27 January 2021
27 January 2021
Just a couple of hours’ drive from Sydney, the Hunter Valley is a trove for wine lovers and foodies. Officially deemed ‘the birthplace of Australian wine’, the region continues to attract growers and winemakers focused on innovation and creating a sustainable future for the industry in the face of a changing climate.
One such winery is the multi-award-winning Margan in Broke Fordwich, where Lisa Margan and her winemaker husband, Andrew, consider themselves custodians of the land they bought in 1989. “The Wonnarua, the First Nation people of this region, existed in perfect balance with the environment for millennia,” says Lisa. “From the start we’ve believed that we, too, have a responsibility to look after it for future generations.”
The Margan estate encompasses a stunning rammed-earth, Tuscan-style cellar door and restaurant, 100 hectares of vineyards, an expansive restaurant kitchen garden, orchard, olive groves and beehives. It also rears Suffolk sheep and is home to some rather spoiled chickens, whose luxury accommodation is dubbed the ‘Chook Mahal’.
The Margans’ commitment took a more formal turn in 2010 when they developed an environmental management plan (EMP) to reduce their impact across the board. This entailed reducing greenhouse gas emissions, increasing energy efficiency, reducing waste and water management. Three years later, they achieved the benchmark certification under the Freshcare and Winemakers Federation Australia (WFA) Entwine program for best practice in environmental stewardship – the first winery in the Hunter region to do so.
And the Margans haven’t stopped there: “Our next goal is to become carbon-neutral, and to offset the amount of emissions that can’t be reduced any further,” explains Lisa. They are doing this in a number of ways, including employing organic and biodynamic farming practices as they embark on converting the entire property to certified organic.
Visit the cellar door and you’ll be able to savour first-hand a superb range of wines produced with minimal intervention, and a chef’s-hatted restaurant serving up an ‘agri menu’ showcasing 90 per cent of its own organic produce. The first in the Hunter to embrace this paddock-to-plate philosophy, Margan sources any produce it can’t grow itself locally.
Over at Krinklewood Biodynamic Vineyard, at the southern end of the Broke Fordwich Valley, new owner Oscar Martin is driven by his love of nature and concern about the effects of the construction industry on global warming. The co-founder of Pedestrian.TV left the media industry and decided to take up a building diploma, but began to question why architects weren’t designing homes “with the planet in mind”. Oscar purchased the biodynamic/organic vineyard to provide a showcase for sustainable living: “It was a big investment to make a point!” he laughs.
Krinklewood had been operating as a certified organic and biodynamic vineyard and farm since 2007, but Oscar wanted to take things further, collaborating with acclaimed architect and pioneer of sustainable building, Peter Stutchbury, to launch Dimensions X. “I’m on a mission to prove that humans don’t need to sacrifice the good things in life to live a planet-friendly life,” says Oscar.
Dimensions X is an architectural and building venture dedicated to creating energy-efficient, sustainable and affordable homes. Peter has designed a master plan for Krinklewood that includes 17 Dimensions X guest cabins, a mineral bathhouse, a stage for performances and extensive produce gardens. “It’s an incredibly exciting sustainable development,” says Oscar.
He’s also buoyed by the groundswell of like-minded people in the Hunter Valley working to improve their growing practices and to leave the land in better shape than they found it. “There is incredible respect and appreciation for the Earth here,” he says. “The success of most of the businesses in the area is reliant on the environment. Plus, there’s an incredible consumer movement towards organic products. And I can’t imagine why anyone would want to drink wine made from grapes doused in harmful chemicals – you can certainly feel the difference in the morning!”
If you’re planning a trip to the Hunter Valley from Sydney in the Mercedes-Benz EQC, rest assured that you’ll be well served with charging facilities, both en route and while you’re exploring the region. You’ll find an EQC-friendly Chargefox facility in North Rothbury, as well as several in Newcastle. Just download the app for info on its Australian network.
Hunter Valley winery checklist
Hunter Valley winery checklist
Cellar door open daily, 10am – 5pm; restaurant open for lunch, Friday to Sunday; dinner, Friday to Saturday. 1238 Milbrodale Rd, Broke, NSW, (02) 6579 1217.
Cellar door open Friday to Sunday 10am – 5pm; Monday to Thursday 12pm – 4pm. 712 Wollombi Rd, Broke, NSW, (02) 6579 1322.
Keith Tulloch Wines
In March 2019, this family-owned winery became the first in the Hunter, and second in Australia, to be certified carbon neutral under the federal government’s Climate Active program. Cellar door open daily, 10am – 5pm. 989 Hermitage Rd, Pokolbin, NSW, (02) 4998 7500.
‘Organic, vegan-friendly, biodegradable & conscious’ is the mantra of one of Australia’s largest certified-organic wine producers, with vineyards in both the Hunter Valley and Orange region. Cellar door open daily, 9am – 5pm. 358 McDonalds Rd, Pokolbin, NSW, (02) 4998 4200.
Producer of organic, biodynamic natural wines, Macquariedale gained its full biodynamic certification in 2005, the first vineyard to achieve this in the Hunter Valley. Cellar doors open daily, 10am – 5pm. 170 Sweetwater Rd, Rothbury, NSW; 16 Pokolbin Mountains Rd, NSW, (02) 6574 7012.
By Sally Feldman