PASSIONATE: Ross and Derice McDonald, of Macquariedale Wines, use biodynamics on their farm. Picture: Marina NeilIT’S Australia’s oldest winegrowing region, and it’s right here in our own backyard.
The Hunter Valley was first planted to vine in 1833 by the Godfather of Australian viticulture, James Busby. Busby planted the Hunter’s first vines on his property near Branxton, known as Kirkton Estate.
Nowadays there are more than 140 wineries and cellar doors to visit in the Hunter Valley, each with their own unique story to tell.
Macquariedale and Krinklewood are two such wineries that tell an alternative Hunter wine story, because of the unique way they farm their property in order to grow their wines. Both wineries are farmed biodynamically, which means they treat the whole property, including the vineyard, winery and anything else living on the farm as one interconnected organism.
‘‘Biodynamics follows a natural way of enhancing soil fertility by applying catalysts for soil bacteria and fungi to flourish and provide the plants all the necessary nutrients to grow the best fruit possible,’’ explains Ross McDonald, owner and winegrower at Macquariedale Wines in Rothbury.
‘‘We use biodynamics on our farm to obtain a better, more sustainable, and healthier end product,’’ says Rod Windrim, owner and winegrower at Krinklewood, situated near Broke.
‘‘It considers the farm in its entirety,’’ continues Rod. ‘‘The soil is seen as an organism in its own right and it is the most natural agricultural farming philosophy.’’
IN order to promote the health and fertility of their soils, Macquariedale and Krinklewood utilise various preparations associated with biodynamics, including Prep 500, which is cow manure that is packed into cow horns and buried over the winter to ferment and change from a sticky, smelly substance, into a soft colloidal, crumbly and sweet-smelling matter, full of active microbiological life.
The finished Prep 500 is sprayed underneath the vines, directly on to the soil and acts as a natural substitute to synthetic agrochemical fertilisers, which can be harmful to the environment and, over time, actually degrade soil health.
‘‘Chemical agriculture has developed shortcuts to quantity by adding water-soluble minerals to the soil,’’ Windrim explains. ‘‘The plants take these up via water, thus bypassing their natural ability to seek from the soil what is needed for health, vitality, and growth. The end result is deadened soil and artificially stimulated growth.’’
‘‘If the vines are healthy, you get less disease,’’ McDonald says. ‘‘By overfeeding the plant with a synthetic nitrogen fertiliser, you actually make it more susceptible to disease pressures. By using the natural methods of biodynamics, our vines are better able to resist such problems.’’
Biodynamics promotes biodiversity in the vineyard, establishing a vineyard specific ecosystem in which many species of plants and animals can live side by side.
‘‘We have a diversity of grass species which provide a natural habitat for bug life on the farm,’’ Windrim says.
‘‘When we mulch, we only ever do every second row so as to allow the bugs to live in their own little environment and not bother the vines. This also attracts natural predators, such as spiders and ladybugs, which helps create a natural balance in the vineyard. These natural predators will deter unwanted pests themselves, and through the unified force of the entire ecosystem.’’
2012 was a terrible vintage for red wine in the Hunter Valley. It rained almost non-stop leading up to harvest, and as a result many growers lost their entire crop.
‘‘In 2012, most of the red grapes in the Hunter Valley were lost to many forms of mildew and rot from the excessive and untimely rain,’’ McDonald says. ‘‘However, we managed to harvest about 80per cent of our balanced red grape crop, including our first ever pinot noir, which was a stand-out drop and sold out just three months after release.’’
Together, McDonald and Windrim believe that growing their wines biodynamically makes for more authentic wines with an inherent sense of place.
‘‘Great wines start in the vineyard,’’ McDonald says, ‘‘and biodynamics is a system that allows us to grow the best, most flavoursome fruit, which is a key ingredient to creating premium-quality wine.
‘‘Biodynamic wines are alive. A wine that is produced from biodynamically grown grapes and made with minimal intervention shows a clarity and intensity of flavour, and is able to best reflect the place that it comes from.’’
Windrim echoes the point: ‘‘The biodynamic processes allow us to create wines with a clean taste with greater fruit intensity. As biodynamic farmers, we are in search of quality, not quantity of wine … and any winemaking intervention is kept to a minimum to allow for the best possible expression of our place.’’
NESTLED at the base of the Brokenback range, Krinklewood was established in 1998, and, after a few years of organic trials, made the shift to organic and then biodynamic farming practices in 2000. Macquariedale first planted their shiraz vineyard in Rothbury in 1999, and in 2005 it became the first certified organic/biodynamic vineyard in the Hunter Valley. Krinklewood followed suit two years later, becoming certified in 2007.
‘‘Certification recognises that we operate within the standards set by the Biological Farmers Association,’’ Windrim says, ‘‘and we know there are consumers who give preference to products wearing the bud logo when comparing to conventional products claiming to be ‘green’ in some way.’’
‘‘Certification is important to our business,’’ McDonald says. ‘‘It takes at least four years to obtain and it underpins our integrity, which is a key part of our daily life. We use the bud logo to allow the consumer to make an informed purchasing decision about our wines.’’
Macquariedale and Krinklewood are the only two certified biodynamic wineries in the Hunter Valley.
‘‘Commitment to the biodynamic system can take many years to be fully realised, and it is very much a lifestyle choice,’’ McDonald says.
‘‘The interest [in biodynamics] is growing nationally and locally,’’ Windrim says, ‘‘and we would love to see more biodynamic vineyards in the Hunter Valley.’’
Daniel Honan is founder of thewineidealist南京夜网.