There are very few sure things in life. But one of them is Steve Grimley. Some of you may recognise the name; it adorns quite a number of the great wines we have shipped out from the port at Adelaide. He is the man behind, in one way or another, most of the really cracking Australian wine, the ones that everyone loves, that has graced our electronic shelves.
Quite simply he has been Our Man In Oz (OMIO) for almost as long as we have been trading.
Ten years ago Steve was managing a very good, progressive winery called Norfolk Rise, in South Australia’s Limestone Coast. We did a little trade with them before quickly realising that he might hold the key to something we hold dear: sourcing truly engaging small batch wines, made by people who cared (rather than massive, anonymous, wine-by-numbers blends). We quickly worked out a way to work together and the wine started to flow.
Nowadays, the flow from OMIO comes from every corner of the country, from the Barossa to the Swan Valley to the Hunter. What unites all of these wines is OMIO’s influencing hand. He likes to say that you can’t just provide the sausage, you must also provide the sizzle. This has great resonance in a country that gets through an awful lot of them, cooking in the Aussie way. But for us, it’s the key to great wine.
The sizzle is that little difference that makes all the difference. It could be a lovely little cool-climate vineyard in the Adelaide Hills, where OMIO has smell of a bargain crop. It could be an outstanding VAT of wine that one of his mates has made, that has become unexpectedly available. Long ago, we licensed OMIO to do whatever-the-hell he felt was appropriate. And that’s the key: creative freedom (The Sizzle).
OIMO is a family man par excellence, with three Australian kids who like to hunt for snakes and spiders and a lovely wife Annie who tolerates all of the masculinity with grace and poise.
OMIO is a great Australian. He talks absolutely straight (sometimes too straight for our sensitive British ears), is a picture of health (save possibly his liver) and loves to cook brilliant pieces meat in his bespoke pizza oven. He loves to fish (Annie claims, contentiously, that he’s never caught a thing).
And he keeps pigs.
But he doesn’t just keep them. He names wines after their successive dynasties (The Black Pig, 16 Little Black Pigs etc). And, crucially, after he has butchered them, he gets a Spanish gent he knows to help him turn them into cuts of ham, that would shame many a tapas bar in Barcelona.
He makes ham that has The Sizzle in abundance. Which makes a trip to his winery in the McLaren Vale a bit of a treat.
He is part of what Virgin Wines is, and no less.
And our man in Oz is a properly great bloke.