CRFT Wines: A fine craft

Boutique wine label CRFT champions the location with its single-site wines.

Run by the husband and wife winemaking team of Frewin Ries and Candice Helbig, CRFT was recently named as one of James Halliday’s Top 10 New Wineries in his recent 2016 Wine Companion. The label began in 2012 (2013 was CRFT’s first vintage) with Ries and Helbig meeting at a wine show seven years earlier. With minimal intervention, CRFT showcases single-batch vineyards in the Adelaide Hills (where they are based), as well as the Barossa and Eden Valleys. “Frewin had worked at a few places in the States that really specialised in single-batch Pinot, Chardonnay and a few other wines,” says Helbig. “The inspiration [for CRFT] came from that. We really loved what they were doing and how they were really trying to bring it back to site and focus on the people that grew the fruit, as opposed to putting your name on something, and nobody knows where the fruit comes from. We like that transparency. And we really want to champion these beautiful single sites that we have around the place.” “We worked in a lot of other wineries and we’d see small parcels from a vineyard and the next day they’d be blended away,” says Ries. “So quite often we’d take a bottle of that home and we were the only ones to drink it or see it. All of these beautiful vineyards are different and special.” CRFT celebrate the vineyards on their labels and website. Before discussing the winemaking techniques and tasting notes, each release on CRFT’s website will detail the vineyard first: the site’s location, the farmer/owner, the map coordinates and the clones as well as a description of the soil. CRFT goes above and beyond to showcase where their fruit comes from. Like paddock to plate with food, CRFT deliver the ‘vineyard to glass’ story’. Helbig believes that drinkers want to know these stories. “Definitely,” says Helbig, “as well as the people that have made the wine and the actual faces behind the brand. The big wineries have a label and that’s it, there’s nothing personal. I think that’s what people want, that personal touch.” With Australia more famous for its blends, Ries says people haven’t discovered Australia’s historic and unique vineyards, yet. “They see Europe or the States or other countries as the top places to grow wine but we’ve got some of the oldest vines and soils, and certainly some of the most exciting landscapes,” he says. “We’ve never pushed that. We’re known more for blended wines. Now we want to show what some of these sites can do.” Helbig says this showcase of single sites in Australia will be led by the boutique brands. “I think that’s where the future of the wine industry is headed at the moment. There are so many small producers, particularly in the Adelaide Hills, that are passionate individuals and everyone wants to do something different. We’re happy to be different and stand apart from everyone else. We like that.” The next major project for Ries and Helbig is a winery and cellar door – which they won’t call a cellar door – located at Uraidla in the Piccadilly Valley. They are converting an old squash court building into a winery. “Piccadilly Valley is a world-class wine region and it’s 15 minutes from downtown Adelaide, it’s so close,” says Ries. “Champagne’s probably an hour’s drive outside of Paris, the Barossa and McLaren Vale are further out [from the city] than that, unless you live in the suburbs. It’s right there. The region’s beautiful. The wines are great and we’re looking forward to championing it.” The three Pinot vineyards they take fruit from are close to the winery and Ries says they are currently finishing the development approval process. With their cellar door, they want to think outside the square. “Hopefully we’ll be in there by this time next year,” says Helbig. “With the cellar door, it’s not going to be called a cellar door but we’re going to have something like that where we offer our wines with tastings and maybe some local produce and things like that. “We haven’t locked in any of the details yet but the squash courts will become the winery. There are two buildings adjacent to the squash courts, one will become our office and one we will call our ‘cellar door’ but we want to do something interesting and cool that offers a point of difference with the wine tasting experience. We’re still tossing around ideas and trying to think outside the square to what a normal wine tasting experience has been and do something different. It’s boring, going into a cellar door to stand at a bench and taste wines.” “It’s quite intimidating, too,” says Ries. “We want to bring people in and sit them down. It should be more relaxed. Also, we’re making wine there, we’re storing it there, the vineyards are really close, so people can come and the experience is right there.” “There’s not really anything like that in the Piccadilly region,” says Helbig. “There are a few little cellar doors here and there, but it’s time to put some focus back on the Piccadilly Valley.”

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