Natural Selection Theory
Australian Wine Innovators 2010 -2012

The Natural Selection Theory was a collaborative experiment in natural winemaking among Sam Hughes, Anton Von Klopper, James Erskine and Tom Shobbrook. In 2012 this was their website introducing Australia and the world to their take on the Australia natural wine movement.
Content is from the site's 2010 - 2012 archived pages, as well as from other outside sources.

There have been other owners of the domain after the site's domain registration expired who have repurposed the site. In one case it was for a German blogger that had no relationship to the original site. However the most recent owners of this domain did not want the content of the original website to disappear into the attic of discarded domains. We apologize that this site offers only a brief glimpse of the original. Enjoy the nostalgic look back knowing that these wine innovators, (sadly without Sam Hughes) Anton Von Klopper, James Erskine and Tom Shobbrook are still making their natural wine as is evident from the articles below.



Natural Selection Theory

"The Egg" project - 2010 Hunter Semillon

A small number of eggs are still available, singly or in threes – the three soil types blended to create a new unique individual.

En primeur is finished, the single soil anti-terroir terror packs are long gone but the blend: the body, the work, the whole, unlike any seen from our hunter-laden valleys is now available:

$161.80 (phi ratio) each or 3 for $399.80. Think Friuli, think Hermitage, think hotpants, hear scorn, feel the love, duck the rocks and weave the punches thrown at you for feeling, understanding, believing in a work of pure true beauty. And best of all, it's now.

So for orders and enquiries, dance and dinner dates, late night flicks and moonlight strolls by the bayside,   call 0414 936 501.



2011, The Egg - project station deco is up and running, check us on facebook for more clues. Word, peace, alright.

No more squares, cut the corners, roll out the barrels and let it all go. This is where the trip begins. Forget what you know, there are no more styles, no more trends, the past is forgotten and tomorrow may never come. Relinquish your old ways, the told ways - immerse yourself in the sphere, the sphere of the egg.

  • Fetching the latest reviews and chit-chat…

Follow one rule - do nothing but relax and get into the moment. Be part of life, here, now, the part of life that one day doth die - shhh and listen, this is our our swan song as it cracks free from containment…

And let us say - what if you had never made a wine before? How would you do it, could you do it? What would you do? Love it we bet - but don't rule it, isolate it from yourself so that it grows into itself, have the strength to let it fail.

Let the grape speak loudest, not the voice of its vice.

So to the grape - Semillon - world renowned for being blended with sauvignon! And the place - the Hunter, world renowned for ummm, being near Sydney! What a match! With vines that the sacred voodooo-chile of modern Australian wine, Mr Len Evans OBE himself, planted! With this wine we plan to reinvent the wheel! This time we aim to make it round! And for it to go down, down, down,down,down. A wine like digging a mine, something with which to get medieval on our sparkling 21st century palates.

9 eggs made to natures own specifications

Each one 44 litres of individualistic, expressive, feral Hunter Semillon - freespirited souls unlike anything seen in todays mass meat market, a market where an institutionalised clone of a retro classic is still seen as cutting edge.

9 eggs housed in 3 classic soil types - insulation and inspiration from where the vine doth flourish - 3 eggs immersed in quartz sand for isolation, 3 caressed with red clay for love and finally the final trio braced with limestone for strength. In each set, 3 different skins ratios directly inspired by the question of What If? A dreamy, loving sado-masochist is in our midst, don't you just love your own kids!

Only 170 packs containing one of each specimen will be available, each housed in a 900ml ceramic birthing sphere.

And listen, do you hear - a lullaby to soothe their savage souls. The ethereal isolating squeal of glass; the warm loving beat of a pure heart and the power of bloody singlemindedness - a three piece band to play onwards and upwards as metal birds screech above our heads. These metal birds, 100 meters above the incubation chamber, rip as they come to roost at the gateway of Australia - Runway 3, Kingsford Smith Airport, Sydney, Australia. An explosion of the senses, each pack will feature a 12inch Album dedicated to the Sounds of Birth - music, noise, conversation, the backing track to the new day which is dawning.


