This is a tribute to Taras Ochota by Andrew Caillard MW…
I was so sad to learn that Taras Ochota has died. Your tribute was extremely poignant and moving.
I would like to add something else about his contribution to Australian wine. For years I have been poring over the history of Australian wine going forwards and backwards from the 1770s to the present day.
The most difficult part is the most recent past, because some things that seem important today land up having no great historical significance other than at a personal or family level.
When I first came across Taras Ochota, I thought he was one of those alternative nutters. I didn’t really have a great personal interest in his work!
But my experience with the cult wine scene (i.e. Three Rivers/Chris Ringland Shiraz etc.) changed my perspective greatly about Australia’s fine wine agenda.
And so as the lo-fi movement gathered pace, I became interested in its impact on the industry and the consumer generally.
This has been greatly enabled by my neighbour and friend Mike Bennie who has championed the cause of natural/lo-fi wines in Australia and overseas.
From a history perspective Taras Ochota’s work is impactful. He straddled formal training (he was an Adelaide University graduate – 2005) and creative imagination rather brilliantly.
Within my history I have written a Canon of Australian Wine from Australia’s earliest beginnings to the present day. It’s not perfect but each wine in the list must represent something impactful whether it was a show success or a waypoint of some sort.
It starts with Gregory Blaxland’s Brush Farm Clarets (fortified with 10 percent French brandy and made from little black cluster (Pinot Noir and includes things like 1895 Coonawarra Vineyards Claret, 1924 Lindeman’s St Cora Burgundy, 1937 Mount Pleasant Mountain A Dry Red, Woodley’s Treasure Chest Series 1962 Penfolds Bin 60A and 1986 Brokenwood Graveyard Shiraz.
Seemingly every wine nowadays wins an award. The 100-point system has elevated what would have been normally secondary level wines to top positioning.
So identifying the truly exceptional or important way points in Australia’s fine wine journey is difficult and to be included there has to be a very very good reason.
A wine show trophy is not necessarily enough!
I wrote this (unedited) entry in the Canon a few years back now…
“2010 Ochotas Barrels Fugazi Grenache is the first of the avant-garde natural wine movement to cross over into the mainstream wine market. Combining the best of hi-fi and lo-fi winemaking philosophies, it offered freshness and complexity, and single vineyard provenance yet the earthy reality of minimal intervention and sustainable farming; in this case no chemicals and no winemaking adjuncts. The highly skilled, charismatic and university-trained winemaker Taras Ochotas has walked the tight rope of technical expertise and emotional feeling for wine. The genius of Fugazi Grenache is that it is both controversial and conventional. It has promoted conversation and encouraged winemakers and opinion leaders to think about the future of Australian wine in a far more open-minded and generous way. Although first made from the 2008 vintage, 2010 Fugazi Grenache is considered as the first high tide mark for this series.”
I don’t think great wine has to have the ability to age for decades.
But it has to be lasting in our memories.
And Taras Ochota was truly one of our most imaginative and game-changing winemakers.
When I read your lovely article I felt a real sense of loss even though I hardly knew him.
My sincerest condolences to his family and friends. – Andrew Caillard MW
Photo: James Broadway.