Remembering winemaker Taras Ochota

By Casey Warrener

15 Oct, 2020

The wine community and beyond are reeling at the loss of “one of the best”.

The wine world is mourning the loss of Taras Ochota, who passed away from illness on Monday, October 12. The legendary figure behind Ochota Barrels in the Adelaide Hills was loved and admired by the wine community around the globe, plus many others who met him and drank his wines.

Taras was often upheld as a poster boy for the lo-fi wine movement out of its Australian epicentre, Basket Range, and while he was an originator in his creation of bright, energetic styles, he famously eschewed such labels. He just wanted to make wine he liked drinking, and that anyone could enjoy – he wasn’t into extremes or exclusionary beliefs.

Before catching the wine bug, Taras was a musician in a punk band, which earned him a rock ’n’ roll reputation. He brought the Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger to Basket Range and made grenache with friend and Tool frontman Maynard Keenan. He also loved surfing and took advantage of a career in wine to work vintages in enviable coastal locations, such as California and Italy. Once he finally settled back in Australia, he ensured his route between vineyards allowed him to stop off for a surf.

Taras was a funny, humble character who, despite his cult status, treated everyone he met equally – another reason he was so widely admired. When he wasn’t travelling, in the winery, surfing or spending time with wife Amber and his young family, he was at the bar, chatting with fellow wine lovers and sharing a drink – he also didn’t mind the odd Jack Daniel’s.

This wild man of wine has made a lasting impact on the Australian wine industry and is responsible for shifting perceptions of it around the world. Learn more about Taras’s story in his own words.

Casey Warrener is deputy editor of the Halliday magazine and digital editor of

Top image: @ochotabarrels