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Hills winery takes grape-crushing dinner to Singapore


An Adelaide Hills winery that hosts pop-up dinner parties where guests stomp on and basket press grapes is taking its Urban Winery Project overseas for the first time.

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Almost a metric tonne of freshly picked Sauvignon Blanc grapes will be flown from the Adelaide Hills to Singapore this week ahead of the inaugural international dinners on Friday and Saturday nights (March 23 and 24).

Vinteloper winery owner David Bowley began the Urban Winery Project in Adelaide in 2012 with small winemaking events at a number of venues including the Adelaide Central Market over three vintages.

In 2015 and 2016, Bowley hosted events in Melbourne, and in 2017 and again last month he took the project to Sydney.

UWP now produces about 7000 bottles of wine at the events a year, much of which is sold back to attendees 12 months later.

“We’ve always tried to push the boundaries with this event and this is the ultimate – we’re airfreighting grapes handpicked in the Adelaide Hills to Singapore, meeting them on the ground and taking them to a space in one of the more cosmopolitan cities in the Asia-Pacific and asking people to come and make wine with us,” Bowley says.

“When we first started doing it seven years ago I wasn’t aware of anyone doing it in Australia at that time and since then others have joined the party, so to speak, but I don’t think anyone really does it like us.

“The other urban wineries around Australia are permanent fixtures, ours is more of a festival style where we do it once a year in different locations with a big focus on the food.”

At a typical night, guests are invited to inspect, taste and de-stem the fresh wine grapes, stomp on grapes to extract juice and basket press pre-fermented fruit.

The events are typically attended by an even split of men and women in their 30s but Bowley says the women are usually keener to kick off their shoes and crush the grapes.

“Also, while they are eating their main course they are served the Urban Winery Project wine that was made 12 months before so in one night they get to see a wine in three or four different stages of its life cycle,” he says.

The Winery Project guests get to kick off their shoes and stomp on the grapes. Picture: Nikki To

Bowley owns vineyards in the southern Adelaide Hills near Kuitpo Forest and in the Lenswood and Lobethal areas. He also sources grapes from other Adelaide Hills growers as well as Clare Valley and Langhorne Creek.

He sold his first 200 cases of wine in 2008 and now produces about 7000 cases a year in small batches across the Vinteloper and Urban Winery Project brands.

The Sauvignon Blanc grapes heading to Singapore have been sourced from Lenswood, one of the highest parts of the Adelaide Hills, and are expected to produce between 900 and 1000 bottles of wine.

Attendees at the $130-a-head winemaking dinner will also be served Vinteloper wines and will have the first option to buy the wine they help make when it is released in 12 months’ time.

“When you can offer that to people it really does close the loop in terms of understanding what goes in to making a bottle of wine,” Bowley says.

“One of the main motivations for starting the Urban Winery Project in the first place was to pull back the curtain and let people see.

“By coming to this event we hope that every glass of wine people have from then on tastes a little bit better because they’ve seen what goes into it, they’ve experienced it, they’ve touched it and I think that’s a really powerful message.”

Vinteloper wines are sold around Australia and in about eight countries including the United Kingdom, the United States, Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan and New Zealand.

Bowley says he is interested in running an event in London in the off-season, potentially using grapes sourced from France.

He says one of the challenges of UWP is the need to hold the Southern Hemisphere events just after his grapes are picked, which coincides with the busy vintage period.

“Ten per cent of my business is the Urban Winery Project so that means that maybe I’m not looking after 90 per cent of what I do as well as I can.

“We try to keep some of the Urban Winery Project wine to sell as well – we want the story to spread so we export a bit to the UK, US, Japan and New Zealand, they’re all small allocations but they all get a little bit because it’s a great part of the story.”

A small amount of the Urban Winery Project wine is also served in restaurants in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide.

This article was first published on The Lead.

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