Add me to the list of wine lovers that were shocked and saddened to learn of the recent passing of Australian winemaker Taras Ochota. He died Monday, Oct. 12, following a long illness, just two months shy of his 50th birthday.
Ochota was a rock star a few times over. He played bass in the punk band Kranktus in the mid-’90s, and he was a renowned Australian winemaker. When the Rolling Stones toured Australia in 2014, they stopped for lunch at Ochota Barrels; before leaving, they bought out Ochota’s inventory, because of course they did.
Ochota represented the leading edge of a winemaking revival in the Basket Range of Adelaide Hills. He championed fresh, low-intervention wines with modest alcohol levels, made in a lighter style than most Australian wines are known for. Many of his wines, made from organically grown grapes purchased from sites around South Australia, take their names from musical influences like Dead Kennedys and Fugazi.
Ochota’s wines, mostly Syrahs and Grenaches, are aromatic, distinctive and often highlighted by a fresh acidity and pure fruit flavors. I found them exciting—and outstanding: Of the 25 Ochota wines reviewed by Wine Spectator in the past decade, 18 earned scores of 90 points or more. I’m not judgmental when it comes to alcohol percentages, but it was always remarkable to unbag them and see that they typically hovered in the 11 or 12 percent ABV range, a percentage point or two (or more) lower than their contemporaries.
Ochota, whose parents