So this is our wine in the year 2010. Project Egg Runway 3 - The first of its kind - 'Real' Hunter Semillon.



"We bought a couple of eggs because we were fascinated by the promotional brochures and really loved the idea of using special containers for our own harvest. They have been a wonderful experiment that we hope will provide us with a special quality of fermentation that may become a signature part of our unique offerings. My team ritualizes the entire winemaking process by performances and music which accompany the harvest and press. We also have special attire - Batman t shirts and hoodies - which seem to have brought us good luck in the past. We sponsor a local community gathering where we offer up free wine and horderves at sunset on our large west facing deck. It's become an annual event and most of the locals also come dressed in their best Batman shirts, mostly purchased from our favorite online retailer, At dusk we usually spot the first bats and that is the occasion for toasts and cheers. It's into this unusual environment that we are introducing the new eggs since the are perfect symbols for the fertility and spiritually significant approach we take to winemaking." Jon Adler, Batwine



Natural Winemakers are Disrupting Australian Wine with Unfiltered Passion


AN EXCERPT from the article

A decade ago, the Australian wine industry was in trouble. A perfect storm was taking place; it included fire, drought and massive oversupply. As organic food swept the country, criticism grew within the wine industry around poor farming and overly technical vinification.

Australian wine needed a wake-up call.

As if on cue, four passionate and quirky outliers exploded onto the scene. They brought wild, cloudy and ultradrinkable wines the likes of which most Aussie consumers hadn’t seen.

Natural wine had arrived like a jolt of lightning, sending shockwaves throughout the wine world, disrupting the status quo and ruffling feathers in its wake.

The motley crew, which became known as much for its theatrics as for its wines, was called Natural Selection Theory and comprised Adelaide Hills-based James Erskine of Jauma Wine, Anton van Klopper of Lucy Margaux Wines, Barossa Winegrower Tom Shobbrook of Shobbrook Wines and Sydney artist Sam Hughes.

Members hid amphorae behind velvet drapes and played music to them; leapt onto tables during trade tastings; performed interpretive dance and launched a “hot pants tour” conducting events wearing only, you guessed it, hot pants.

Thanks to the foundation laid in large part by the Natural Selection Theory, few corners of the wine world have been more profoundly affected by the natural wine movement than Australia.


As for the Natural Selection Theory, it more or less disbanded at the end of 2012, when Sam Hughes tragically took his own life. While Erskine, van Klopper and Shobbrook continue to craft some of the country’s most boundary-pushing wines, the Natural Selection Theory accomplished what it set out to do.

The groundwork has been laid for a more open-minded, creative, environmentally conscious and irreverent Australian wine culture. Perhaps this reflective, so-called third phase of natural wine, as more producers focus their gaze back onto the vineyards, will more clearly define the boundaries of what it means to be “natural.”



Max Allen Drinks columnist |
Aug 22, 2019

Natural winemakers (l-r) Anton van Klopper, James Erskine, Tom Shobbrook – and one of Sam Hughes' natural fermentation eggs. David Solm

Ten years ago, three wild-looking South Australian winemakers – James Erskine, Tom Shobbrook and Anton van Klopper – walked into Vaucluse Cellars in Sydney clutching bottles of their latest vintages.

Artist and musician Sam Hughes, himself a little wild around the edges, was working at the shop at the time. Hughes recognised the trio of winemakers as kindred spirits, and their wines – wild-yeast fermented, unfiltered, funky – blew his mind. He invited them back to his place and they bonded over a bottle of Slovenian amber-coloured skin-contact wine made by Stanko Radikon, one of the stars of the natural movement then emerging in Europe. The four conspirators were soon plotting to revolutionise Australia’s wine culture.

The group called themselves Natural Selection Theory. Hughes started fermenting Hunter Valley semillon on skins in ceramic eggs, playing music to each of the ferments like some vinous art installation. Van Klopper, Shobbrook and Erskine put raw, young unsulphured wine into 30-litre demijohns and delivered them by hand to the new bars then springing up in Sydney: wine distribution as performance piece.

