Hunter Valley Pioneers Sinking to New Depths

There are four organic/biodynamic wine producers in the Hunter Valley – Tamburlaine, Macquariedale, Krinklewood, and Harkham – and each have just had two of their bottles of wine sunk down to the bottom of the Hunter River.

Making a Splah!

Making a Splash!

Owned and operated by Mark Davidson, Tamburlaine has two vineyard sites – 30 ha in the Hunter Valley, and just over 90 ha in Orange, one of Australia’s fastest growing wine regions. Their Hunter vineyard is certified organic, while the one in Orange is certified biodynamic, making it the largest biodynamically managed vineyard in Australia.

Macquariedale was the first certified organic and biodynamic winery in the Hunter Valley. Ross McDonald, and his wife Derice,first planted vines back in 1993, but it wasn’t until 1998 that they became serious viticulturists and began farming their property biodynamically, becoming certified in 2005.

Krinklewood was established in 1997 and Rod and Suzanne Windrim, after attending a Stiener Agriculture course, began practicing biodynamics in the vineyard in 2002, then becoming certified in 2007.

Harkham is the new kid on the block. With Richie Harkham at the helm, they make preservative free (meaning no sulphur), kosher wine, from organically managed Shiraz and Chardonnay vineyard sites.

Each of these four real wine producers make wines of outstanding quality and energy. There seems to be an inherent vibrancy and luminosity with wines that are made in this way, using organic and biodynamic farming methods, which is evidenced by what’s in the glass.

What's In Your Glass? Macquariedale Hunter Pinot Noir!

What’s In Your Glass? Macquariedale’s first Hunter Pinot Noir!

After the recent successes of the Real Wine Fair in London, which I was lucky enough to attend in it’s inaugural year, and the gigantic love-in at the Rootstock Festival in Sydney, I decided that the Hunter Valley, along with these four real wine producers, would be the perfect place to organise our very own real wine fair to celebrate the relatively unknown and alternative side to Australia’s oldest wine making region.

Together with friend, and fellow wine journalist, Patrick Haddock aka the Wining Pom, we decided that Newcastle would be the perfect place to host such an event, on the doorstep of the Hunter Valley, and in the mouth of the Hunter River. To accompany the lead up to the event we decided it would be a good idea to sink some booze.

With equal parts curiosity, experimentation, and public relations, the four producers each donated two bottles for Patrick and I, with help from Peter Freeman and a small dive team from Dive Skate and Ski, to sink the wine into the mouth of the Hunter River in Newcastle Harbour.

The Wine Ark

The Wine Ark

The idea comes from a discovery of the world’s oldest vintage Champagne, found inside a shipwreck near the Aland Islands between Finland and Sweden. The bottles, believed to originate from the 1780′s, had sunken to a depth of 60 meters and remained there, undisturbed, for over 100 years. A Californian winery has also experimented with aging their wine in the ocean, just off the coast in South Carolina’s Charleston Harbor.

Something like this, however, has never been attempted before in the Hunter Valley – a place once known for it’s pioneering and innovation, which has now been translated into tradition and heritage with the inevitable passing of time.

So, in the spirit adventure, and in a Hunter Valley first, last Sunday, the 28th of April, we sent eight bottles of organic/biodynamically grown wine from the Hunter Valley’s four real wine producers to the bottom of the Hunter River, thereby expanding the concept of terroir to a natural conclusion, and establishing a literal connection between earth and water.

Swimming out and sinking to new depths...

Swimming out and sinking to new depths…

In addition to either a screw cap or cork closure, made by the winery themselves, we had the bottles wax sealed, with wax generously donated by Richie Harkham, and had the bottles taped and zipped up in individual zip lock bags to retain the integrity of the labels, in order to identify them properly, and prevent them from peeling off and polluting the river.

The wine will remain at a depth of 10 meters, for up to 3 months, during which time they will be completely submerged at a consistent temperature and subject to the gentle rhythms and motions of the ocean in Newcastle Harbour. The hope is that these movements will have a positive effect on the overall flavour profile of the wine inside the bottles, creating something truly unique that’s never been tried or tasted before in the Hunter.

It is wine idealism at it’s finest.

D// - The Wine Idealist

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The eight bottles we sunk were:

  • Tamburlaine         –  2011 Reserve Syrah and Semillon (Hunter Valley)
  • Macquariedale     - 2012 Verdelho and 2011 Merlot
  • Krinklewood         - 2010 Semillon and Basket Press Shiraz
  • Harkham                – 2011 Aziza’s Chardonnay and Old Vine Shiraz

The bottles will be tasted at the inaugural – What’s In Your Glass? – dinner at Bacchus restaurant, Newcastle, on July 28th. Tickets on sale soon!