Hey! You're new.

Fancy a drink?

Press Enter to submit
Packs About
Get Involved
Press Enter to submit

20Q: Pat Underwood, Little Reddie

You may not know Pat Underwood, but chances are you’ve crossed paths. A long-time member of one of the most highly respected wine teams in the country, Pat – until not so long ago – spent countless hours working the floor of Melbourne’s iconic City Wine Shop.

Recently, like a growing number of young sommeliers and retailers, Pat made the switch into production. In 2014, he co-founded Castlemaine’s Boomtown Winemakers Co-operative with friends Jarad Curwood and Tim Sproal, before establishing his own Little Reddie label the following year.

The subject of our second-last 20Q for 2016, we recently caught up with Pat to talk everything from the experience of making wine in Barbaresco to having a bit of a knack for rock–paper–scissors…

1. What do you do for a living?

There are a number of things that get me by… I work a couple of days a week at Wine and the Country in Daylesford, which is one of the best bottle shops in country Vic. The shop is owned and run by Jen Latta, who is married to Owen Latta of Eastern Peak. They are a wonderful couple to work for. Jen has a great passion for exciting wines; the shelves are heavy with very good wines from western Vic, and there is a bit of a natural bent about the place too. Owen is one of the most down-to-earth, quality-driven producers I’ve met, and it’s a pleasure to be around him. I have also been lucky enough to work a shift here or there for Alex Perry at The Good Table in Castlemaine. After that, the rest of my week is often taken up by duties at Boomtown or the running of Little Reddie.

What got you started in wine?

I suppose I was pretty lucky to find wine. Long story short-ish… I was working in a pub in Castlemaine trying to save some cash so I could move to the city and study music, which is something I would still like to do – I’m fairly seriously side-tracked at the moment though… Anyway, the bar manager was Jarad Curwood. He had just retuned from harvest in the Rhône, had recently finished up his stint as assistant winemaker at Bress, and was then focusing on the Chapter wines. We hit it off, and found ourselves hanging out a lot and talking rubbish over a beer or two. The beer eventually became a bottle, often Shiraz. I was so lucky to be introduced to wine in this way. Basically, I had a very knowledgeable, patient and encouraging friend who would bring something along for me to try, and let me spill my guts as to what I thought or felt about what was in the glass. There was never any sense of right or wrong; there was a thoughtful answer to all of my questions, and there were always a lot of laughs.

A year or so later, Jarad generously gave me a bin of Shiraz from his vineyard in Metcalfe. We bucketed the whole bunches into an upright barrique-turned-fermenter, squashed it up with our feet, basket pressed it and put it in a couple of old CUB kegs. Later, I got a little barrel made (from old oak) to fit the wine. It was a pretty hilarious little 100-litre fella that quickly got the nickname ‘Little Reddie’. It started as a gag, and it’s now gone way too far.

Around this time, I moved to Melbourne and stared working the floor at the City Wine Shop – what a place, eh? I stayed for a long time. I really didn’t know very much at all when I started there. I knew the wall pretty well when I left. The community and the mutual learning that goes on in that building is so awesome; the access to great wines is only trumped by the generosity of the extremely experienced and wise staff. Again, I was very lucky to be there when I was.

3. Tell us about Little Reddie.

Little Reddie is a project that is about learning. It’s about having fun, exploring possibilities, the freedom to explore ideas, not being afraid of mistakes, trying to make the best wines possible, not taking myself too seriously, admitting ignorance, celebrating mystery. I suppose lately I’ve come into some sort of Nebbiolo, I dunno, mood? I really fell into making the variety by taking the fruit that I was able to get my hands on in 2015, but boy am I glad I did. It’s so cool. I make other varieties as well. This is the whole point. Little Reddie lets me explore these ideas to an extent that would be very difficult to achieve if I was at a university, working for somebody else’s brand, or taking risks with somebody else’s money. I take responsibility for the failings (there have been a couple already), but I also get to do what I am inspired to do, rather then what somebody older and wiser thinks I should. And it’s through these missteps that I think I can learn. I hope the label is some sort of entity beyond me, and I hope people other than me will make wines for Little Reddie in the future. I hope people enjoy the wines. I hope the wines are fun.

4. You’re part of the Boomtown Co-operative in Castlemaine. Can you tell us a bit about that facility? How’d it come to be and who’s involved?

Boomtown was founded in 2014. The idea came after Tim (Sproal) took Jarad for a visit to the recently vacated Woollen Mill site in Castlemaine. For all of my childhood, the mill was a carpet factory, which, after production was moved offshore, was sold to a very industrious local family. Phil McConachy and Ronnie Moule set about finding small, artisan producers to fill the site, and we were one of the first tenants. We pooled our resources, blended a wine, purchased some old kit from retiring winemakers, and got the thing off the ground. We share the space for our own labels, and we collaborate on the Boomtown wines. We still operate with the same philosophy we began with, making honest Central Victorian wines that reflect where we live and are delicious within our climate and lifestyle.

