Grape versus grain in Margaret River

For the most part brewers and winemakers happily co-exist. Indeed, there’s been considerable cross-over within the industries in Australia, with winemakers becoming brewers, brewing companies acquiring wineries, and wine companies acquiring interests in breweries. The list of connections is long.

And having judged at both wine and beer shows, I’ve joined beer judges over a rich, warming red after long, freezing tasting sessions in the depth of a Ballarat winter; and winemakers over a refreshing ale after a mouth-blackening run of burly Australian reds.

But the peace was disturbed earlier this year when Murray Burton proposed a cellar door, restaurant and brewery adjacent to Cullens winery in Western Australia’s Margaret River region.

Winemaker Vanya Cullen opposed the development on the grounds that yeasts escaping from the brewery could contaminate the yeasts in her biodynamic vineyards and adversely affect wine quality.

While most wine is made from cultured yeasts, Cullen is one of an increasing number of winemakers adopting a riskier approach – letting nature take its course in wine ferments. It’s part and parcel of the quest for regional identity.

On the strength of Cullen’s objection, Busselton Shire rejected Burton’s proposal in March. But after later attempts at mediation, the matter seems set to go through the courts.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan