Ruggabellus is an exciting addition to Australia’s advancing wine scene. Abel Gibson has worked in and around some of the Barossa’s best with stints at big and small wineries, but has popped out the other side with a lighter, fresher handle on his red wines than tradition and Barossan wine architecture normally preaches. All his red fruit goes into older, seasoned oak. There is minimal handling, and sulphur is added in minute amounts (‘but I am not making natural wines’, Abel says). Natural ferments kick things off and surprisingly, for the perceived weight of the wines (lighter), the fruit is judiciously ripe coming off the vines.

While GSM and variations of the Rhone-inspired beast are the order of the day, the lifted, expressive, fruit driven personality of these wines is as individual as Abel’s beard is shaggy. GSM here however is more a measure to put creativity and individuality in bottle – they are also wines that let stems carry the fruit long and fresh in the wines. These are thoughtfully put together wines with an emphasis on drinkability, fruit verity and youthful appeal.

Abel Gibson’s version of his career is best put in his words – ‘Respect and history’ was learnt at Penfolds, ‘art and tradition’ at Rockford, ‘intellect and detail’ from Chris Ringland, ‘bunch and mystery’ from Charlie Melton, ‘provenance and balance’ from my father at Gibson and most recently and quite importantly ‘belief’ from Pete and Magali at Spinifex – without their encouragement ‘Ruggabellus’ would in all likelihood have remained an idea to this day. MIKE BENNIE, The Wine Front