Tony Zafirakos started Ari’s Natural Wine Co. as a side hustle to his full-time gig as a graphic designer. But lucky for Zafirakos, he had the perfect source of knowledge to help him along – his father, Ari.
“My father isn’t a trained winemaker, but his understanding of it is incredible,” Zafirakos tells Hospitality. “I really learnt the idea of ‘raising’ wine from him – time, patience and gentle guidance was always the way, and that remains so to this day.”
Soon enough, Ari’s morphed from a hobby to a fully fledged business.
For those who haven’t heard of Ari’s before (you have now and you’re welcome), the brand is one of the trailblazers in the local natural wine space, with varietals spanning everything from Pet Nat to Merlot and Viognier to the lesser-found Retsini, a Greek-style Retsina.
“We source pine resin from the mountains just outside of Athens, Greece, and add it to the fermentation,” says Zafirakos on the Retsini. “It imparts a minty almost menthol kind of aroma and flavour. We wrap the resin in cheese cloth and suspend it in the wine for the duration of primary fermentation.”
While natural wines are as commonplace as ever, the category has certainly become blurred with more parties entering the picture.
But Zafirakos is clear cut on what the definition means to him. “To me, it is wine produced from organic fruit where possible and processed with no additions or subtractions. That means no additives, no sulphur whatsoever and no filtering or fining. Those manipulations are simply there to speed up the process. We just wait until the wine shows us it’s ready.”
All grapes are picked and stemmed by hand on-site and hand pressed – there’s no electricity involved at any stage.
At Ari’s, the main goal is to “make wine with soul [and] lots of flavour and texture”, and consumers can’t get enough – capacity has doubled and continues to grow.
“We can barely keep with up demand!” says Zafirakos. “Natural wine, aside from tasting great, has come along at a time when consumers are growing more conscious of authenticity in the products they buy, which is probably our main point of difference.”
You can buy wine from arisnatural.wine and select retailers.