Champion of natural wine, Sam Hughes, passes away

One of the Sydney wine scene’s true originals, Sam Hughes, died by his own hand on December 16.

Hughes, the public face of a group called Natural Selection Theory, died a few days before his 41st birthday.

Hughes was an eccentric with a streak of brilliance, who did more for the cause of ‘natural’ wine in Sydney than anyone, with his own Dandy In The Clos wines and the keg wine, which appeared in 23-litre plastic demijohns on the counters of restaurants and wine-bars around Sydney and Melbourne, called Voice of the People.

With South Australian winemakers Anton von Klopper (Lucy Margaux), James Erskine (Jauma) and Tom Shobbrook (Shobbrook Wines), whose wines he represented in NSW, Hughes thought about, talked about and promoted wine in his own unique way.

The Egg Project, a semillon fermented in ceramic egg-shaped vessels and bottled in ceramic flasks of similar shape, was one of his most memorable exploits, which I covered extensively.

The egg fermenters were packed in rock of various types; music was played to, and strange rituals performed over, the fermenting wine.

He invited the public to get involved, and staged street feasts which were unlike anyone else’s wine events. No-one who was there will forget the hotpants event.

Hughes was a rare and unique individual, the kind of person who challenges everyone’s perceptions about wine, and certainly challenged mine. We need more like him. He will be sorely missed. 

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