5. Do you think we’re likely to see more co-op style facilities in Australia moving forward?

Yes, for sure. There are a number of other groups of Victorian winemakers I know who are exploring similar ideas. It’s often the case that budding labels will start out in somebody else’s shed, and so naturally there is going to be cross-pollination of ideas in those environments too. It’s thanks to this sharing of space that we have such an exciting, diverse wine scene in Australia. Without it, a massive number of producers would never have been able to get off the ground. There are currently some potential changes to the way wine tax works that would make these arrangements untenable. If certain proposals were to be realised, our small part of the industry would be devastated.

6. You’ve just been making wine in Italy, how was that?

It was unreal. I was working in Barbaresco with an absolute champion named Olek Bondonio. Olek makes beautiful wines from exceptional sites. It was amazing to see where these wines come from.

7. What skill do you possess that nobody knows you have?

I don’t know about this one… that nobody knows? I’ve got a bit of a knack for rock–paper–scissors.

8. Do you have a nickname?

I got ‘Young Vines’ quite a bit at the Wine Shop, which was pretty nice. It can’t last forever, though, right?

9. The biggest myth surrounding wine is…

That there are any absolutes. So to say, that there is not one single thing that all the great wines in the world share. There is not a single thing that must be done, or must not be done in order to produce a great wine. People make amazing wine by spraying the crap out of the vineyards, adding a million-and-one things, using heaps of new oak, filtering to sterile etc. Others make amazing wines working in a near opposite way. I don’t think that there is any single path. It’s about finding what you enjoy to drink as a punter, and what works for you and your vineyards as a producer.

10. Where’s your favourite place to eat?

The Good Table is perhaps my favourite restaurant anywhere, and was long before I donned a figurative apron. The food is genuinely regional, particularly seasonal and delicious. Alex is absolutely inspiring. After working for a larger group in the city for a few years, it has been so cool to watch one young person work endlessly to maintain quality, in a town in which there is neither the professional networks or the customer base that help the city venues thrive. After seven years, The Good Table is unfortunately closing at the end of this month, so as far as a useful recommendation… Franklin in Hobart – beautiful venue with beautiful staff, great wine list and very, very inspiring food.

11. What’s your favourite sound?

Hmm… I love sound. Recently the sound Emma Donovan makes on her record Dawn. It’s one of the best Aussie records, I reckon. But wow, Emma’s voice is crazy.

12. Where do you find inspiration for Little Reddie?

All over really. I think that, broadly speaking, I am most inspired by things that just seem to arrive. I think that it’s difficult to produce anything true if you start out with a style in mind; you end up pushing it. Pushing it this way or that way to try and get it to look more like what you thought you would like to make. Otherwise, if you can try your best to let go of what you thought you knew, you get something with a sense of self, and a sort of honesty. I guess, in this mind, sincerity is your ally, and ego is your enemy.

13. If you weren’t making wine, what would you be doing?

I don’t know… probably playing music and pouring beers. Sounds pretty good actually.

14. What’s your knock-off drink of choice?

Depends… often a beer, sometimes a grappa. If it’s hot, a G&T – MGC is the bomb.

15. Whose wines do you drink when you’re not drinking your own?

I drink all sorts of stuff. Wines I love: Strenua, Josh Cooper, Chapter, Bannockburn, Crawford River, Bill and Rachel’s Guendulain farm project is amazing, Luke Lambert, Minim, Best’s, Gembrook Hill, Timo’s Pinots, Bindi Chardy, Onannon, Gilles’ new stuff, Jorday Kay’s vineyard is going to be very, very exciting, Schmölzer and Brown, Latta, I could go on… I am more and more interested in Victorian wines.

16. You’ve got one album to get you through vintage, what is it?

If you crank it up, ‘Back in Black’ is a sure-fire way to get the cleaning done quick… But if I only had one, it’d be that LCD Soundsystem EP ‘45:33’. It’s a joyful banger.

17. Whisky or gin?

Winter: whisky. Spring/summer: gin. But seriously, grappa – grappa is the future.

18. Day or night?

Well… both are good… I have to say night, tends to be more music, more wine and more dancing.

19. Reggae or rock?

Again, both are good. Rock. I love the blues, which is basically all over good rock. I love where rock can go. Obviously, ‘no wave’ or punkish stuff is rad. Also prog stuff… yeah, rock.

20. The best way to kill a Sunday is…

Hmm, I guess in a perfect world it’s a bit of a jam with some mates. We stop and start throughout the day, have a couple of beers, eventually cook something delicious and share a bottle of wine that doesn’t need to be talked about but is thoroughly enjoyed. Maybe a boozy walk somewhere pretty afterwards. That sounds pretty rad.

• • •

You can find Pat’s 2016 Little Reddie ‘New’ our latest LRG and MED packs, as part of our 12 Under 20 offer. See our notes and pick up a pack here.