When we drive into Krinklewood Estate on a wet Hunter Valley morning, there’s a peacock posed majestically on a vine post. He sends out a bugle call, the screech heading out towards the Brokenback ranges. It’s answered from across the property, past the ivy-covered cellar door and vegie patch, by another peacock. As he ruffles his back feathers, I’m almost expecting to see Hugh Hefner walk out of the cellar door and lean on one of the giant urns at the end of the driveway. Krinklewood is a beautiful property; a Provence-style homestead and cellar door set next to a big wine-making barn. We could be at a high end estate in France or on the outskirts of Tuscany.
The first hint that something might be different are the hens. Snuggled in the dirt at the roots of very healthy-looking vines are half a dozen chickens. Apparently there’s also ducks, geese, pigs and sheep on the property,along with a few Limousin cows leftover from its days as a stud farm. In a light morning drizzle we can practically see life growing. Krinklewood has been a Certified Biodynamic Organic vineyard since 2007 and the animals are all part of the production process.
This is all explained to us by winemaker Julian Richards. His long dreadlocks are the only part of the entire property that look vaguely like my perception of “organic wine” and once he starts discussing biodynamic viniculture, all thoughts of hippies barefoot among the vines are banished.
“Biodynamics is all about biology. Feed the soil, which feeds the plants, which feed animals, which feed us. It’s about step-by-step increasing the energy of what we consume,” says Julian. Krinklewood owners Rod and Suzanne Windrim are committed to increasing the energy, vitality and nutrition of what they consume. They’ve clearly picked a passionate wine maker. Julian delves into the unusual preparation methods practiced on the property. Along with releasing predatory bugs to take care of pests attacking the vines, (“there’s not many businesses paying invoices for beneficial bugs”, says Rod and Suzanne’s daughter Carla), each year they bury around 100 bullhorns on site – literally the horns of bulls.
“We fill horns with manure from lactating cows on the property. They get buried underground in Autumn for about six months, then in Springtime we get them out and take out what’s left, which has reduced down to a soft soil,” says Carla. The powder-like substance is mixed with flowing rainwater. “The idea is it goes through a flow form, replicating a river system, which enlivens the water. If water is stagnant and still, it’s dead. Water needs to be constantly moving to have life in it, to increase the oxygen content,” says Julian. The mixture is then sprayed across the vineyards, in a homeopathic process shown to produce great results.
A session in the tasting room confirms that concept. They’ve managed to produce a range of low sufur wine through minimal intervention,without losing any integrity in the final product. The wines aren’t entirely preservative free, but they are low in sulfur, with around 20 parts per million of sulfur added. According to Julian, in a commercial winery, 100 parts per million is thrown in straight away.
Krinklewood’s Verdelho has roughly a total sulfur count 120 parts per million, bigger, machine harvesting vineyards producing wines with up to 200 parts per million. The 2012 Verdelho has tropical characters and a zesty finish. It’s a light drink, and like most Krinklewood wine, rather dry and destined to be paired with food, in this case Asian-
The 2010 Basket Press Shiraz has savoury oak characters with a touch of cinnamon.
It was the first made with the estate’s new French Bucher Basket Press.
If you’re trying just one wine, ask to see the Franchesca Rosé. Selling out each season, the Rose is drier than most from the Hunter, made from 100% Mourvedre and with less skin contact. The only sweetness comes from fruit intensity, with a nice, clean finish.
Krinklewood isn’t the only Biodynamic vineyard in the Hunter Valley. Maquariedale Organic Wines in Rothbury was the first in the area to receive an Organic Certification, back in 2005. RossMcDonald began the process with his wife Denise, who is sulfur-sensitive. And he’s seen amazing results. “The clarity of taste, vitality of the wine, everything about it is just more pronounced. And it’s a lot better for you,” he says, of the wine produced from 35 acres of vines. He’s recently returned from showing his wine at the Turin Slow Food Fair, where Macquariedale represented Australia.
Ross has worked hard to reduce the sulfur content of his wines, making commitments to hand picking grapes instead of mechanical harvesting and using wild yeast. “Big wine makers build up sulfur during the crush. That kills the wild yeast, so they’ve then got to inoculate with yeast which isn’t sulfur sensitive… Once you inoculate, you’ve then got to add fertiliser to feed the yeast. Then they want to add enzymes, they want to add everything. You end up drinking a chemical cocktail.”
The Macquariedale Cellar door has plenty to offer: a range of wine, organic goodies, even garlic grown on the property. There’s a sparkling made on the proper method, kept on lees for a few years while the secondary ferment takes place, that’s not too dry or sweet. The 2012 Semillon has only 9% alcohol and is a light, summer drinking wine. A full bodied 2011 Matthew Merlot packs more of a punch, which Ross claims “isn’t your wussy drink some merlots can be.” Tight pruning intensifies the flavour. If you’re up for a serious sugar hit, seek out the Liquid Christmas Cake, a fortified Muscat liqueur that tastes just as the name suggests.
After two big, biodynamic-based days in the Hunter Valley, I head home without a hang over, and with anew appreciation of the viniculture commitments of a small biodynamic community.
Lisa was the guest of Hunter ValleyTourism, winecountry.com.au
Images supplied by Lisa Perkovic
Krinklewood Biodynamic Vineyard
712 Wollombi Road, Broke
(02) 9986 1644
Maquariedale Organic Wines
170 Sweetwater Rd, Rothbury
(02) 6574 7012