When people come together to share a bottle of wine, it’s a chance to enjoy one another’s company and swap stories. Munda Wines is using the storytelling power of wine to start conversations about Aboriginal representation in the Australian wine industry and showcase the beauty and culture of Aboriginal countries.
In Wirangu and Kokotha language, where Munda Wines Owner Paul Vandenbergh is from, the word “munda” translates to “land” or “country”. Along with Munda Wines Co-Owner Damien Smith, they chose the name Munda Wines to highlight what the brand stands for; respect for country and acknowledgement of the history of the Aboriginal people who have cared for munda for over 80,000 years.
Paul and Damien met whilst working at the Port Adelaide Football Club in 2018, where Paul was the director of Aboriginal programs, and Damien managed the club’s commercial development into China. Using Paul’s connections to Indigenous cultural organisations and Damien’s experience working in the wine industry for over 20 years, they began developing the idea of a genuinely Aboriginal wine brand.
“Paul and I wanted to address the lack of Aboriginal representation in the wine industry with a product that pays respect to munda. We wanted to make a delicious and rounded wine that comes from people who understand its significance,” says Damien. “Whilst a number of wine brands use Aboriginal words in their branding, there isn’t enough appreciation and understanding of what the words mean and where they come from. The word munda comes directly from Wirangu and Kokotha Country, where Paul is from. Our partnership is vital to the business because we use his authentic voice to share stories of his people and his country.”
Munda Wines’ range of Australian Made wines uses local fruits specific to the country that each bottle represents. In November 2022, the Kaurna Country Syrah was launched, which uses fruit from the region known as McLaren Vale and has notes of blueberries and dark cherry fruits. “We made the conscious choice to put the Aboriginal name, Kaurna Country, on the bottle’s front label, and put McLaren Vale on the back,” says Damien. “The Aboriginal name was used for tens of thousands of years before the region was called McLaren Vale, so this is another way we use the wine to start a conversation and make people think about the country it came from.”
The launch of Munda Wines has been embraced by several high-profile organisations, including Negociants Australia, Wine Australia and other corporate bodies who have expressed interest in using the wines as corporate gifting elements. The University of Adelaide has also worked with Munda Wines to present scholarship opportunities for future Indigenous wine leaders.
Munda Wines have partnered with artisan winemakers in the country where each batch of wine evokes. It's important to the Munda Wines ethos that everyone involved in the manufacturing process not only makes a quality product, but also has a deep respect for munda.
“Everything we do is sourced locally. We worked with Chalk Hill Winery in Kaurna Country (McLaren Vale) to put together our Syrah. We’ve also worked with local wineries in Ngadjuri and Peramangk Country (Barossa/Eden Valley) and Walgalu Country (Tumbarumba) for our upcoming Grenache and Chardonnay, which will be released in the future,” Damien says.
“Working with Australian wineries and manufacturing our product here is super important to our business. All those involved in Munda Wines respect and acknowledge the Aboriginal connections behind the brand. Even our printer is an Aboriginal company, which is great because it means they understand the significance behind our artwork and packaging – yet another example of how our wine can spark conversations.”
Australian wines, and particularly South Australian wines, hold a significant draw in both the domestic and export markets. The South Australian wine industry alone produces more than half of all Australian wine due to the diversity in geography and climate. Munda Wines uses its position as a genuine Aboriginal wine brand to stand out in this competitive market.
“The Australian Made, Australian Grown logo is very important to us because it is seen as a badge of authenticity. It’s a trusted logo that people easily recognise and verifies a product is actually made in Australia. When people in the overseas market see that green and gold logo, they see that Munda Wines is an authentically Australian brand, and that puts us in a position to start conversations and share our story,” Damien says.
“There’s something special about the power of wine. You can put a bottle on the table and people who have never met can come around and start talking so easily. We want our bottles to evoke conversations about Aboriginal country, the region's history and the rich stories each culture has.”
To learn more about Munda Wines, visit www.mundawines.com.au.