Be part of a noisy ritual: inside Melbourne’s first urban winery
Finding a wine fermenter underneath his rental home was the beginning of a wild ride into business ownership for Cam Nicol. He and his friends Alex Byrne and Sam Vogel started Noisy Ritual – a people-powered urban winery just three short years ago. Now, they’re right at the centre of an urban wine-making revival in Melbourne.
From stomping the grapes, through to pressing, fermenting and finally to tasting and bottling, Noisy Ritual members are able to take part in every aspect of the wine-making process.
“A lot of it is to do with demystifying the wine-making process,” says Alex.
“I think people want to know what’s behind the product more and more these days, and Noisy Ritual has captured that,” says Sam.
But above all, the Noisy Ritual winery is fundamentally about building a great community and having fun. Cam and Alex, who now run the business together while Sam has started his own venture, want to see people enjoying making their own products together.
“We’ve been, since the beginning, guided by the members, and the people we share the winemaking with,” says Alex.
“As long as we’ve got people in here having a good time that’s the major goal,” says Sam.
Cam: Noisy Ritual basically started when my partner and I moved into a house and found a room under the house to make wine in. But when I saw the equipment that was down thatwas down there, I had no idea what it was for and I think Alex lifted the lid off this concrete fermenter that was under there and saw that it was lined with wax and was like, "Hey, this is not a water tank..."
Alex: A wine tank.
Sam: Yeah. It's a wine fermenter.
Cam: ...which is what I thought it was. But it was a tank that people had been making wine in. You know, having the fortune to know two professional winemakers, I was like, "Bring it on."
Cam: So we made the first batch of wine out of my place and then we had so much fun doing it that we thought, "Well, that same vintage, let's just run another batch through there."
Sam: There was about 30 people who were like, "Can you do that again?"
Alex: Yeah. Everybody who we told about just said "Well, we want to do that too." So, you know, that kind of led us to think, "Well, maybe everybody wants to do this."
Sam: Yeah. "Let's find some more shiraz grapes."
Cam: The idea and the concept has kind of created its own momentum, really. And we're kind of hanging on for the ride, in some respects.
Cam: It's more or less a 9-month winemaking experience, and there's three main events that they take part in. So the first one is the Stomp, where the fruit arrives and we process it ready for fermentation. It ferments for two weeks and then they come back to press all the solids away from the liquids at the second session. And at the end of that session, the wine is into the oak barrels and ready to mature for a bunch of months. And during those months they get an opportunity to come back to do barrel tastings to sort of taste the wine as it evolves. And then all the different members from all the different groups that have taken part all come together on one day at the end of the year, where we bottle all the wine and then they take home six bottles each that they've made.
Alex: A lot of it is to do with sort of demystifying the winemaking process.
Sam: I think people want to know what's behind the product more and more these days, and I think that, you know, Noisy Ritual sort of captured that.
Alex: Yeah, the sort of community aspect of it is really big. We have been, since the beginning, guided by the members and the people who we share the winemaking with, so it's still a part of what we're doing now, to be guided by the people involved and see the direction that they want to take us in.
Sam: As long as we've got people in here having a good time, I think that's the major goal. That sense of community, getting together and...
Cam: Yeah, and do a little bit of labour and share some knowledge and then sit down to a meal at the end so that, like, in addition to the educational thing was that amazing social experience that happened around the process.
Alex: There's no other winery like this in Victoria, so people are really excited about the possibilities.