July 9, 2019|In Winery Spotlight

Mollydooker: The Ultimate Wow-Inducing, Crowd-Pleasing Favourite

Mollydooker's Sarah Marquis
Mollydooker's owner and winemaker, Sarah

A powerhouse in every sense of the word, Mollydooker has been a crowd-pleasing, wow-inducing, glass-filling favourite in the Dhall & Nash portfolio for years.

These unapologetically lush and vivacious wines are everything their quirky labels make them out to be – loud, bold and utterly scrumptious. With a look to turn the head and a taste to delight the tongue, there’s nothing this Aussie superstar can’t achieve. Drinkers beware though, these powerfully delicious wines are not for the faint-hearted!

It’s hard to know where to start when talking about Mollydooker as every aspect of it’s vast tapestry of existence is endlessly cool. They have implemented, designed and utilised unique systems in the vineyard, winemaking and drinking stages of their tasty tipples (more on this later) and have done it all smiling, but it makes sense to start from the beginning, when a couple of young wine-lovers took their first steps toward what is now an internationally acclaimed brand.

The History

Sarah and Sparky met in college, and were married in the early 90’s. With only $1000 between the both of them, they worked as winemakers with Sarah’s parents at Fox Creek, they built a winery, introduced their Vineyard Watering Programme in the vineyards so that they got exceptional fruit, and devoted long hours to perfecting their winemaking. It didn’t take them long to be recognised – in only a few short years they were named as Australia’s top winemakers, and in 2002, Robert Parker got wind of the duo and said they were creating “The greatest red wine values in existence” and advised that people should “Run, don’t walk and secure as much as you can of these wines!”

Following this, their wines surged in popularity and Sarah and Sparky decided they needed to take a step back. Commercial-style wines that would meet the demands of the masses was not a path they intended to take. The 2005 vintage was the beginning of Mollydooker, and Sarah and Sparky started to look at bottling and branching off into their own smaller production.

2006 was really “the year” for Mollydooker. It officially launched, but it was a turbulent time. Two weeks after settling on the name ‘Mollydooker,’ Sarah and Sparky’s bank account dwindled down to $17 – a terrifying start to a dream venture. They had, however, an exceptional support network. Staff offered to take a salary drop, growers offered to take late payments, suppliers offered extended terms. Both families mortgaged everything and chipped in. But most miraculous of all, a successful local bussiness-man took a keen personal interest in the brand, and came in wanting to know if he could help. Half an hour later he’d written a hefty cheque and walked out.

Three months later, The Wine Advocate chose The Boxer as the Best Value Red Wine in the World, the Two Left Feet as the second, and the Maitre D’ as the fourth. The Violinist was chosen the Best Value White Wine in the world. The wines sold out in nineteen days, and all the debts were paid off. In August, when the Carnival of Love (WA:99) and Enchanted Path (WA:96) were released they sold out in five days, and Mollydooker was back to paying bills early, and was able to give (very deserved!) bonuses to staff and growers. A mere eighteen months after being down to their last $17, Sarah and Sparky Marquis were able to buy a beautiful property complete with a winery and 114 acres of vineyards on the magic Seaview Ridge in McLaren Vale.

Years of success followed. Points galore from all the big names in the wine-writing world and whispers of these phenomenally punchy wines circled the globe time and time again until Mollydooker was synonymous with the biggest and best of Aussie reds.

In 2017, Sarah and Sparky decided to amicably part ways. Sarah opted to stay on and take the reigns as the sole owner of Mollydooker whilst Sparky left to follow other ventures. Sarah said the change in ownership was simply part of the ongoing growth and evolution of the brand, and their commitment to producing consistently world-class wines hasn’t – and won’t – change. “It was time for Sparky and I to go our separate ways, but I have always been actively involved as a winemaker here and that won’t be any different.”

The Unique Systems

Aside from the roller coaster history interwoven with the theme of uncompromising quality, what is it about this brand that is so darn unique and likeable? The answer can be found in the earlier mentioned systems that they’ve put in place in the vineyard, winemaking and in the bottle. The Marquis Vineyard Watering Programme™, The Marquis Fruit Weight™ and the Mollydooker Shake™.

Starting in the vineyard, Mollydooker utilises its own patented Marquis Vineyard Watering Programme™. “Achieving a high Fruit Weight grade doesn’t start in the winery; it starts in the vineyards. We’ve always said ‘We ripen the vine, so that it can ripen the fruit.’

The Marquis Vineyard Watering Programme™ focuses on nurturing strong and healthy vines with balanced canopy growth to achieve the most intense fruit flavours possible. The amazing fruit flavour achieved in the vineyard is what creates the Marquis Fruit Weight™ in the wine. The Marquis Vineyard Watering Programme™ is based on intensive data collection and analysis, which starts at budburst and carries on with inspections of each vineyard throughout the entire growing season. Twice a week throughout the season, the Mollydooker vineyard team measure the growth of the vines, and report on canopy growth, sugar content and the Fruit Weight™ of the juice. The data is then fed into a complex set of formulas, the results of which provide the team with precise watering recommendations for the following three days. “When the grape juice rates at ‘Awesome’ (one of the terms we use in grading fruit), we pick – usually two weeks later than everyone else.

“Achieving a high Fruit Weight grade doesn’t start in the winery; it starts in the vineyards. We’ve always said ‘We ripen the vine, so that it can ripen the fruit.’”

Following on from this, the Marquis Fruit Weight™ comes into play. “We make wines that make people go WOW, through attention to detail and commitment to excellence.” And what makes people go WOW is the Marquis Fruit Weight™. Fruit Weight™ is the percentage of your palate (from the tip of your tongue going all the way back) that’s covered by the velvety sensation of fruit, before you experience any of the structural components of the wine. A wine must have at least 60% Fruit Weight™ in order to be considered as a Mollydooker.
Each tier of Mollydooker wines has a different requirement:

  • Lefty Wines: 65 - 70%
  • Family Wines: 75 - 80%
  • Love Wines: 85 - 90%
  • Velvet Glove: 95 - 100%
Mollydooker Gigglepot Cabernet Sauvignon
Mollydooker's 2017 Gigglepot Cabernet Sauvignon: 75 - 80% Fruit Weight™

Once the wine has been bottled and its Fruit Weight™ is determined, this is where the Mollydooker Shake™ shines! It’s been dubbed by some as “express decanting”. Most wines contain sulphites in order to protect them. Sulphites can cause an allergic asthma type reaction and Mollydooker is aware that a lot of people are sensitive to them. So wherever possible, they use nitrogen to protect the wine instead. However, when you use nitrogen in winemaking it compresses the flavour – “If you think of flavour as a big round ball, the nitrogen flattens the back end of the round ball. As soon as you do the Mollydooker Shake™ it releases the nitrogen and the flavour pops back out to its full size again, maximising the flavour profile.” The Mollydooker Shake™ can be done by first pouring a bit of wine out of the bottle to make room, then replacing the top and inverting the bottle. With the bottle still upside-down you shake it back and forward until you see the nitrogen bubbles when you turn the bottle back the right way up. When you open the top, the bubbles will be released and voila!

See the Mollydooker Shake™ in action below from Sarah and Sparky:

All in all, Mollydooker is a brand we couldn’t be more thrilled to represent. It embodies everything that we value – respect for the vine, love for the people, and utterly fabulous wine! It’s a talking point wine that gets attention and sets a high standard. From the moment you lay eyes on the packaging to the last drop in the glass, Mollydooker is a ride we will be back for time and time again.