In the liner notes to A Tribute to Jack Johnson, Miles Davis refers to guitarist John McLaughlin’s playing as “far in.” Those familiar with this record will know what Davis was alluding to; McLaughlin’s playing was so natural that it had become indistinguishable from the music he was playing. If you know Luke Lambert and his wines, then you will recognize this analogy. Refusing to slavishly follow the conventions and rituals of by-the-book winemaking, Luke Lambert crafts the kind of wine that his vineyards would want him to make; deep, wholesome and “far in”.
Lambert is obviously inspired by his experience making wine in Piemonte and Australia yet firmly believes that “..the shape of a wine should be governed by what soil you’re on, the aspect, the amount of sunshine and rain.” In other words, the personality of a wine will be dictated by its “place”. In 2004 Luke cashed all of his chips in to bet on himself using his small garage in Yarra Glen as a makeshift winery. He sourced sites in poor, rocky and elevated pockets of the Yarra Valley, which he felt really highlight the unique geographic profile in the resulting wines. All of Luke’s wines are handpicked and of single-vineyard origin. They are wildly perfumed with moderate alcohol, fresh acidities, powdery tannins, and limited oak influence. These are wines made as if the industrial revolution (in wine) was a figment of collective imagination. Luke’s methodology includes wild ferments without the aid of temperature control, hand plunging, long macerations (with plenty of whole-bunch for the Syrahs), basket-pressing, gravity rather than pumping, old foudres, and no fining or filtration. Lambert’s belief that the best wines have always been made by feel and are always sourced from unique and interesting vineyards which have natural balance and grow grapes full of character shines through strongly in the remarkable complexity and placeness of these wines.
In 2019, Luke made a minor change to the name of the brand and label, dropping his first name entirely. This was not a Bono, Cher, Brazilian soccer star move in the least as Luke’s daughter Olive (born in 2009), partner Rosalind, and their son Frankie (born in 2020) offer so much more than just encouragement in the vineyard and cellar. Luke felt their contribution to every facet of wine growing resonated as the need to show this was a family business and not just a Luke business, thus prompting the slight but important change.