Some people spend their lives living in the shadow of a sibling. Broke Fordwich is only a couple of minutes drive from Pokolbin, and while this great little sub-district may not be as popular as its big sister, that doesn’t mean it’s not worth your time.
“Please, tell people about Broke Fordwich” says winemaker Adam Bell. “But don’t tell everybody.” And when you step outside his Whispering Brook winery you’ll understand the trepidation. There are no big-budget commercial wineries here. Forget the buses packed with pensioners keen to blow their pennies on the first case of rock-bottom plonk they find. No industrial looking cellar doors charging exorbitantly for a taste of mediocre grape juice. And while the Hunter bargains some stellar views (try the cellar door at Audrey Wilkinson Estate) they nearly pale in comparison to this sub-region, with its ranges and olive trees and the overriding notion biggest isn’t always best.
While agriculture and coal still linger in the area, grapes and their production have taken primary focus. With a tumultuous growing history, production in Broke ebbed and flowed throughout the twentieth century. Now there are eleven cellar doors, thirty-six vineyards, and twenty wine brands taking advantage of the combination of terra rossa soils (great for Shiraz, Merlot, Touriga Nacional) and sandy loam soils (ideal for Semillon and Chardonnay). The Broke region also crops some of the world’s finest Verdhelo, with particular plantings being amongst the oldest in the world.
When Andrew and Lisa Margan purchased their own little crop of vines in 1997, a fervent buzz broke through the region. Andrew, already an adept winemaker, spent twenty years under the tutelage of one of Australia’s greatest wine luminaries, Murray Tyrell. During that time Lisa trained as a chef under Robert Mollines. Later the pair travelled to Bordeaux where Andrew fermented the grapes and Lisa took charge of the tongs.
And after seventeen years at Margan, they’ve managed to create of one of regional Australia’s best-loved wineries and restaurants. Their modus operandi is simple: to make exciting wine and to serve it with the best local grown produce. You’ll find nearly everything they offer in the back garden – from the vines to the vegetables.
Margan do the region’s icons well: their Verdhelo and Semillon are both sexy representations of the pebbly, sandy soils they’re grown on. It’s interesting to note that Margan’s whites have slowly, over the years, morphed into the traditional style, with less residual sugar and added complexity.
Margan also make one of Australia’s best Barberas. The 2011 Limited Release is inevitably darker and more peppery than its SA cousins; the tannin is long and the wine offers up-front acidity that pulls back before it’s too offensive. Their aged release Shiraz is undeniably lithe and in the company of the right food.
Krinklewood Estate is a biodynamic vineyard where the sheep are responsible for weeding. While some may roll their eyes at Rod Wintrum’s moon-phase winemaking ideology, you’d be bonkers to suggest the wine isn’t up to scratch. In fact, Krinklewood’s Fransesca Rosé could be the most distinctive I’ve sipped for a while: made from Mouvedre, there’s a hit of Turkish delight on the nose, and a dry, clean trip to Bandol on the palate. It’s a pool-side summer day affair, which begs the question: why don’t we drink more pink down under?
The 2012 Chardonnay was made in Rod’s 7ft tall French fermentation egg, where it matured for twelve months. There’s certainly a zesty complexity going on here. If you’re apprehensive about biodynamic wine – or you’re yet to try any – be sure to give Krinklewood some time and affection. Rod’s list is exemplary and the wine’s reflect not only the region, but also his own adept palate and dexterity.
You don’t feel like a tourist in Broke Fordwich. The locals greet you like you were born there and you’ve never left. Forget the five-star high-rise and head out for a rustic weekend in a well-kempt cottage, a B&B, a lodge, a cabin, or maybe a farm stay. Chances are it’ll border some of the best vineyards and offer a stellar view to boot. And with a myriad of festivals peppered throughout the year, and with tours and wineries at your fingertips, you’d be hard pressed to find a bad time. Most of the wine tastes good all year round too, I’m told.
Rhys Gard and Rebecca Varidel travelled to Broke-Fordwich in a Santa Fe courtesy of Hyundai.