Fuelled by an unwavering desire for exploration, the fruitful venture of impassioned winemakers and boundary-pushers LS Merchants is proving that less is absolutely more.
It seems that at every turn in Perth of late there’s a new crop of 20 and 30-somethings flexing their knack for entrepreneurship. They appear to do it with ease, and a more mindful approach to sustainable practices adds a compelling layer to their impressive goal kicking. There’s no doubt about it; Generation Why Not? is in full swing.
Meet the couple behind LS Merchants; Dylan Arvidson and his fiance, Taryn Hogan. Based in Wilyabrup in Margaret River, they’ve experimented their way to outstanding vintages based on the strong ethos of minimal intervention and, where possible, wild fermentation.
Dylan’s palpable zeal for the art and science behind the process sees LS Merchants confidently pushing the boundaries of conventional winemaking. It would be easy to assume that he hails from a long line of winemakers. But the opposite is true.
“When I was leaving school, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my life,” says Dylan. “The older brother of one of my friends was studying winemaking, and I saw him travelling all around the world. I always knew I wanted to work with my hands, so without really knowing what I was getting into I soon fell in love with it.”
New Zealand-born, Geelong-raised Dylan went on to study the complexities of winemaking in NSW before finishing his degree in WA.
Fast-forward more than a decade of travelling and working in wineries around the world, and the talents of Dylan and Taryn have certainly not gone unnoticed.
Dylan is also the Chief Winemaker at Cape Grace Wines, whose 2014 Cape Grace Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon was top of the board in Gourmet Traveller Wine’s April/May 2018 issue, with 97 points.
So, how do they know when they have cracked a particularly good vintage? For these guys, the answer is simple.
“When Taryn likes it, that’s when I know I’m winning!” Dylan says. And it appears that Taryn’s palate and opinion resonate with the many repeat purchasers of LS Merchants’ drops.
“When I knew I made a really good wine, it was when it ticked all my boxes as a winemaker for things like structure, intensity and tannins, and it
also ticked Taryn’s box, which is drinkability,” Dylan says. “I think there’s probably too much emphasis in the industry on trying to make the best wine possible in the eyes of the winemaker. It’s either that or stripping tannins to cater for what the consumer wants, and that doesn’t make any sense to me. You can build a wine naturally using the vineyard, and the techniques you’ve got, to make wines that are really drinkable.”
Running the back end of LS Merchants like a well-oiled machine, Taryn heads up the marketing and sales aspects of the business. Not shy of getting her hands dirty, she is often out there on the ground helping in the winery. Using the vineyard and the techniques you’ve got, you can build a wine naturally that is really drinkable.
Working with ripe fruit from local vineyards, finding the right variety grown on the right soil type and with the right aspect is imperative for both.
“Our Touriga Nacional comes from the Ferguson Valley, where it has really hot days and quite cold nights, similar to Portugal,” Dylan explains. “Our Vermentino comes from northern Margaret River, which is hot, close to the coast, and where salty air blows on it, which is very similar to what you see in Sardinia.”
Living in one of the most beautiful wine regions of the world, the choice of grape in Margaret River is vast. With every dollar counting, one might be swayed by price. But for Dylan and Taryn, their drive comes from fruit quality and that all-important connection to soil.
“We make wine not by numbers but by flavours, so it’s important to us to find growers who are connected to their vineyards and who are looking to manage organically, or at least farm sustainably,”
Dylan says. “It’s a big issue, along with the organic and bio-dynamic movement, and it’s not about natural wine but about sustainable management. It’s easy to spray chemicals but it’s far more rewarding if
In the age of knowledge sharing and in the spirit of collaboration, LS Merchants has been moving and shaking with other like-minded individuals in the industry. Meeting Jimmy Hopkins – the man behind Adelaide’s The Fruitful Pursuit – a few years ago and more recently Michael John Corbett from Vanguardist Wines, solid partnerships are fast leading to greater things.
“We were all sitting down one day having a beer and I told Michael that we were looking at different grape varieties from different regions,” Dylan explains. “I told him we wanted to collaborate with different winemakers, and asked if he’d like to make a Riesling for us. He said, ‘No! But we can make a wine together’. I really liked that because he wasn’t interested in making a wine for anyone else – he wanted to make wine for himself!”
On the back of that the trio have formed SAWA SAWA, which was launched in May at The Fruitful Pursuit’s Wine Playground in Perth. In what they describe as Wines by Tribe, these fun grape blends are made from premium fruit sourced from across South Australia and Western Australia.
“We thought with SAWA SAWA that we would talk not about the varieties but about the subregions,” Dylan says. “We want to start trying to celebrate the regions – more specifically two great regions in their own right, coming together.”
For a product that can polarise on the basis of personal taste, wine has an inimitable way of bringing people together, of crossing boundaries, and creating thought-provoking conversations that might otherwise be left unvoiced. “It’s about engaging with the full range of sensory experiences, and capturing the imagination,” Dylan says.
“I know I’ve done my job when people are saying things like, ‘wow, what’s that flavour?’ or ‘that’s awesome, that’s different from what I expected.’ I think that’s cool,” he says. “You’ve got to keep people talking, keep them interested, and of course keep them drinking.”
Visit – LS Merchants
@ls.merchants – http://lsmerchants.com.au