In a wine world of changing tastes and leftover grapes, Revolver Wines takes a novel approach to producing one-off small-parcel wines.
In 2014, the parents of winemaker Daniel Zuzolo had around five tonnes of leftover Grenache after the wineries they supplied had each taken their allocations. Zuzolo couldn’t get rid of the grapes, so — after some arm-twisting — he bought them himself, made the wine, bottled it cleanskin and got emailing.
“In six months we had gotten rid of 400 dozen,” Zuzolo tells The Adelaide Review.
Zuzolo was Primo Estate’s head winemaker but left the winery in 2016 to pursue consultancy and work as a contract winemaker. “In a very short time I was approached by so many people who, for whatever reason, couldn’t get rid of fruit,” he says. “I had this idea that it’d be nice to put it under a label.”
As such, the resulting label of Revolver Wines is an aptly named “revolving door of wines” where the brand will pick up grapes from different parcels all across the state, delving into small, experimental blocks or varietals that might simply be blended into larger batches.
Zuzolo explains his vision: “Essentially, it’s manoeuvrable … I see all these very small parcels of emerging varietals or slightly different styles that will move in and out.”
Zuzolo got his start at McLaren Vale’s Scarpantoni Estate Wines in 2003 before moving down the road to Primo Estate, where he was head winemaker from 2007 to 2016. In between, he honed his skills in French wine regions Burgundy and the Rhône Valley, and in California’s Sonoma Valley.
“It’s pretty hard out there at the moment,” Zuzolo says. “I really like the idea of being able to change very quickly, if I have to.”
Despite that, there is some stability to the Revolver label: three or four core lines will remain — including a McLaren Vale Grenache blend, an Adelaide Hills Pinot Grigio and a Dry Rosé — changing slightly from vintage to vintage. Revolver’s overall focus is on wine regions and their strengths.
“Back in the day … people took big-selling varieties that worked overseas and planted them here without paying too much attention to the climate,” Zuzolo says. “They were planting Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling in McLaren Vale. [Its] climate doesn’t sustain those.”
More suited to the region’s warm Mediterranean climate, he wagers, is his 2017 McLaren Vale Vermentino — a textural white that’s crisp and clean “with racy acidity”.
Consultancy means Zuzolo is on the road a lot. It’s not unusual for him to stumble across an unclaimed parcel, or hear about it through clients. “I like the idea of seeing what comes up, and lots of things come up,” he says. “But it’s not like I take everything that gets offered to me.”
Production is all currently by contract, “wherever there’s space”, says Zuzolo. Much like his often-fortuitous grape sourcing, another upshot of his consultancy work is he’s often first to know where that space is.
At a glance, Revolver appears to align somewhat with the cleanskin model. While Zuzolo wants to make affordable, expressive wines that “punch well above their weight”, he disagrees. “Cleanskins tend to be an afterthought, a bit of a dumping ground,” he says. “The fruit I access generally goes to some much higher-priced wines.” And it’s carefully selected for purpose.
Zuzolo compares his 2017 McLaren Vale Grenache Rosé and 2017 Adelaide Hills Sangiovese Pinot Noir Rosé. While they’re both dry, the former is a single-vineyard wine out of Clarendon, a cool-climate area. “It’s very light, has a hint of spice and floral from the Grenache but it’s quite acidic and lean and really zingy,” Zuzolo says.
The latter, a unique blend, “has a perceived sweetness to it,” he explains. “My tasting notes are that it’s like walking into a lolly shop, so you automatically think it’s going to have a sweetness to it. But it doesn’t. It finishes nice and dry.”
Find Revolver Wines at Sturt Street Cellars, Hutt Street Cellars, Prohibition Tasting Room, Hellbound, Udaberri, Bibliotheca, The King’s Head, The Gilbert Street Hotel, The Wheatsheaf and Sukhumvit Soi 38.
Header image: Daniel Zuzolo (Photo: Meaghan Coles)