Konpira Maru started, as many great ideas do, as an idea born from two mates having a beer at the pub, namely Sam Cook and Alastair Reed. Sam was studying viticulture and wine making at Melbourne’s NMIT and happened upon one Dr. Alastair Reed (yes, he prefers everyone knows he is a doctor). Doc Al was Sam’s newest lecturer in the wildly entertaining Etymology course, a new breed of lecturer for the course with youth, enthusiasm and knowledge on his side. After spending time as a lecturer Alastair moved on to take over the role as head of course and took on the bureaucratic education system in search of a more practical and experienced based degree. An ideology which was eventually shut down and after years of trying, the old guard finally defeated him in his quest for change and he decided to leave his post of mentoring some of Australia’s best new wave producers. Sam finished the degree years before Alastair left the picture at NMIT and was lucky enough to get Al in his prime with some wild field trips, afternoon de-briefs in his office over a few beers (yes he had a well-stocked beer fridge under his desk), winery BBQ’s, house parties, bar crawls, etc.; needless to say, a really strong teacher-student relationship was built.
After finishing university, Sam moved to London to work in the retail and sales trade, expanding his knowledge and palate. It was really a great experience, though he missed the vineyards and weather. Sam returned home and caught up with Alastair over a beer. At the time Sam was working retail in Melbourne and Alastair was still in charge of the degree course. They were both shocked at how little wine was available in the style they enjoyed drinking and as important at a reasonable price. It was that simple really, right then and there they decided to make a wine to fill this gap in the market. Minimal intervention wines, characterful, unique, drinkable and at an accessible price point.
The first two vintages were made at NMIT’s winery facility, buying tiny quantities of fruit from Chalmers in Merbien, playing with varieties like Garganega, Malvasia and Nosiola. The first vintage was a whopping 600, 500ml hand grenades of fun skin contact whites with pretty much some of the first releases of these varieties in Australia. They had no idea where this would take them but were content at the time as it was great fun, not at all serious and just another excuse to drink booze with like-minded people. Since the experiment time, they have been growing organically, almost doubling in production each and every year and now finding themselves as full time wine makers and grape growers. It is a tribute to achieving all dreams, especially when it was accomplished without any financial assistance, with no family ties to the industry, built purely on passion and love for a product and process.
Today they make wine from the South Burnett and Granite Belt regions in Queensland as well as Kilmore in Victoria, with the help of a crew of amazing growers. In 2016, Al and Sam took on purchasing their own vineyard in Whitlands, sitting high above the King Valley. Here they farm Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier and Pinot Gris organically on beautiful red soil, surrounded by stunning sub-alpine Eucalypt forest. The mentality towards the end product has never changed, still striving for the same goals with each wine, the most important being, it has to be delicious value.