by PHILIP WHITE – This appeared in The Independent Weekly in December 2007
When I was a little kid at Nairne primary school, I spent years gazing from my desk, out over the jumping green fields toward the summit of Mount Barker, knowing that this was good country. Away over there, around the big Chapman house, lay some of this state's best farming dirt. It spread from the piedmont of the Mount down across the Bald Hills Road to the west, including the verdant swathe of ground on which my woodwork teacher's dad had first isolated and developed the clover he named Mount Barker Subterranean, which kept the district's dairy cattle full of goodness and milk for nearly a century.
Today much of that ground is covered in some of the most graceless villa rash imaginable. Thanks to the genius of greed and the idiocy of planners who'd love to be developers, we have turned that glorious garden into a wretched suburban sprawl fit to make Brian Burke proud - the stuff of a future Four Corners expose.
But there's one good stretch of it that seems securely determined to remain horticulturally productive. This is where the German founders of Jurlique first planted their biodynamic gardens to supply the ingredients for their natural wellbeing and skin care brand. They'd scoured the earth from California to here, searching for ground that was fit and healthy, and devoid of DDT.
Since they sold and moved on, they've left behind the beautiful Ngeringa biodynamic vineyards set up by their son, Erinn Klein, and his wife, Janet, over the last six years.
Biodynamic? You mean all that mumbo-jumbo about full moons, natural manure mulch and preparations made from cow's guts in buried horns? You bet.
"We'd eat our cow manure", said Erinn, grinning proudly last week, as we tasted his first wines, in a spotless winery stacked with glistening, impossibly fresh and aromatic vegetables. The cows are biodynamically-grown Highland cattle, with their huge horns and curly coats, and the produce? Well, start with the pumpkin they gave me. I cut a hole in the top of that heavy shiny brute, scooped its seeds out, filled it with cream, yoghurt, onions, garlic, chillis, mushrooms and herbs, put the lid back on, and baked it. It was so dense it wouldn't bloody cook. After three hours, the first serving fed four. Then we sliced the remaining flesh, baked it again, and tried to mash it in a blender. It nearly mashed the blender. Eventually we bashed it into another, more conventional soup, which fed six. The remainder's still swelling, like the Magic Pudding, in the big iron pot. There's enough there for another eight serves. Biodynamic plants seem to have twice the cell density of stuff conventionally grown. And at least twice the flavour.
This goes for grapes, too. The first Ngeringa wines are drop-dead gorgeous. There are two tiers, J.E and Ngeringa, the latter appellation being reserved for only the very best produce from their own vineyards. The J.E Chardonnay 2005 ($25; 93++ points) being as good an opener as I know. It's more Chablis than Burgundy, being wonderfully tight and lithe, with the perfect creaminess of a Chinese custard, flavoured with the slightest hint of honeycomb and spiced by a whiprod of the very best oak.
There's a J.E Pinot with a lovely fluffy, spongy texture, and a range of flavours from black cherry through roast cashew to sweet baby beetroot, crying out, like any exemplary Burgundy, for a confit of goose, or mild cassoulet ($25; 92++); and a J.E McLaren Vale Shiraz 2004 ($20; 92++) jumping with vitality and organic health; beginning with plump, fleshy berries and finishing with tannins that set your happy cheeks agush.
Then comes the Ngeringa Syrah 2005 ($40; 92++) which is more a Rhonish Hermitage Hill than almost any other Australian shiraz, explaining the syrah nomenclature. An astonishing concentration of sweet perfumed fruit and earth, this essence dawns ever so gradually, a little like that magic pumpkin. My bottle has been open for days, and it's only beginning to sing.
That housing's gotta be stopped.
For reviews of Ngeringa's latest, hit DRANKSTER.