Meet the Maker – Sarah Burvill from Cake Wines
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Meet the Maker – Sarah Burvill from Cake Wines

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Vintage Cellars
February 16, 2017
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Sarah talks about the ‘matchability’, ‘balance’ and ‘smashability’ that comes into play when crafting a bottle of Cake wine.

Do you have a certain philosophy or style to your craft?

Sarah: We make wines that we enjoy drinking, with friends, at gigs, galleries, dinner parties and during lazy Sunday afternoon sessions in the park. We make wines that are approachable, easy-drinking, with just enough personality to keep you guessing, and coming back for more. 

We try and keep things pretty simple in the winery whilst still keeping a few tricks up our sleeve. When crafting our wines we’ve got three things in mind; ‘matchability’ producing wines that are perfect for food pairing; ‘balance’ finding that sweet spot between acid, sugar, body, tannin, oak and length; and ‘smashability’ - we make wines for drinking!

How did Cake Wines start?

Sarah: Cake Wines was born five years ago by young winemakers and young wine lovers who shared a vision for a new kind of winery. We wanted to break down some of the layers of over-complication that can at times make the beautiful world of wine seem intimidating, exclusive and often less-than-inviting.

What is the inspiration behind what you make?

Sarah: We wanted to invite people into the world of wine and make them feel welcome and as stoked about wine as we are. We also wanted to support and celebrate the culture that wine is a part of – music, art, food, photography, design, ideas.

We also wanted to support and celebrate things that make the world a more interesting place. With that in mind, over the past five years we’ve donated 10% of proceeds to independent radio stations around Australia, commissioned emerging Australian artists to produce our labels, hosted lunches in community gardens, gigs in laneways, art exhibitions in car parks, dinners on rooftops, parties in parks and film screenings in loading docks, to mention just a few of the cultural initiatives we’ve undertaken.

Is there anything unique or unusual about your process?

Sarah: We aim to produce approachable wines that over-deliver on quality for price, express their truest varietal character and regional, display matchability, smashability and balance but above all, have a distinct personality that keeps you coming back for more.

To do this we hand-pick our fruit, process in small batches, use open fermenters and wild yeast to begin fermentation, give all of our aromatic whites a touch of skin contact, extended maceration (6-8 weeks) on all our reds to produce delicate, fine, velvety tannin, always throw in a decent parcel of whole-bunches with our Pinot and a touch of carbonic maceration to match. For us it’s about the attention to detail, the small decisions that get made every day during vintage and the winemaking process. It’s our obsessive compulsiveness that drives us to get better and want more from each vintage.

In your opinion, what do you think makes a good wine?

Sarah: To us, winemaking is all about attention to detail and the nuance of every single tiny decision that gets made in the vineyard in the lead up to vintage. To us, great winemaking starts in the vineyard. How are we are handling the vines, the soil and every other curveball that nature throws at us? When are we pruning, how are we pruning? What yields are we looking for? When are we picking, how many pickers do we have in the vineyard at 2am for night-time picking? What fruit are we turning down? All of these questions and little decisions set the scene for producing exceptional quality fruit that we can use to craft exceptional, quality wines.

What are the most enjoyable parts of what you do?

Sarah: The most enjoyable parts of what we do lie in pushing boundaries, constantly challenging ourselves to do things differently, striving every day to be at the forefront of the industry and doing things that have never been done before.

Whether its opening Sydney’s first ever permanent winery cellar door (which we opened in Redfern in March 2016) or looking at ways to integrate alternate varietals like Sagrantino and Gruner Veltliner into our portfolio -either as standalone products or blended with more traditional varietals to create something unique. It may be collaborating with young emerging winemakers on our small-batch, experimental, Young Wine Makers Series (YWMS) range of wines or working with gardeners, the young and young at heart in inner-city community gardens to curate interesting food experiences for lovers of Cake Wines. Whether it’s playing with skin fermentation on our Sauvignon Blanc or curating the annual Cake Wines Archi-Bottle Prize (boldly dubbed Australia’s 2nd most prestigious art prize) to promote emerging Australian artists, we’re always pushing ourselves to come up with new ideas, new ways of doing things and new ways of pushing the wine industry into new and interesting places.

Where do you see yourself and the industry headed over the next few years? Is there something you’re looking to achieve in the future that you haven’t already?

Sarah: We’re super excited about the future of the Australian wine industry. What other producers may see as challenges, we see as opportunity. We’re so excited about the entirely new generation of people becoming interested in wine today, people who perhaps five years ago weren’t drinking very much of it, but now want to learn about the beautiful world of wine that we’re so passionate about. We love sharing our story, passion and knowledge with people in a way that we hope makes the culture of wine a little less intimidating, a little more inviting and ultimately a little more welcoming. Our Cellar Door in Redfern is a perfect example of that approach. We believe that bringing our Cellar Door to the people is the right approach for a winery to take in 2016. Lots of wineries have talked about opening a Cellar Door in Sydney in the past, and now that we’ve done it we won't be surprised if we see more wine producers following suit.