The Australian wine community is reeling from the loss of one of its most dynamic – still youthful – practitioners.
My inbox yesterday was swollen by messages from distraught wine lovers reporting that the long-term illness suffered by Taras Ochota of Ochota Barrels in Adelaide Hills had claimed him, leaving his wife and wine partner Amber and two young children. On the official Wine Australia website he is described as 'one of the original rockstar winemakers. This bass player, punk rocker and surfer makes elegant, sought-after wines that have reached cult status.'
Max Allen wrote:
'We’re all grieving here, shocked by the death this morning after a long illness of winemaker Taras Ochota, one of the most respected and most loved of Australia’s new wave, as featured in my first column for JancisRobinson.com back in 2013.'
Ochota's UK importer, Ben Henshaw of Indigo Wines (who supplied these images), still in shock, wrote:
'He was one of my closest winemaking friends and it just doesn’t seem real. I remember you came to our first tasting with him at Quo Vadis a good few years back and also met his wife Amber with their first child in tow. We travelled together to Swartland Heritage Festival in 2018 where Taras was a guest speaker and the audience loved him! On the same trip we visited Eben Sadie of The Sadie Family in South Africa. They hit it off.'
Amber Gardner, London-based sommelier, writer and presenter (and author of this powerful article published recently by The Buyer) writes:
'The lucky few of us wine-weary travellers who found our way to the bohemian outpost of the Adelaide Hills will have immediately met and known Taras. He was and still is the Adelaide Hills: his cheeky grin, his thirst for fun, his beautiful skills as a winemaker, his love of his family and his ability to make everyone, myself included, feel welcome and part of his journey. He will always be a huge positive force on the wine world.'
Samantha Payne, Australian writer, sommelier, wine consultant and communicator writes:
'No words could summarise a man like Taras. I don’t profess to have known him for as long or as well as others, but you can see from the outpouring of grief and love from all over the world, how special he was. He had this way of connecting with people that stayed with you whether you met him once or many times over. I was fortunate to be able to share many moments with him over the years from when we first met, showing his first wines to me as a baby sommelier to the last time I saw him in February of this year, hosting international sommeliers at Lost In A Forest on one of my trips for Wine Australia.
'He hugged me and told me how proud he was of me, how it had been too long since we had last caught up. If I had known it would have been the last time I saw him, I would have hugged him longer and laughed with him harder.
'The incredible impact he has had on Australian wine domestically and internationally is evident, and we as a community are better for it. Our hearts are heavy at the loss not only of this incredible winemaker but of this magnetic human too.'