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Sassafras

NSW & VIC Distribution

Paul Starr and Tammy Braybrook of Sassafras wines don’t have a background in winemaking, don’t come from a great dynasty of respected vintners, and didn’t inherit a chateau to work from. In fact, they came out of IT jobs in Canberra a decade or so ago, and make wines for the best possible reason: because they love the product, and they believe in what they do. Indeed, they decided to start making the kind of wines they wanted to see on the shelves of their local wine stores, but rarely ever did.

Within a few years, they were hitting the headlines of the wine world, thanks to their determination to communicate to the public their passion for wines made with the ‘ancestral method’ – a technique which allows a sparkling wine to finish its primary fermentation in the bottle. While this might sound complicated, it’s actually a far more homely, rustic and old fashioned way of making bubbly than the dominant Champagne method, which Paul and Tammy feel is overrated, and which they claim removes much of the character of the grape. Applying pre-Champagne methods to produce sparkling wines that use only their original grape sugar, with no riddling or disgorgement. With a nod to German lager brewing tradition, the wines slowly finish their fermentation in bottle at low temperatures before being released. The result is a fresh but not raw version of sparkling wine.

Using a range of traditional, rustic techniques, their wines have been hailed as a fantastic resurrection of a forgotten wine style. Paul and Tammy are determined to continue experimenting, and are also dedicated to keeping their bottles affordable, as a way of ‘inviting’ the public to explore ancestral sparkling wines.

Traditional methods are also a theme for the two table wines: a little skin contact and ambient temperature fermentation for the Fiano, and unapologetic tannin expression in the deep-coloured, rich-fruited Sagrantino. Fruit for Sassafras comes from Canberra, Tumbarumba and Hilltops vineyards.