Laura Carter

Bachelor of Agricultural Science and co-owner of Unico Zelo wine, Applewood Distillery and Nomad Australia fragrances.

Laura Carter makes high-end wine, spirits and perfume, that don’t cost the earth.

Making without taking

Laura Carter’s work is as close to the practice of alchemy, as any real person has come.

In a huge shed in the Adelaide Hills, she can conjure wine, small-batch spirits and perfume from just a few simple base ingredients. Sold respectively under the brands Unico Zelo, Applewood Distillery and Nomad Australia, the products taste and smell about as magical as the methods she uses to make them.

But, the multifarious output of the business Laura runs with husband Brendan does not result from a desire to turn something worthless into gold. Instead, it reflects a need to put less pressure on the land from which the pair harvest.

“Our job is to actually respect the land that has been given to us and nurture it into products that people can experience,” says Laura. “We're not meant to put our mark on the world, the world is meant to give us something that we can offer.”

It’s an unusually philosophical approach to a business that is mostly based on an intense affection for booze, but it’s one that goes back to Laura’s early interests.

Even as a teenager, she was concerned with environmental sustainability.

“I grew up overseas so I was quite passionate about Australia and one of the things that I did notice was that water was such a big issue here,” says Laura.

“I was enrolled at the University of Adelaide to do a Bachelor of Science. I knew I was interested in the science side of things and I was interested in the environment… Then, when I started that degree, I ended up enrolling in agriculture about three months later because I found that it was just a little bit more tangible.”

It was at university that Laura met Brendan, who was studying viticulture. The couple almost immediately began experimenting with making their own wine, and while Laura’s lack of education in the area has meant she has to learn as she goes along, her agricultural nous has become the basis for their business’ point of difference.

“I probably graduated with more of a holistic view of agriculture and the place of vineyards and wineries in that system,” says Laura.

“So many of those components that I studied which I didn't expect would be so important to viticulture, probably now in the last three years are.”

This light-handed method of production has led to Laura and Brendan preferencing wine varietals that do better in the Australian climate, and native botanicals for the spirits and perfume, all of which gives their products a unique flavour palate.

“We've got really honest and authentic ideas and concepts about our food culture and our identity and our relationship with the land that we get our food from,” says Laura. “I think there's just so many ways that people can understand and relate to that.”

And one of those ways has been through enthusiastic consumption of everything Brendan and Laura make. Their wines are keeping a steady sales record and Applewood’s spirits in particular, have taken off – with many of their small batch releases selling out within hours of being introduced to the market.

As all three arms of their business grow, they’re working frantically to revamp the old cold store at Gumeracha where they’re based, so they can keep up with demand. Dreams of owning and managing their own vineyard are on the horizon too.

But as rapidly as things change for Laura and her businesses, one thing is certain – no matter how big things get, her impact on the natural world around her will stay small.

Our job is to actually respect the land that has been given to us and nurture it into products that people can experience.

So many of those components that I studied which I didn't expect would be so important to viticulture, probably now in the last three years are.

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