By Melissa Keogh
Adelaide Hills couple Brendan and Laura Carter have pursued a life of passion for quenching thirsts and satisfying even the most cultured of gin drinkers and wine sippers.
Aside from creating some of the most adventurous drops to hit South Australia’s craft beverage scene, the pair is helping maintain the spirits of grape growers across the region.
The Carters run Australia’s only remaining grape-grower’s co-operative label, Harvest, allowing local growers to improve returns on their crops during poor harvests.
Any grower within a 5km radius can deliver their grapes “rain, hail or shine”.
“If we’re in a disease-driven year then we just have to work harder to make bloody good wine,” Brendan says.
“If it doesn’t work out we can still pay them for the grapes and move them to the distillery and turn it into coffee liqueur.”
Operating all their ventures from a 1920s cold stores in Gumeracha, Brendan, 27, and Laura, 26, are also behind Ochre Nation bar, wine label Unico Zelo, and Applewood Distillery.
From Ochre Nation the Carters use native ingredients to create premium, sustainable beverages made from fruit varieties that require minimum irrigation and intervention.
Earlier this year Applewood had foodies in a spin with the limited release of a gin infused with native green ants.
Another big hit has been the Økar, an aperitif made from riberries which are a tart, indigenous fruit.
Whether it’s ant-infused gin or using native jarrah to mature wine and whisky, the distilling duo have set out to create “the most Australian businesses possible”.
Break down their business model and it’s quite simple – just use what you’ve got.
When most winemakers would sob into their oak barrels over a smoke-tainted harvest, the Carters lift spirits by turning it into coffee liqueur.
When a 150-year-old orchard in Montacute Valley spits out a crop of “ugly” disfigured lemons that would otherwise go to waste, the Carters turn it into limoncello.
This waste-not-want-not ethos has led the Carters to be leaders of the beverage game and walking encyclopedias of their industry.
Aside from passion, the pair also has an unwavering commitment to South Australia and say their success would have been impossible to achieve elsewhere.
“SA has such a close proximity to quality produce that it really allows primary producers and value-adding enterprises to thrive,” Brendan says.
“Not to mention the sheer sense of camaraderie that binds all the producers together.”
Both were born in the eastern states but studied in Adelaide – Brendan winemaking and Laura agriculture.
“We have one of the best winemaking colleges in the world,” Brendan says.
“We churn out some of the most amazingly talented winemakers globally.”
The Carters are predicting a boom in state’s craft beverage industry.
“I think it’s entirely reasonable to think that SA (beverage industry), in particular the distilling industry, could quite realistically steamroll the global industry in the next 20 years,” Brendan says.
“With the right management and the right assistance, for sure.”