Four Ways to Taste Biodynamic Wines in NSW
Whatever your definition of sustainable, organic, natural, raw or biodynamic wine, you don’t need to go far to find a NSW winemaker serving up top-notch tipples that are good for you and the planet.
There was a time when wine stamped ‘organic’ or ‘biodynamic’ was synonymous with a lucky dip chance of drinkability. No longer. Just as we’ve fallen for local, seasonal produce on our plates, so too have grape-growers and winemakers enlivened our glasses with spirited wines springing from unmolested soils, chemical-free trellises and low-intervention methods.
If you’re after delicious wines that nurture a future and don’t mess with nature, these four NSW regions come up trumps.
Prepare to be impressed by the size, range and adherence to the organic philosophy of Tamburlaine Organic Wines. With 300 hectares of certified-organic, vegan-friendly vines in the Hunter Valley, as well as in the Orange district, Tamburlaine turns out sharply priced shiraz, semillon and other blends.
Harkham Wines might have a more modest patch, but you’ll find doses of fun, expertise and craftsmanship that more than make up for it. They crush small batches of hand-harvested fruit, adding, according to their manifesto, “love, hills, passion, Kabbalistic music, knowledge and blessings”. It’s a mix that sings, with the family-run winery turning out seriously refined, expressive chardonnay and semillon.
Head to M&J Becker Wines and you’ll find a similar philosophy: here are low-volume, new-world wines that express the untrammelled character of their plots. Try the red blend for a seriously drinkable marriage of three varietals, or pick the chardonnay for a stunning combination of chalky fruits and fine structure.
Be inspired by young gun Angus Vinden, who’s another getting his hands dirty at his eponymous Vinden Wines. A second-generation winemaker and grower, he’s making everything from a toasty, skinsy, out-there chenin blanc to a robust-yet-elegant reserve shiraz in the traditional style.
And you don’t need to travel far from the welcoming village of Broke to happen upon Krinklewood Vineyard a pioneer of local biodynamic growing. Lovingly cultivated for over two decades, Krinklewood turns out a delightful rosé with vivacious freshness and body, while the earthy shiraz is perfect for celebrating by the fire.
What not to miss when you’re in the region: When you need a break from wine-tasting, swing down to Wollombi, a short scenic drive from the heart of Hunter Valley wine country. Wander around the historic surrounds and have lunch at the Wollombi Tavern or Panino Caffe Restaurant.
For the staunchly parochial, the good thing about the Canberra District is that you don’t need to cross into the ACT to enjoy their best low-intervention wines – all but a handful of vineyards are in NSW.
With a background as head winemaker at the highly lauded Clonakilla Wines, Bryan Martin has teamed up with partner Jocelyn and brother David to make Ravensworth one of Australia’s brightest wellsprings of the minimal-touch approach. Sample the shiraz viognier and riesling – some of the country’s best – alongside the gorgeous Grainery, a white Rhone-blend that is the equal of anything the French dish up.
Another Clonakilla alumnus is Sam Leyshon, who is now making wines under the Mallaluka label. All worth a try: the reds – from sangiovese to cabernet franc – are gentle, subtle and delicious while the whites sparkle with tight fruit and acidity.
Down the road, you’ll find Helm. Run by Ken Helm, godfather of riesling in the area, this is a winery with drops that, while not labelled organic or biodynamic, let the grapes speak for themselves. Helm’s daughter has also struck out on her own, founding The Vintner’s Daughter with husband Ben. They use regenerative methods in the vineyards, letting the sheep wander among the rows, and crush small batches to create wonderful examples of riesling, pinot noir, shiraz viognier and a splendid gewürztraminer.
Lark Hill has been a dedicated organic vineyard for over four decades and been certified biodynamic since 2006; here you’ll find a family-run winery that crafts a gorgeous suite of reds. But save room for a glass of the gruner veltliner, a perfect food wine that bursts with vigour.
What not to miss when you’re in the region: Poacher’s Pantry is the ultimate lunch destination, no matter the weather. Gundaroo, meantime, rightly gets a gong for bucolic old-worldliness, as does the village of Collector, where you should stop in at the brilliant Some Café.
Orange & Canowindra
If you’re looking for sustainably made wines in the Central West, start with the family-run, award-winning Rosnay Wines near Canowindra. From a range that runs through chardonnay and semillon to shiraz and grenache, the ‘Grand Mere’ and ‘Grand Pere’ Reserve blends are the picks. Rosnay’s organic fruit is also being used by up-and-coming Sydney label Chateau Acid to create vibrant syrah, rosato and vermentino.
In the shadow of the ancient volcano Mt Canobolas are a number of the Orange district’s most planet-friendly vineyards. Word of Mouth Wines uses ‘slow winemaking’ processes to bottle up elegant, chemical-free pinot noirs and rieslings, as well as arresting examples of lesser-known grapes including petit manseng and mencia.
Seek out See Saw Wine, meanwhile, for classic cool climate, organic, vegan-friendly chardonnay and pinot noir, as well as picnic-perfect prosecco and sparkling rosé.
What not to miss when you’re in the region: Canowindra has long been a mecca for hot air ballooning and you’ll be rewarded with serene district views and maybe even a dawn tipple after take off. Take a walk around Mt Canobolas, before slipping into Orange’s Racine Bakery for unbeatable organic bread and a range of pastries and pies. For a more lavish lunch, Tonic, in the charming village of Millthorpe, 20min from Orange, is a must.
While Australia’s oldest certified organic vineyard, Botobolar, is no longer operating, Mudgee still boasts some long-standing and expertly hewn organic cabernet sauvignon, shiraz and chardonnay. With vines that date back to the mid-70s, Thistle Hill winery has pursued organic and preservative-free wines since inception. Sidle up to the cellar door and delight in a rich cabernet sauvignon or a juicy pinot.
At Lowe Winery, David Lowe’s awarded range of wines includes chardonnay, shiraz and cabernet, but you’ll want to reserve space in your cellar for the brooding, opulent zinfandel. And if it’s a terroir-driven, full-throated red run through with black fruits and fine-boned tannins you’re after, visit Vinifera Wines for the superb, organically grown tempranillo.
The wines of Martin’s Hill are from a small-batch, family-run vineyard that nurtures a vast array of birdlife, insects and sheep that each play a vital part in the upkeep of the 35-year-old organic vineyard. They make a range of easy-drinking pinot noir, shiraz and cabernet sauvignon, as well as a dessert-enhancing premium fortified.
What not to miss when you’re in the region: Gold-rush buffs will love a side trip to Hill End, about an hour from Mudgee, where you can take a self-guided walking tour of the town. After tucking into an array of delicious dumplings at 29 Nine 99 in nearby Rylstone, experience glistening objects of a more natural kind by spotting glow worms near the Newnes Campground.