If there’s one thing we love more than drinking wine, it’s discovering it… Okay, that’s not entirely true, but when you come across the likes of Payten & Jones, the discovery truly is the most delicious part, because what they’re crafting is nothing less than some of the best flavourpacked expressions we’ve encountered in the Yarra Valley for a long time.
“It was as all things start, you know – a few beers and then, ‘let’s make some booze’!” Ah, such purity. Have a chinwag with wine maestros, Behn Payten and Troy Jones, long-time school pals with a simple passion for the good stuff and you’ll realise that this vino venture couldn’t have started out any other way.
Proving that dad knows best, Behn's old man, Peter, lends his experienced hand as none other than P&J's primary soil scourer. Having tended to some of the area's finest vineyards for years, he's the go-to guy when it comes to sourcing the primo ingredients from all four corners of the Valley to go into each wine. “If we didn’t have his ability to look after these great vineyards, we wouldn’t have done it”, say the two of Pete's indispensable input.
With Pete in the mix, not only do the boys at P&J know their hallowed ground like the back of their grape-stained hands, but they absolutely thrive in it with some of the most gripping wines we’ve ever tasted.
What’s more, being born and bred in the Yarra Valley, their wines are made to cultivate the growth of their beloved local community as much as they’re made for Behn and Troy themselves. “If this does fu-- up, at least we’ve got a lot of booze to drink!”
“You wanna have difference in your wines”, Troy declares. And regardless of which P&J range you bathe your ‘buds in, deliciously different is exactly what you get.
And speaking of the N word: yes, natural winemaking may be the bread and butter of P&J’s modus operandi, but not so for the sake of it – something Behn and Troy are all too keen to lay out on the table from the get-go. “If you’ve a great bit of pork that’s been looked after, you don’t need to do much to it”, says Troy. “Winemaking’s the same. Give it a bit of a stomp and seal it up”.
These are spirited wines instinctually restrained, not cookie-cutter bottles that blindly adhere to the teachings of New World Winemaking for Dummies. “We’re real people with real vineyards and real soul in what we do”, avow the two. Call us sentimental, but it’s a distinguishment you can taste in each bottle, lo-fi and pure in all the right ways.
“If you dig it, you dig it – we never want to have that pushy approach”, reiterate Behn & Troy. Take it from us: with each bottle an expression of personality, interest and value unlike anything you’ve had before, you’ll be pushing Payten & Jones on everyone – just make sure you get your fill first.
Plans are now afoot for a suitably laid back cellar door opposite the Four Pillars tasting room. By the end of 2016, we’ll all be able to enjoy a few glasses and the occasional charcuterie platter that's sure to go down marvellously with a bottle. With the boys keen to keep the range expanding in every which way, the future of P&J is looking mighty bright; better yet, it’s looking every bit as refreshing as their singular creations.
Raw, uncut and smashable for days, the Valley Vignerons series – boasting a Syrah, Sangiovese, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay – is the perfect embodiment of the boys’ unedited approach to the vine. “They’re like a live gig”, Troy explains. “Something that’s real and that you can taste”.
Delving into their single vineyard expressions from the Yarra Valley’s Pauls Range and Browne’s Block sites will have you getting around P&J at their most premium. These are classics deconstructed and deftly thrown back together with a bit of funk, making for bottles sure to wow the plucky adventurist and seasoned specialist alike. All expertly crafted class, yet no less curious and delicious.
The Leuconoe and Major Kong are where things get truly interesting. A Sangiovese and Syrah respectively, these bad boys represent the boys tackling everything from humanity’s primordial drinking instincts to cutting some shapes with death after a few glasses. Sometimes cloudy, sometimes opulent and always tasty, they’re nothing short of thought-provoking, natural wines for the thrill-seeker in all of us.