Douglas Blyde meets a winemaker with the mind of a scientist

Douglas Blyde

Ray Nadeson is arguably Australia’s most detailed and avant-garde winemaker.

The former neuroscientist first made wine as a ‘safety valve’ to calm his brain when not teaching and researching at Melbourne’s Monash University. Later he left conventional academia, with wife Maree, to pour his energy into plucky winery Lethbridge.

On a blustery Sunday, we meet at Wright Brothers’ handsome new seafood restaurant overlooking the steely Thames. Nadeson sports tweeds, which seems a little over-lagged for London — especially given he has climbed Everest. Despite selling his wines in Europe for 10 years, Nadeson still sees resistance to Australian wines in the UK. "People don’t believe we’ve changed," he says.

His wines, though, have never been overly oaky alcoholic fruit bombs. As clear as water and savoury with sage perfume, Dr Nadeson Riesling (£21.84) is a mineral match with perky oysters from England, Ireland and France. Then, with chargrilled octopus comes smoky, opulent Allegra Chardonnay (£41.56), named after Ray and Maree’s second ‘estate grown’ daughter. "On Allegra’s birthday, we opened the inaugural 2001 vintage and every release since."

Both sought-after whites are focused, with the Riesling’s label featuring a playful Q&A with the grape. "These wines are a picture frame around the landscape," says Nadeson. However, if Lethbridge’s wines are Henry Jekyll, then his other project, Between Five Bells, is Edward Hyde. Twitching with excitement, Nadeson pours a misty, crimson red. "Is it Pinot Noir?" asks our waiter. "I’m not sure — and I made it!" responds Nadeson, noting the acquired vines it comes from do not conform to the traditional attributes of Burgundy. He swirls the bewitching, energetic, eccentric potion. "Tasting reminds me of colours, and this wine tastes blue when Pinot Noir normally tastes red…"

Lethbridge wines are available at corkingwines.co.uk.