“Screw you, leftist assholes!” was one of the more tame comments received, says Peterkin, who has just released the fourth vintage of the wine. “But generally,” he says, “we get a lot more support than hate.”
Politics and booze can be a volatile mix. A lot of drinkers see their favourite tipple as beyond the purview of social justice issues, let alone outright activism, and don’t like it when members of the drinks trade take a stand. Now, of course, everyone’s getting cross about everything online all the time – and, after months of lockdown, a lot of people are more fractious than ever.
The owners of independent liquor retail group Blackhearts & Sparrows felt this fury first-hand last month after deciding to stop stocking products from Colonial Brewing Co: the retailer was bombarded with abuse, from anonymous keyboard warriors all the way through to high-profile conservative politicians.
“The irony was that so much of the furore was from people who aren’t our customers,” says Blackhearts co-owner Paul Ghaie. “Look at where our stores are located: mostly inner-city, multicultural, diverse communities. We want to be as inclusive to our demographic as we can be. If a product has the potential to offend, we don’t think it should be on our shelves.”
Conversely, Blackhearts supports products that do appeal to its demographic, such as the wine Gary Mills of Jamsheed bottles every year to raise funds for the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre.
“I’m a big believer in pointing out injustice,” says Mills. “I think the way the government has acted in this area is illegal. And I’m a big supporter of what [CEO] Kon [Karapanagiotidis] is doing at the ASRC.”
Mills says he hasn’t personally received much pushback for taking a stand on controversial issues – other than losing a few Instagram followers – but as his urban winery is in Preston, in Melbourne’s hip northern suburbs, he says he’s preaching to a converted audience that likes the goodwill factor of supporting a cause through buying a bottle.
Peterkin says: “Opening a bottle of wine is a catalyst to conversation. We hope that this [the fourth release of F— Him] will start a conversation among friends about the current state of world affairs. And hopefully there’ll be no need to produce a fifth.”
Making a statement
2019 L.A.S. Vino F— Him Chardonnay [Margaret River] The label is self-explanatory: “Our wine is made in Margaret River, Australia, with vines imported from France, watered by Israeli irrigation and tended to by an American tractor. It’s made with grapes picked by a group of Irish, German, Estonian and Korean travellers under the supervision of a South African. Those grapes are pressed with a Swiss press, and using an Italian pump, the juice is transferred into French oak by a Hungarian-Canadian and then bottled with the help of a lesbian. The wine is sealed with a cork from Portugal and wax from the Czech Republic and placed into boxes made in China. This was written with a program downloaded from India with a label designed by a legend in the USA, proofread by a Eurasian-Australian woman in New York. Our wine is exported to Singapore, Sweden, Tokyo, Shanghai, Dubai and the UK, and drunk by those wanting to bring friends together from all countries, ethnicities, sexes, sexualities and religions! The flavour inside this bottle attests: we are more than where we come from. We are what we contribute.” Some of the proceeds from the direct sale of the wine will be split between the Aboriginal Legal Service of WA and fairvote.org in the US. $50 lasvino.com
Dollar Bill Brewing Black is Beautiful Imperial Stout [Ballarat] Fiona and Ed Nolle are, as far as I know, the only Australian brewers taking part in the international Black is Beautiful initiative, brewing a special batch of imperial stout to “raise awareness for the injustices people of colour face daily and raise funds for police brutality reform and legal defences for those who have been wronged”.
“After witnessing the recent protests in the US, we saw how black-owned breweries over there were putting out this fundraising beer, and we decided to take part,” says Ed.
“Craft brewing is a tight-knit community of families like us who have each other’s backs,” says Fiona. “After the bushfires, breweries in the UK and around world made beer to raise money for us in Australia. They took time to say these guys really need it. Now we’re taking time to say things really need to change.” The beer will be released this year.
In the meantime, look out for Dollar Bill’s Parlay range of intensely flavoured, barrel-aged sour beers, or become a member of their beer club, the Rare Oak Society. blackisbeautiful.beer, dollarbill.com.au
Sparkke Hottest Sex Tip Ever Cider [Adelaide Hills] Sparkke is an unashamedly political drinks company, founded and run by a group of women who advocate for social change, in part by giving their products sometimes provocative, conversation-starter names such as “Advance Australia Fair?” ginger beer and “Climate Change is a Burning Issue” red ale. This – very good – medium-sweet cider made from Adelaide Hills apples addresses the issue of sexual consent: the “hottest sex tip ever”, says the label, is to “Ask, Baby, Ask! There’s nothing sexier than being asked if you want to play. If you’re not ready to ask, then you’re not ready to play.”
Each can in the range also includes an acknowledgment of country on the label, something being done by a growing number of Australian drinks producers. Sparkke is also donating $20 from online sales of its pilsner and ginger beer cases to Change the Record, a national justice coalition of Aboriginal peak bodies. $68 (from $105, case of 24) sparkke.com
Dal Zotto Pack of Immigrants [King Valley] It wasn’t that long ago in Australia that migrant families from the Mediterranean – people like the Dal Zotto family in Victoria’s King Valley – were treated with the kind of suspicion and derision dished out today to members of more recently arrived groups. The name of this mixed pack is a pointed reminder of that legacy and some of the money raised by the sale of each pack goes to help migrant visa workers who have been left out of the JobKeeper program during the pandemic crisis. The pack includes two bottles of the family’s reliably delicious prosecco, plus a crisp pinot grigio, dry rosé, savoury sangiovese and juicy barbera. The price includes delivery. $129 ($136 when not on sale) dalzotto.com.au