Tom O’Donnell loves a great Burgundy as much as any other Australian winemaker.
Assistant winemaker at Samuel’s Gorge for five years, he learned the ropes from Justin McNamee and loves talking in detail about the nuances of great wines and terroir, clones and soils.
But what sets this 28-year-old’s career apart from the usual trajectory of a young winemaker is that he is devoting his time to making and selling something far removed from the traditions of the world’s great wines – wine in kegs and cans.
Together with Riot Wine Co business partner Joe Cook, Tom has been making wine in 50-litre kegs for two years and they have just released their first wine in a can – 2017 Grenache Sangiovese Rose. The grenache (80 percent) is from McLaren Vale; the sangiovese (20 percent) from the Adelaide Hills. It’s a fresh, zippy, easy-drinking rosé. A white wine is next, followed by their cuvee. The message on the can says, “Let’s make a promise. Let’s have fun, let’s keep it fresh, let’s be sustainable and let’s stay healthy.”
WBM caught up with Tom – a self-confessed grenache freak – at Adelaide’s Gilbert Street Hotel, which has his wine on tap, on the day the first cans were being distributed to independent bars, restaurants and hotels across Australia. He says the cans complement the tap wine and help to build the brand.
“The tap wines are going really well, especially on the east coast, but of course an issue with tap wine is you can’t take the wine home with you, it’s only available in glass or carafe at the venue, so that’s where the can comes into it,” Tom says.
“And we wanted to create a wine product that you can drink anywhere… on a beach, on a boat or by a swimming pool, anywhere conducive to that lifestyle drink and sometimes where you can’t necessarily have glass.”
Cans were always part of the business plan. “We wanted to get the kegs right first, and really nail that,” Tom says.
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