromas of stone fruit and tobacco provide a bridge to the satisfying scent of the braised beef cheek cooked Osso Bucco style. Bringing the meal to a climax in potency the meat rises with the wine in filling the mouth with its lush textures and bold flavours. Chorizo pork sausage maintains the oomph, soft polenta provides something to soak up the additional sauce, and gremolata adds a herby edge.
And, as Grano Pasta Bar is all about the dough, a sourdoughnut is surely a fitting ending. Rosemary custard sauce and rose flower whipped cream swirl sweet, floral and herby all into one mouth-watering bite. The doughnuts are wonderfully crisp on the shell, fluffy yet dense within. They’re hot and delicious and a brilliant bite with the final sip of the Shiraz.
With the viewpoint that biodynamics is a way to bring out the best of nature, it won’t be long before the drop in the Malaysian market turns to a wave, and perhaps in the foreseeable future, we’ll see a tsunami of natural winemaking around the world.
Reasons to drink Smallfry Natural Wines: each wine is a true expression of the biodiversity and climate of the location and conditions of that year; a more sustainable production; they taste bloody good.