Alpha Box and Dice are one of my absolute favourite wineries and Sam was kind enough to do an exclusive interview with us! The winery is located in Mclaren Vale, Australia and was set up in 2008 as a “laboratory for viticultural exploration”. AB&D wines are all linked by their environment and surroundings, being created holistically through minimal intervention, vegan-friendly methods. Keep reading below to get to know Sam and his winemaking style!
Name: Sam Berketa Age: 29 Born in: Adelaide, Australia Position at AB&D: Head Winemaker
How did you get started in the wine business?
My first steps into wine were when I entered the lecture theatre at University, which I chose because it was the perfect marriage between my two passions – Art and Science.
Have you always wanted to be a part of this industry?
Since that first day at Uni I’ve just fallen more in love with wine, and everything I’ve done since has just cemented that this is what I want to do for the rest of my life!
Did you formally train, if so where?
The University of Adelaide – Bachelor of Viticulture and Oenology
What is your favourite varietal to work with and why?
Muscat – It gives instant gratification.
Nebbiolo – It’s the toughest to work with and I love a good challenge.
Riesling – It’s just the best.
Nero d’Avola – Such unique flavours and it evolves so much during time in barrel.
Where have you done other vintages?
2012 – Serafino Wines, McV, Aus
2013 – Mac Forbes Wines, Yarra Valley, Aus / Reh Kendermann, Rheinhessen, Ger
2014 – Yangarra Estate, McV, Aus
2015 – Quealy Winemakers, Mornington Penisula, Aus
2016 – Alpha Box and Dice (AB&D), McV, Aus / E. Pira et Figli (Chiara Boschis), Barolo, ITA
2017 – AB&D, McV, Aus
2018 – AB&D, McV, Aus / Folktale Winery, Carmel Valley, CA USA
In the world of wine, who do you most admire and why? Who influenced you?
The biggest influences would probably be:
Mac Forbes – I took a lot of winemaking cues from my first vintage there and it challenged everything I learned at Uni.
Dirk Niepoort and his son, Daniel – For being so sharing and open with me when I visited them in the Douro/Porto.
The McCarthy/Quealy clan – for teaching me practicality, efficiency and vineyard management.
Chiara Boschis – for being so kind.
The guys and girls I went to uni with – for being such a diverse group and great drinking buddies -especially when I knew next to nothing about wine!
What is your winemaking style?
I try to make wines that have a soul and are interesting yet highly drinkable.
Do you have a favourite wine from AB&D line up? Why?
I love all my children… but:
DWS White – Muscat a petit grains blanc fermented on skins with no adds whatsoever, a true orange wine which is the style of wine I enjoy drinking and making the most!
Siren – Nero d’Avola is just the perfect fit for Mclaren Vale, it’s such a unique expression of a variety/region.
What is one of the hardest things about winemaking year in and out?
Space and logistics. A winery is like a liquid – it always fills the space it’s in!
Favourite thing about working at AB&D?
The freedom to experiment.
Also, behind the scenes, there’s a really great team that works together and supports each other to make this company keep on running.
Do you have any goals in winemaking you are currently trying to achieve?
It’s always about forever-improving and building on the previous wines. It never ends.
I also want to continue to bring more varieties into the fold – I’m an addict and they’re my fix.
What are the core values associated with winemaking at AB&D?
Wines that are true to variety or style.
Minimal intervention – low sulphurs, limited additions and less oak influence.
What do you think the next big thing coming out of Australia is? Diversity – we have no laws, no native varieties and lots of forward thinking minds and it’s something we should explore and exploit to the fullest!
What is your mid-week wine of choice?(any region/grape/style)
Orange wine, light red or chardonnay – it’s what everyone in the house agrees upon
What was the last wine you drank?
FX Pichler – Gruner Veltliner to celebrate picking our GV!
What are your ultimate food and wine pairings?
For date night, my partner and I usually share a nice thick cut of dry aged steak and a Nebbiolo.
And I bloody love Kangaroo and a Nero d’Avola from Mclaren Vale.