People: Con-Greg Grigoriou
Place: Riverland, Australia
Grapes: Vermentino, Bianco d'Alessano, Negroamaro, Nero d'Avola
Type of Farming: Certified Organic, Certified Biodynamic
Production: 150.000 bottles

Con-Greg Grigoriou started putting Riverland, South Australia on the map with Italian grape varieties that weren't popular in the country before that. Riverland is a hot inland region which was well-known for bulk wine before Con-Greg and a few other vignerons started producing wine here. Besides the exciting flavors, his wines stand out by quirky labels and names. Con-Greg's goal is to make approachable wines for everyone that wants to push their boat out into low-intervention wine.

Con-Greg Grigoriou

“I was raised in the Riverland, a place well-known for its plentiful fruit. My family has a rich cultural background: my father's family is from Greece, and my mother's is from Croatia. In the beginning, we grew a wide range of fruits, not really focusing on grape growing. This was partly because the Riverland was mostly known for producing bulk wine. But as time went on, we began to see the unique potential of our region for quality wines, which led us to explore the world of winemaking in detail.”

Con-Greg first discovered the world of quality wines by visiting various restaurants and wine bars throughout South Australia. At that time, nobody in the Riverland was really making natural wines, although there were a few experiments happening around the area.

“I got involved in these experiments myself, as I was eager to learn about winemaking. I didn't have any formal education or experience in the field, so this hands-on approach was my way of learning. Two major influences on my journey were Steve Crawford from Frederick Stevenson and the pet nat from BK Wines, which was the drop that really sparked my interest in natural wines for its uniqueness. In the beginning, there was a lot to learn and many aspects to develop.”

Brendon Keys (BK Wines), part of the old guard of South Australia’s natural wine scene, was an invaluable source of knowledge for Con-Greg. With his advice, Con-Greg could navigate towards making delicious wine with an extremely narrow space for error.

“I began having more conversations with Brendon. He shared an critical piece of advice with me: the key is to make good wine, regardless of whether it's pet-nat or still wine; what matters most is its quality. Back then, we gained a lot of insight from the experiences of those who had made mistakes in their winemaking. It became clear that the general public wasn't concerned with belonging to any specific wine category; they simply wanted to enjoy tasty wine.”

The Wines

Delinquente collaborates with two third-generation growers who have completed 50 vintages dating back to the 1920s. These growers provide them with exceptional quality grapes, and their vineyards are both certified organic and biodynamic. Production is limited to 150,000 bottles.

“I’ve decided not to partner with more growers because increasing our wine production could risk compromising the quality, which is something I’m committed to avoiding. Maintaining the high standards of Delinquente and staying true to our values are our top priorities. Additionally, I’m not looking to source grapes from other regions, as none have captured my interest.”

Riverland, nestled along the Murray River, extends over 300 kilometres from Paringa to Blanchetown. Characterised by its long, sunny days and a minimal threat of frost, the region’s climate plays a crucial role in grape growing. These conditions allow for consistent and reliable ripening of grapes, a factor that winemakers highly value. In order to avoid overripeness, the grapes must be picked early to keep the natural acidity.

“Our vineyard's water supply is sourced from the Murray River, providing us with an affordable irrigation option. We specialize in grape varieties from Southern Italy, but it's interesting to note that we didn't actually choose these varieties ourselves; they have been growing in our region for decades. As I mentioned before, winemaking in the Riverland wasn't very popular, so you can imagine the lack of attention these varieties received. I distinctly remember my first encounter with Bianco d'Alessano – it was just growing there, largely ignored. This inspired me to experiment with it, using it to make pet-nat. Surprisingly, this grape turned out to be the best suited for Riverland’s conditions.”

Nobody puts under-the-radar Italian varietals on the Aussie map quite like monsieur Grigoriou, and we are all the better for it. His unique take on classic style is a delightful change, yet it still maintains a recognisably playful character. But the road was long to reach this quality.

“My debut vintage began with just two types of wine, leaving little space to screw up. I chose to work with Vermentino and Montepulciano. Despite learning a great deal from my fellow winemakers, the initial batches turned out to be overly extracted and too ripe. That's the fascinating aspect of wine - you only get one opportunity each year to make it. The accent is bigger on natural wine where nothing is added. Of course, each vintage brings its own set of varying conditions, but my approach remains consistent throughout and today I get results that I’m happy with.”

Those who have had the pleasure of drinking with us will undoubtedly notice our penchant for the unconventional in our beverage choices. We proudly champion the unique and lesser-known delights, reveling in the joy of unearthing hidden gems. This adventurous spirit is what draws us to the delicious wines of Australia. Our enthusiasm for these selections is not merely a passing fancy; it's a deep-seated appreciation for their distinct character and the exhilarating experience they offer to those willing to explore beyond their usual tastes. Hence, we thank Con-Greg with all our hearts for choosing us to represent Delinquente in Singapore.

[Originally published in February 2024]

Aleksandar Draganic