Why the most popular wine this summer is a Crunchy Red that breaks all the rules

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Why the most popular wine this summer is a Crunchy Red that breaks all the rules

Words by Joanne Brookfield

The 90s were a pretty epic decade. You could say “it was the best of times, it was the blurst of times”, as it gave us everything from a canary yellow family called The Simpsons to the grubby cardigans of grunge music, everything from rollerblades to the macarena.

It was a time in history when worlds collided, as a kid-wizard broke publishing records while in a garage in California a little tech start-up launched called Google.

Closer to home, however, there was a winemaker putting the Yarra Valley on the map with his new style of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. These balanced, seamless wines have made Rob Dolan Wines an iconic local brand.

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When you’ve hit your winning formula, you stick with it, right? Wrong! When a group of young winemakers working at Rob Dolan Wines suggested they tackle some experimental wines, he looked at these passionate up-and-coming winemakers and said “I just don’t understand why. Maybe I’m just stuck in the 90s….”

It was his way of green-lighting the project and inadvertently naming this new range. The ‘Stuck in the 90s’ range of fresh, easy-drinking wines are stripped back, small batch and lo-fi, just like an MTV Unplugged special.

Destined to be one of the most popular drops this summer, Beat spoke with Meg, Ben and the team to bring you everything you need to know about their first cab off the rank, the Crunchy Red.


What’s this crunchy trend all about? 

“We have a young, fun team who wanted to have a go at some on-trend wine styles,” explains Ben. The world’s best sommeliers are no longer talking about “chewy” as the style of choice for red wines, now it’s all about “crunchy” styles, which have an energising, racy zip to them.

“There’s a lot of new styles of wines coming on board and to be honest, we’ve done a lot of tastings and they’ve been pretty ordinary. Our wine-making crew said ‘we can do better than that’ – so they did!” says Meg.

The result is a range of fun wines intended for making memories rather than over-earnest discussions about tannin and mouth-feel. “The whole range is relaxed and fun. Don’t overthink the style of wine too much and just have a good time drinking them!” says Ben.

Which grapes and why? 

Stuck in the 90s Crunchy Red is made using shiraz grapes, which have been sourced from the Yea Valley, Victoria. As wine drinking trends have changed, shiraz and cabernet grapes have slid down the popularity chart, meaning they are “now really hard to sell in the Yarra”, explains Meg of the glut this has created.

“So the people that grow those grapes are either having to pull those grapes out and replant with something else, which is really expensive to them, or they just don’t replant. So we have to keep our growers going. A part of sustainability is economic viability for the region that we’re working within, so the team decided to work with these unloved grapes and help the local growers out” she says.

What does the Crunchy Red taste like – real talk?

“Bloody delicious!” she says.

And in wine talk?

“It’s more blue and black fruited…lighter bodied,” says Ben.

Is it vegan?

Sure is. The Stuck in the 90s team are very much living in the progressive now, with a bunch of animal lovers and plant eaters on the crew. While the usual wine-making process can see animal proteins being added, their alternative approach to making their Crunchy Red (plus their upcoming Skinsy Gris and Pet Nat, for white drinkers) are all vegan, so you can guzzle it down, guilt free.


Absolutely. Meg and Ben says that’s also been really important to the team: “sustainability is just part of their DNA, and so the aim is to produce the wines in a sustainable way”. So in addition to sourcing unloved local grapes, the Stuck in the 90s glass bottles are lightweight which reduces energy and raw material consumption, and all the labels (which are designed by artist Luna Tunes) are made from recycled paper.

Inside the bottle, it’s pretty natural as well. “On the wine side, we haven’t put in (or taken out!) much at all, so what you get in the glass is pretty bloody close to the original grape,” says Ben, “except, of course we fermented it to make it fun!”

When can you drink it?

Now. The Crunchy Red isn’t intended for your cellar but to be enjoyed this summer. It’s what they call an ‘early release’ so it comes out in the Spring to allow everyone to enjoy across the holiday period, so once this vintage is finished they can release the next one the following year.

How do you drink it? 

Chilled. What?! But it’s a red?

Yep, it’s a concept that once would have horrified traditional wine drinkers, but this summer red is best enjoyed cold. “People now want something that they can chill down and put in their picnic bag and take with them to the beach or whatever, so they can drink it over a couple of hours and it’s not going to be hot and disgusting and really high in alcohol,” says Meg.

What do you pair it with?

When we think wines, we often think food pairing. However, Meg says “the way we eat is really moving towards grazing, when we go to a restaurant now we don’t have one meal, everyone is sharing plates, and this is the perfect crowd-pleaser type of wine because it will go with so many different types of food.”

Where can you get it?

The all-important question. The Stuck in the 90s range is available at The Rose, Fitzroy; The Retreat, Brunswick and The Brandon, Carlton North, as well as independent wine shops. But remember, it’s small batch – they’ve only made a thousand litres – so if you fall in love with the Crunchy Red, get in quick!

Keep up with the latest Stuck In The 90s info and updates here. 

Grab your tickets to PULP Vol 1 by heading here.

This article was made in partnership with Stuck In The 90s Wine.