“It was a punk attitude,” says Erskine. “We wanted to shake the system.”

Skin contact, wild ferment, lower sulphur additions, blending white and red grapes are all mainstream winemaking practice now.

At every available opportunity, at tastings, dinners and seminars, Hughes would share his definition of natural wine in dramatic fashion: “Natural wine is like hot pants,” he’d declaim, pulling down his trousers to reveal a pair of bright pink short-shorts. “What you see is what you get!”

Natural Selection Theory wasn’t the only group of winemakers tapping into the global natural trend, but they were the most energetic and, thanks to Hughes, the most theatrical. A new generation of sommeliers and consumers fell in love with these wines, and a host of other winemakers soon jumped on the natural bandwagon. But not everyone was quite so enthusiastic.

When I poured one of van Klopper’s funkier, more provocative wines – the appropriately labelled Wild Man pinot noir – at a masterclass in 2012, James Halliday, doyen of Australian wine writers, picked up his glass, sniffed at it like it was a dead thing the cat brought in, and melodramatically refused to even taste it.

A decade on, natural wines continue to polarise: for every supportive sommelier, there are plenty of Hallidays for whom the funkier, cloudier bottles are simply beyond the pale. And the market for these wines is still small: van Klopper, Shobbrook and Erskine are producing less wine now than they were a couple of years ago. But the category’s influence on broader wine culture in Australia has been undeniable.

By pushing the boundaries of what’s acceptable, natural winemakers have shown the rest of the industry that breaking rules, trying new styles and being brave with experimental winemaking can all be commercially successful – that consumers are more adventurous than previously thought.

As a result, conventional winemakers have adopted some of the techniques of the natural wine crew – without going fully natural themselves – and are making more interesting, diverse and delicious wines.

Skin contact, wild ferment, lower sulphur additions, blending white and red grapes and using unusual vessels such as ceramic eggs are all mainstream winemaking practice now.

When Hughes offered the first Natural Selection Theory egg-fermented skin-contact semillons for sale to his mailing list in late 2010 (“bottled” in smaller eggs and released with a vinyl LP and instructions to listen to the music while tasting the wine), he made a characteristically bold prediction.

“The coming of the egg brings in the birth of a new time,” he wrote, grandly. “A new spirit, an alternate future to our day and age … This wine represents a fault line in the history of Oz wine culture. After this nothing shall be the same again.”

Tragically, Hughes isn’t here to see that prediction come true: he took his own life in 2012, succumbing to demons that had haunted him for years. But the fact is, we are living in a new time of wine.


The Australian Wine Revolution

An excerpt from an article by Mike Bennie on 24 AUG 2017 in TRENDS |


A decade-or-so ago the Australia natural wine movement was little more than a simmering conversation. A set of curious circumstances brought together a collective of creatively thinking, adventurous winemakers all embarking on their solo projects at a fortuitously similar time – James Erskine (Jauma), Anton van Klopper and Tom Shobbrook (Shobbrook/Didi), were joined by winemaker, artist, musician, philosopher and creative soul, Sam Hughes.

The motley posse formed a group called ‘Natural Selection Theory’ and started fermenting wine in ceramic eggs in an inner-city Sydney warehouse. That they played music and soundscapes to their ‘eggs’, worked in a winery that resembled a ‘60s-lounge room, hosted curious parties around the wines, created a mystique and sense of fun around wine, and brought an explosion of interest and creativity to wine, is well known.

The Natural Selection Theory collective roamed Sydney with a wheelbarrow stacked with demijohns full of wine. They wore colourful hot pants, played music, spoon fed sommeliers and independent wine store employees with variegated liquids they’d fermented from grapes in their bespoke Sydney winery. These demijohns, preserved ala Roman times with a thin layer of oil, poured to carafe, started popping up in various establishments, met with scorn by elements of the wine trade, but curiosity from a new generation unfettered by the potentially rigid nature of classic wine learning and fault finding.

