Ray-Monde Deux & Lakey Farm

John Lakey is a fascinating person to spend time with. While he may call himself a vigneron, his passion lies more broadly in mixed agriculture. Indeed, conversations about his wines under both the Ray-Monde Deux and Lakey Farm labels tend to veer towards sheep before grapes are discussed. Lakey’s career jumped between a variety of job pathways, before he resettled at the family farm.

Lakey’s parents, Rubina and Patrick, bought the family property in Gisborne South, Victoria in 1950 with the aim of raising livestock. While sheep, cattle and goats had all fared well on the site, the family decided to diversify by planting vines, focusing on pinot noir during the 1980s as Domaine Chandon developed its sparkling wine program. The cooler site, set on the cusp of the Macedon Ranges border in Gisborne, seemed to flourish – the GI technically being Sunbury.

“I always wanted to be a farmer,” Lakey says, “so I started a small flock of old English sheep for eating. We see everything as a part of the food production system, grapes included for wine. I feel it’s best for the land, if not irresponsible to not do regenerative farming.”

Around 20 tonnes of grapes are harvested on Lakey’s farm, though not all are kept for the Ray-Monde Deux label.

“It’s great to cross-pollinate with a vibrant, younger generation of winemakers who
appreciate what’s going on here,” he says. “It’s fascinating to see how they make wine off this place.”

Buyers of Lakey’s grapes include Joshua Cooper, Dale Wheeler of Strenua, Jasmine Wakely of Le Timbre and Yuri Zinenko of Calyx Wine. Meanwhile, Lakey’s own wines are an exciting proposition.

The 2017 Ray-Monde Deux Blue Devil Sparkling Rosé (A$35) is produced from the estate pinot noir resulting in a racy, frisky and fizzy wine of drive and precision. It’s redolent of strawberry, blood orange and citrus, with flavours similar. Tightly wound, it courses with a brisk bead and finishes long and squeaky tight. An impressive sparkling wine.

The 2017 Ray-Monde Deux Pinot Noir (A$30) is different to the Wild Pinot Noir, but equally compelling and edgy. The cuvée has about 10% whole bunch in the mix, and duly shows a touch of bramble amongst the ripe cherry fruitiness. Suede-textured, the wine feels soft and supple offering dark cherry, faint clove, undergrowth and autumnal-mushroomy characters in flavour and scent. It finishes a bit shrill and lemony with acid that sticks out, but the general gist here is pleasurable, savoury pinot noir with determined personality.

In comparison, the 2017 Ray-Monde Deux Wild Pinot Noir (A$45) sees about 30% whole bunch in the ferment. It’s a deep and brooding pinot noir offering earthy notes, clove and cedary spice, sweet earthiness and a fan of cocoa-powder tannins. Dark cherry and ripe plum are also a feature. There’s power and concentration here but also lift and freshness.

While the family farm sustains the Ray-Monde Deux label, Lakey goes further afield for the Lakey Farm range, sourcing a charismatic array of grape varieties from Heathcote.

The 2018 Lakey Farm Verdelho (A$20) comes from a small vineyard farmed by grower Darryl Rathjen. Grapes are basket pressed then wild fermented in barrel, resulting in a complex, detailed, wonderfully savoury and delicious wine. Unlike most verdelhos, it’s got faint saline and mineral characters among stone-fruit, green apple juice and citrus notes.

The 2018 Lakey Farm Viognier (A$20) is another revelation, offering heady scents of cumquat marmalade, vanilla and candied citrus. There’s a slippery texture with a lick of creamy oatmeal, saline acidity pulsing through that puffy texture and a burst of lemon/lime freshness to finish. It has weight, texture and full flavour but retains personality, too.

Carménère from Heathcote may not be commonly seen, but Lakey has made it a feature, with the 2017 Lakey Farm Carménère (A$30). A highly perfumed red of green herb-dashed plummy fruit with violets and cherry jam. The texture is supple, flavours tend to mulberry, mocha and tart cherry with licks of anise. It’s fleshy but medium weight, juicy and very pleasurable. It rounds out one of the most compelling ranges of wine I’ve seen in 2019.

Vino Volta

Garth Cliff is a highly experienced winemaker with a strong resume including formative work at Houghton Wines in Western Australia – his years there have been important in developing winemaking know-how. Vino Volta, Cliff’s solo project, has a considered application of science while showcasing more expressive, avant-garde techniques.

His extensive work in Swan Valley is the foundation for this colourful range of wines. Deep connections with the historical region have allowed him to attain the best resources for each cuvée. The overarching vision is to reinvent and re-establish connections with the wines and vineyards of Swan Valley, and help reinvigorate the wine region.

There’s a number of younger-generation wine producers following a similar motif. Corymbia, the landmark project from former corporate high-flying winemaker of Cape Mentelle, Rob Mann (grandson of legendary Swan Valley winemaker Jack Mann), is a strong example of the renewal the region is seeing. Vallée du Venom and Dormilona are doing good work as well.

With this re-imagination in mind, Vino Volta’s range touts not one but two pétillant-naturel wines. The 2019 Vino Volta Methode Ancestrale Chenin Blanc (A$35) is a wickedly delicious fizz, in a creamy, bright, flavoursome style. It shows lemon, green apple and saline characters with some faint, underlying nutty savouriness. Bright acidity bristles through. It’s a good example of well-made pét-nat, offering funk but also freshness and general good times.

Partially stepping outside of the Swan Valley for this next wine, the 2018 Vino Volta La Chingadera Tempranillo Touriga Grenache (A$35) combines resources from Geographe, Perth Hills and Swan Valley. The curious red blend is decidedly savoury, just shy of medium weight, and has a wild streak with strong pepper, mezcal and amaro scents and flavours amidst brooding berry fruits. It’s a grunty red with lots of charisma. I like the rustic charm so much here – it’s so rarely seen in Australia.

Rounding out the suite of new releases is perhaps the most experimental and interesting of the Vino Volta wines. Flor yeast is layered into barrels of chenin blanc and matured for 14 months, and the 2018 Vino Volta Beneath The Flor Chenin Blanc (A$50) is the charismatic result. There’s a surprisingly gentle perfume with richness of nougat, light honey and ripe apple scents. Similar flavours emerge on the palate, with a slippery texture, richness and a soft, slightly saline finish.

The marriage of art and science is writ large in this wine, as it is throughout this striking project.