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A bottle of MDI with shiny silver
Josh Robenstone

Wines with a "punk edge"? Meet MDI

Say 'saluti' to skin contact wines and esoteric varieties with deep Italian roots – and some very cool art collabs

Cjay Aksoy
Written by Cjay Aksoy

MDI Wines – formerly known as Mandi – started off as a wine project for Celia McCarthy and her father Kevin (better known as 'Kev'). Now, the label is a fully-fledged brand that celebrates the rich agriculture of the Murray Darling and incorporates European skin-contact winemaking techniques. Indeed, the name stands for Murray Darling Italy, fitting given all of the grapes have deep Italian roots, sourced from vineyards near Mildura. Using only sunshine, soil, and long-soaked skins, their wine is now a favourite across a range of eateries, bars and bottle shops (think: MarionSupernormal and Blackhearts & Sparrows)

But this is no new territory for the McCarthy family, who are also the family unit behind the Mornington Peninsula's Quealy. Born from winemaker Kev's decades of experience in the region, MDI is a step further – championing esoteric European varieties and traditional, sustainable winemaking methods. And how would the father-daughter duo describe it? "Hung on sangiovese and pinot grigio – with a punk edge," they say.

Whilst Kev always had a reputation for innovation and rebellion in wine (he rose to prominence for introducing pinot grigio to Australia in the 1990s), it was the numerous trips to Europe that accelerated his knowledge of skin contact white wine. To put it simply, he's been in the skin-contact game for decades, long before it was the fashionable thing to drink on a Friday in Fitzroy. According to the duo, "MDI doubles down on its maker’s skin-contact infamy, releasing ongoing limited editions of unique, small-batch varietals that even Google won’t know."

Celia and Kev McCarthy

Throughout the year, MDI will expand their offering, having already joined their friends at Fitzroy creative space At The Above to offer an inner-city cellar door experience that complements the gallery shows of resident artists. Their first residency was a collaboration alongside acclaimed photographer Josh Robenstone with his show BASTA! Revisited, revealing never before seen images of Italy during the summer of 2011 – from the Amalfi Coast to Milan. Robenstone had recently travelled to Mildura with MDI winemaker Kev to gain a deeper understanding of the MDI story, and from there, the collaboration was born. In the future, MDI will continue to showcase their wine amongst the work of artists and creatives, with other collaborations on the horizon.

MDI wines amongst hanging artwork
Josh Robenstone

Keep an eye out for MDI's Ribolla Gialla – inspired by an afternoon with skin contact wine guru Josko Gravner in Friuli, or the FFG (Favorita Fiano Garganega) that spends a whopping 170 days on skins. For those that like to keep it classic, the sangiovese, rosé and pinot grigio are exactly as they should be. The latter, according to Kev, is "Rock Solid. Reliable." and likely to satisfy even the most meticulous of palates. You can say saluti to your new favourite drop by snapping up some bottles online at MDI's website here

Craving a glass? Here are our fave spots for a skin-contact natty drop.

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