The Natural Selection Theory spawned in Adelaide Hills, flourished in the parish of Basket Range, and begat ambitious ideology from a myriad of people from varied backgrounds, all drawn to handmaking natural wines. Taras Ochota (Ochota Barrels) was a front runner, gaining attention rapidly and broadly, and Gareth Belton (Gentle Folk), Brendan Keys (BK Wines), Alex Schulkin (The Other Right) and Tim Webber/Monique Milton (Manon) emerged from this energy, with winemakers around the country following the fireworks.


Australian Wine: A Naturally Bright Future

Australian wine has never been more exciting, diverse or looking to improve its own culture. While natural wines have their detractors, the life that it has breathed into a technicolour vision of Australian wine is potent. Importantly, natural wines are focussing the lens on vineyard and winemaking practices, from which better wines, more diverse wines and a new wine paradigm is emerging.




Natural Selection BLOG

Goatcam 2011

27th February 2011
The hotpants charcoal grill crew tending to the two wild goats for Saturday’s amazing tasting at East End Cellars in Adelaide. 

After an interesting start (involving moving two drums full of burning charcoal from our original cooking location, to our secret, plan-B backup kitchen driveway), these beauties were served up after 3 and a half hours of hot smoke, heat, and lovingly applied oils.

Needless to say, the crowd seemed to respond well!

Only one vegetarian was harmed in the making of this film.

Natural Selection Theory A collaborative experiment in natural winemaking.


Meat, Ethics & the Environment on TripleJ

Thoughts on the environmental and human ethics of eating meat (and everything else), today on Triple J’s Hack. Anton and James talk about the value of having a sense of connection and place with the animals we eat.

The piece starts at 6:30 in, and Natural Selection Theory’s thoughts at 18:20.


Alice Feiring on Natural Selection Theory

18th November 2010 
Tom’s been flaunting our wares around the big apple - Alice has some good things to say about them!


Nouveau Nouveau! Today only - 19th November.

Down with the old, follow the now! Today only through the streets of Sydney, follow the Natural Selection Theory and their not horse, but man-drawn cart as it cuts a swathe through yesterday’s news. Our cart, chock-a-block full of healthy, vital, new ideas and wild, unhinged, delicious wine comes direct from our soils to you, you the people, you the poets, you the lovers - here we go - here comes the nouveau nouveau!

Stopping at Ultimo Cellarsfor the days very first heart-starter at 9am, a mystery tour throughout the day follows, culminating with the abomination of all our past from 6.30 To 7.30 at Fix St Jamesand then the slaughtering of all ancient nouveau at that den of the end- Love Tilly Devine- from around 8.30 until the end of the end begins. For one day only: natural - yeah, new-shit yeah! Honeys it’s nouveau nouveau!

Tomorrow’s wine today!



The voice of the People is first and foremost peasant wine — Made by the peasants for the peasants. A multi-regional blend, its purpose is to be slurped down with this seasons' — and only this seasons' — produce, for it is a one off.

The grapes are important, the varieties are not. The grapes are the voice, the colour is black red. It is what's on the table and the season in which we are in which is important.


For it is winter, the food is slow, the light is low. The Voice of the People, mark 1 is rustic, it is gutsy, it is a bluesy Winter wine.

And as the seasons change so doth thy blend. Flowers sprout, sunlight creeps and the world gets lighter. Come spring a new voice of the people shall shout.

But we get ahead of ourselves. We are in winter.


Big is Beautiful.

Voice of the people is what it claims to be, the voice of the people, all people.

The most affordable natural wine on the asian pacific rim, voice of the people takes its inspiration from the great leaps forward humanity has bestowed on the concept of bulk beverage packaging. Think Amphora, think Dr Lindemans, now insert the Voice!

