Dirt Candy raises a glass to artisan wine

Grape success: Winemaker Daniel Payne and his wife Jenni with their small-batch wine Dirt Candy. Picture: Simone de PeakHUNTERcouple Daniel and Jenni Payne aren’t big on pretence when it comes to wine.

With their cheekily namednewcomer boutique label Dirt Candy, they are making high quality, small-batch artisan wine that is quite simply the type of drop they’d personallylike to quaff when entertaining or dining at home.

“We think there will always be a market for a premium non-mass produced product with great packaging and a reasonable price point that is approachable for everyone,” says winemaker Daniel.

“We are in the unique position where we are not restricted by big business or the limitations of appealing to the masses and can simply make the type of wine that we would love to share with great food and friends.”

Both raised in the Hunter Valley, the Paynes bring years of wine experience to their new label, which has four 2017 vintage varietals: The Fizz, an organic sparkling wine; The Natural organic riesling; The Gamechanger rose; and The Wild One Shiraz Cabernet (there’s also The Inheritance Liqueur Muscat).

Mr Payne’s love for wine began when he was studying teachingat the University of Newcastle and did a few vintages in the valley during holidays.

“My interest grew in it because it was a physical job and the science and creative side of it appealed,” he says.

He finished his degree then completed a winemaking degree at Charles Sturt University.Though he could have opted to work inhouse as a winemaker for another company, the appeal in setting up Dirt Candy lay partly in having some flexibility –he and Jenni have three young children.

Dirt Candy sources quality grapes from many wine growing regions in Australia to create wines that reflect the vineyardfrom which they came.

Eachwineis handmade insmall-batches, ensuring the Paynes can maintain a high level of control throughout the wine-making process.

In 2017, the first year of production, the label made less than 50 cases per wine varietal but with things going well the Payne have decided toup the volume to 90 cases per variety in 2018.

The new year will bring a few new projects, including having a crack at making skin-contact white wine (whereby the white wines are made like red wines, with the skins present during the fermentation, rather than pressing the juice off before fermentation begins).

“That’s a growing market, and we are also looking at preservative-freewines,” Danielsays.

Dirt Candy wines are sold via its website and also at Mary Ellen Cellarbrations (Merewether),Diggers Bottle shop (Hamilton South),Bottlo (Greta) and IGA Liquor (Dungog).

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