The Hunter Valley, to Sydney’s north, is one of Australia’s most historic wine regions. Vines were first planted here in 1825 by James Busby, putting not only the Hunter on the world’s wine tourism map, but paving the way for Australia’s love affair with the grape.
Today, the Hunter Valley, or ‘the Hunter’ as it is known is a major tourist destination being an easy drive from Sydney and providing world class accommodation and dining experiences as well as its iconic wines. However, visitors all too often take the turn at Hermitage Road rather than continuing the extra fifteen kilometres to the township of Broke. Yes, there are some excellent wineries on Hermitage Road that deserve your attention, however, this is where you should dare to be different and take that road less travelled.
Broke Road leads to the bucolic township at the centre of Broke Fordwich that lends its name to this road and one of the Hunter Valley’s sub-regions. A region that is working hard to provide that reason to stay on the road to Broke.
Named not after the unfortunate economic woes of the area but a friend of Major Thomas Mitchell, Sir Charles Broke-Vere, Broke has a rich agricultural, and convict, history. The dairy and fruit and vegetable market gardens now make way for olive groves and vineyards.
Broke is separated from Pokolbin by the Brokenback ranges. This lesser known area of Australia’s Hunter Valley with its gentle slopes, has vineyards that are slightly cooler than the other side of the range. Here a small group of around twenty growers have innovation on their minds and in their vinous hearts.
There are eight cellar doors in the Broke Fordwich region. Here are just three reasons to add Broke to your itinerary. Although, there are also artisan galleries and local produce to enjoy and if you are a nature lover, plenty of nature trails nearby.
At Krinklewood, the Windrim family have created one of the most scenic retreats in the Hunter. One that also has the benefit of being biodynamic with a focus on creating wines needing minimal intervention. Their picturesque cellar door is evocative of Provence complete with strutting, preening peacocks, intriguing vistas and topiaries. There is also a very distinctive French import residing in the winery. A seven foot tall cement egg.
This egg is one of the few to be found in Australia and is used to build the textured polish in the Krinklewood Biodynamic Vineyard Basket Press Chardonnay by not allowing the lees to settle. This continuous stirring gives a detailed creaminess to the wine. Rod and Suzanne Windrim also produce one of the better Verdelhos that I have tasted, getting the balance right between ripeness and freshness. Other notable wines from Krinklewood also include a mourvèdre rosé labelled ‘Francesca’.
Robin Tedder, MW and vigneron also lives up to organic ideals and provides a homely welcome to the cellar door at Glenguin Estate. Quite literally in fact, as the current tasting room is around a table fit for a feast in the living room of his Broke abode where his vineyard manager now lives. Glenguin Estate is gaining renown for its tannat wines, sometimes unblended and definitely an unusual grape to find in the Hunter, indeed in Australia.
While you are in the living room, you may be lucky enough to get a taste of the hard to find and rather unique ‘Glengoyne Glenguin Finish’ – a Highlands Scotch Whisky that has been matured in Glenguin Estate Shiraz casks sent across to the distillery in 2007. This union was more reunion, harking back to the Tedder family connection with the Glengoyne distillery.
One of the largest producers in the Broke Fordwich region is Margan. As well as providing the opportunity to sample some great wine at their tasting room, there is the added attraction of a fine dining restaurant accommodated in the stunning rammed earth cellar door. This is the place where you should plan to take a break around a meal time and consider it your reward for travelling that extra distance.
As the winner of the ‘Best Restaurant – Australian Tourism Awards 2012’, Margan restaurant has a menu that will entice foodies into raptures of glee and offers seasonal local delights as well as produce grown in the Margan kitchen garden.
Not to be outdone by the epicurean delights, Andrew Margan’s range of wines is built around but not limited to the Hunter Valley classics such as semillon, chardonnay, verdelho, shiraz and cabernet. He has also been instrumental in introducing the Italian variety barbera to the Hunter.
After all that eating and tasting, Margan’s sun warmed courtyard is fragrant with lavender and is flanked by stylish lounges strategically positioned to encourage you to linger just a little while longer in the Broke Fordwich region. Once you have enjoyed all that is on offer, you will again stay on that straight and sometimes narrow road to Broke.