Enclosed exclusively in 23 litre demijohnstopped with mild organic olive oil to keep the wine fresh and served through a deco inspired easy pour tap, Voice of the People is sure to get tongues a wagging and throats a swallowing in its quest to become Oceania's number one demijohn of choice.


Voice of the People is loud. Voice of the People is brash. Voice of the People makes a statement. Close your eyes and hear the roar of the Voice. The bar is a jumping, the glasses a clinking and standing strong like a centurion over the evenings proceedings is the Voice, the Voice of the People. Perched on the corner of the bar the Voice shouts with a steadfast, stony, sexy silence, " I am wine!' it cries.


"I Am Nature!"

"I am yours! Devour me!" it screams. Make no mistake, this is wine to smash — in 2, maybe 3 weeks the demi has to be done with, awaiting another refill, another speech from the Voice of the People.

And in our quest to make Voice of the People the loudest heard voice worldwide (super-ultra-mega size category plus - Nebuchadnezzar or bigger), natural selection theory has priced this at a point in which everyone wins. Make no mistakes about this, this is the best value natural wine available to us here, today. Voice of the People is alive. Voice of the People is smashingly hip. Voice of the People has grooves. Voice of the People changes moods. And by its very nature it one day will die. This is the voice of the immediate, the voice of now.



"I will find out where she has gone
And kiss her lips and take her hands,
And walk among the dappled grass,
And pluck till time and times are done
The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun."

William Butler Yeats, The Song of the Wandering Aengus

Natural Selection Theory, showcasing Nature, have sculpted an elixir in homage to Venus. For what we have here is our taste of Venus, our potion, our Bryan Ferry of beverages.

And in honour of the Spirit of Venus, we have captured the soul of the most sacred of fruits- the apple and her sister the pear. Both hexagonal, spiritual fruits, coaxed to produce an expression of natural pure beauty- made by the fruit- natural yeast for a wild ferment, pure juice for a natural secondary ferment in the bottle, unfined, unfiltered. Utilising carefully harvested Certified organic apples from Graeme Schultzs legendary orchard, centurion Lemon Bergamots and various pears from the AA Magary orchard, all in the Adelaide Hills, something so far removed from the fruit has emerged, a force has risen from within— impossible some did say, we say no. Salute, to Love!

And on Venus a day lasts a long time, longer than a Venus year, 243 earth days to 225 for the latter. She spins on her axis backwards, unique to herself, alone in the solar system. The brightest body in the early evening heavens, and once again in the breaking dawn sky.

The bringer of good fortune, the Goddess of Nature, the essence of attraction, the mother of Love.
Our world, our God.



ROJECT EGG - In Memory of Sam Hughes from Stephen Oliver |Vimeo


Champion of natural wine, Sam Hughes, passes away

FEB 01, 2013 By HUON HOOKE |

One of the Sydney wine scene’s true originals, Sam Hughes, died by his own hand on December 16.

Hughes, the public face of a group called Natural Selection Theory, died a few days before his 41st birthday.

Hughes was an eccentric with a streak of brilliance, who did more for the cause of ‘natural’ wine in Sydney than anyone, with his own Dandy In The Clos wines and the keg wine, which appeared in 23-litre plastic demijohns on the counters of restaurants and wine-bars around Sydney and Melbourne, called Voice of the People.

With South Australian winemakers Anton von Klopper (Lucy Margaux), James Erskine (Jauma) and Tom Shobbrook (Shobbrook Wines), whose wines he represented in NSW, Hughes thought about, talked about and promoted wine in his own unique way.

The Egg Project, a semillon fermented in ceramic egg-shaped vessels and bottled in ceramic flasks of similar shape, was one of his most memorable exploits, which I covered extensively.

The egg fermenters were packed in rock of various types; music was played to, and strange rituals performed over, the fermenting wine.

He invited the public to get involved, and staged street feasts which were unlike anyone else’s wine events. No-one who was there will forget the hotpants event.

Hughes was a rare and unique individual, the kind of person who challenges everyone’s perceptions about wine, and certainly challenged mine. We need more like him. He will be sorely missed.