5 Independent Winemakers You Need to Know

Published by Tamara Harrison - 9th Sep 2020

With 57 of Australia and New Zealand’s best independent winemakers running around Naked, the idea of meeting all of them can seem overwhelming at first. The trick is knowing where to begin… 

Whether you’re a Naked newbie or your journey to discovering better wine at better prices is already well underway, here are five winemakers that should be on your radar.

These winemakers and their stories embody all of the best things about drinking Naked, making them the perfect guides to starting your next Angel adventure off on the right foot. 

So grab a glass of your favourite drop and settle in. It’s time to meet five of your winemaking wonders! 

5. Daryl Groom, a Penfolds legend that got Naked in 2013 

With over 35 years in the winemaking industry, extensive experience as a chief winemaker at Penfolds and wines that were served at the Oscars and Emmys to his name, there’s no doubt about it. Daryl Groom is an industry legend and now, he’s Naked! 

For Daryl, winemaking is all about producing wines that he enjoys himself, opting to source premium fruit from his family’s own vineyard along the way. Angel funding has allowed him to add the best barrels and farming techniques to the mix, creating a quality that’s evident in every sip of his DRG range. 

As for his stand out moments at Naked? 

“The great response and love from Angels on my Australian wines! The tough challenges with growing grapes from bushfires to droughts to frost… it’s not an easy business but you always love it.” – Daryl

Today, Daryl’s wines are produced in tiny quantities, with Angels waiting in the wings to scoop them up as soon as they hit our shelves. (Hint: watch this space for something exciting coming later this year…)

Follow Daryl’s journey here and read his whole story.

4. Nigel Ludlow, a Margaret River treasure 

Leaving a comfortable position at a top winery takes bravery, determination and grit… fortunately for us, Nigel Ludlow has them in spades! 

After departing from a well known Margaret River winery in pursuit of a label of his own, what began as two barrels of Chardonnay in a garage evolved into a five star winery, continuous praise from wine critics and an Art by EVOI range that Angels snap up just as quickly as Nigel can send them to us from his tin-shed winery. 

While the quantity of bottles may have changed since he first stepped out solo, his devotion to winemaking remains the same. He’s still involved in the entire process, from start to finish!

Nigel spent years refining his winemaking craft at coveted spots around the world like New Zealand, France, Spain and Hungry, but it’s no coincidence that he chose to call Margaret River home. It’s a pocket of Australia whose premium fruit sets the benchmark for some of the country’s best Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, and Nigel’s got an Angel-adored drop of each to prove it! 

“I’m pretty excited about the Blackwood Valley fruit. Big character but refined. The weather is equally interesting with freezing cold nights and searing hot days.” – Nigel

Follow Nigel’s journey and find all his wines over on his winemaker page here.

3. Caroline Dunn, queen of Australian winemaking 

What do you do after winning Best Shiraz in the World? Get Naked, of course! 

By the time Caroline Dunn, arguably the most awarded female winemaker in Australia, and her Shiraz took out the top spot, her collection of over 100 trophies and 500 gold medals was already taking shape. She’d even nabbed the prestigious Jimmy Watson trophy, making her the first female to do so, along the way.

For Caroline, calling the Barossa Valley home is all about making the most of the region’s ancient soils, luscious fruit and new world winemaking techniques… and pouring it all into her Red by Caroline Dunn range that’s served up exclusively at Naked. 

She’s Australian winemaking royalty and Angels can’t get enough!

“HOLY SMOKES!! Should have panic bought this one. Magnificent!” – Casey, Angel 

“Caroline, you are a master of FRUIT.” – Peter, Angel

“Caroline, you’ve got yourself some phenomenal fruit that you’ve worked into a treat for us Angels.” – Malcom, Archangel

When she’s not treating Angels to top Shiraz, Mataro and Grenache, you can find Caroline handcrafting wines with her longtime partner in crime, Nigel Dolan, by her side. Together they form our Dolan & Dunn range… but that’s a story for another day!

Follow Caroline’s journey and find all her wines over on her winemaker page.

2. The Altschwager & Kenneally families, handcrafting wines on both sides of the ditch

Four sets of hands involved in the winemaking, three iconic regions, two couples and one Altschwager & Kenneally team. It’s a lot to manage, but the wines are worth it! 

The history of Gus, Swan, Mark and Emma, known around here as A&K, dates back to when Gus and Mark worked together at an acclaimed winery in Marlborough, New Zealand. One thing led to another and these couples ended up walking a similar path through life – with even their children being born within a few weeks of each other – so it seemed only natural that in 2014, when the opportunity came about to break free of corporate winemaking and go out on their own, the fabulous foursome embraced the idea wholeheartedly. And thus, their first collective wine adventure, Tapi, began.

Today, A&K are busy producing bottles for Angels under that same Tapi label… as well as their more recent additions, Culley Road and Carpenter Rocks! With three labels spanning Marlborough in New Zealand and Mt. Gambier and McLaren Vale in Australia, there is truly something to please every wine drinker at the table. 

When they aren’t making the wine, they’re looking for ways to continue transitioning their vineyards to organic, keeping sustainability and a respect for the land at the forefront of every operation. It’s a way of life that’s expanded beyond the A&K sheds, with Mark explaining:

“My organic sway to the vineyards I take into normal life, our family likes to eat by the season and source organic local produce wherever possible.” 

Follow A&K’s journey and find all their wines over on their winemaker page.

1. Ben Riggs, AKA Mr. McLaren Vale

After growing up with the wine region of Glengowrie, South Australia as his playground, Ben Riggs declared, at the ripe age of 13, that he’d be a winemaker one day. He hasn’t looked back since!

His unwavering dedication to winemaking has led to an impressive 47 vintage career, a list of awards too long to count and a nickname of Mr. McLaren Vale, owing to the top drops he’s crafted out of the region. 

And he’s worn many hats along the way! After serving as the chief winemaker at the iconic Wirra Wirra winery, spending 13 years helping to transform that same winery into an Australian powerhouse and embarking on a solo winemaking venture in 2001, Ben has stepped into his newest role.

This Naked newcomer (our 57th winemaker, to be exact) and his Abundance by Ben Riggs wine are the epitome of value for money – he’s passed his Angel introduction with flying colours! The secret of his success? 

I realised very quickly my wines must be a reflection of my personal winemaking style but more importantly they must be something that my customers love to drink whilst definitely never taking myself too seriously.” – Ben Riggs

Follow Ben’s journey and find all his current wines over on his winemaker page.