Ministry of Clouds is the brainchild of Bernice Ong and Julian Forwood, which has achieved cult status in a short amount of time due to their beautifully crafted wines. They produce wines which speak of the lands that they come from, providing a sense of season and place. Each wine is naturally fermented in individual vineyard plots, following their organic, minimal intervention winemaking and viticultural philosophy. Their wines that show balance and texture, whilst showcasing some of the best fruit quality Australia has to offer.
A partnership in every sense of the word, and with huge experience in the wine industry working for renowned Australian wineries the likes of Wirra Wirra, Woodstock, Mountadam, Yalumba and Moët Hennessy, in 2012 the pair decided to take fate into their own hands. It was an idea conceived with the support of extraordinary friends that saw the pair leave their jobs and chance fate on a beguiling, exhilarating obsession that would take them from McLaren Vale for their reds, to Clare and Tasmania for their whites. An entity of opposites – methodical and organic, thoughtful and brash, East and West, yin to yang – this is an amalgam of style and soul, and the reflection of a shared vision for the future. After launching in late 2013, all six wines from their first release were rated between 94 and 97 points in James Halliday’s 2015 Wine Companion, with Halliday also featuring Ministry of Clouds in his ‘Top 10 New Wineries’ list. Since then, the label has enjoyed organic growth, with Ministry of Clouds’ wines featured in many of the great eating houses around the country, as well as internationally in Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia, the United Kingdom, and Sweden. Bernice and Julian say their lives have been enriched by the eccentricities of the wine world: the places they’ve traveled to, the diverse cuisines, and the interesting people they’ve met along the way. They continue to learn, discover and refine their craft, making wines they love to drink – and hope you will too, paired with delicious and unexpected flavours, and best relished, sipped, savoured or swigged in good company.
Ministry of Clouds is a toast to the pursuit of a life well-lived, and those who savour the freedom it affords. Their business was borne of this desire – to carve out their own path by relinquishing the security of the past and embracing the unpredictability of life. The partnership of two corporate refugees, their wines speak of the land and distill the essence of the season, embodying a spirit of independence and adventure, each one true to their style and place. The McLaren Vale wine region is their heartland, where their reds are made with grapes from their own 11ha plot and other carefully selected, often ancient vines. The duo favour a modern take on classic styles and meticulous attention to detail. Through their wines, we celebrate those growers who persisted while others begged them to turn their land to other pursuits, the reds revel in Grenache, Shiraz, Mataro and Tempranillo – restrained and poised, of modest build and delicate balance, while their whites – a crystalline, dry Clare Valley Riesling and Tasmanian Chardonnay – hail from these distant but proven regions. The culmination of a dream without borders, this is a tale of discovery, of finding their voice and embracing the uncontrollable. The result is wines that beg to be shared at the convivial table, alongside friends and flavours from far-flung corners of the globe. Pull up a seat and drink deeply.
‘For each year’s edition of my Australian Wine Companion, I list 10 of the best wineries making an appearance for the first time and choose one as the best of the best. Last year Ministry of Clouds was one of the 10; what the proprietors Julian Forwood and Bernice Ong did not know and won’t until they read this) was that they came within a hair’s breadth of being nominated the best. And what I did not know was that they would be able to produce an array of new wines this year every bit as good as those from their first year’
James Halliday, The Weekend Australian Magazine, April 2015
2017 Clare Valley Riesling
Hand-harvested in the cool of the night 50% of the fruit is sourced from high altitude rocky soils in the Eastern Hills of Penwortham. The berries are tiny and intense, ripening late in the season. The other component comes from a more fertile and generous Watervale vineyard to give more weight and flavour. The fruit is gently crushed and destemmed before a gentle pressing to a miserly 4.8hl/t.
‘A deliberately delicate and crystalline expression of Clare Valley Riesling, exhibiting lifted floral notes, kaffir lime, freshly squeezed lemon juice, grapefruit peel, bath salts, and underlying talc. Classic citrus notes are complemented by the mouth-watering chalky and mineral texture on the palate, finishing with a fine and taut acid line.’
2016 Tasmania Chardonnay
This wine is sourced from the exquisite north-easterly facing Meadowbank vineyard sitting 75 meters above the Derwent River, and supplemented by fruit from the Tamar Valley. All fruit was handpicked, then whole bunch pressed directly to old barrels for a 100% wild ferment. Post-fermentation, all barrels were topped and sulfured to prevent MLF and retain natural acidity. Lees were stirred only for the early part of maturation to build texture and complexity. Matured in old oak for 9 months.
‘A textural wine combining the fineness and acid line from the Meadowbank fruit, and the muscle and intensity of the low yielding Tamar Valley… A shy and somewhat restraint nose exuding white flowers, peach, nectarine characters, and subtle hints of nougat and wood spice. The palate is tightly wound, with a bedrock of chalky minerality supporting a core of intense stone fruit, framed by lingering acidity.’
Ministry of Clouds produce classic wines that show delicate attention to detail, wines that speak of the land, that reveal the essence of the season; wines with perfect ripeness yet showing some tension, restraint and poise complete with a crunchy texture, delicate balance and a somewhat modest built. These are serious wines!!