Pure food plus best practice equals sustainable South Australia
This sub-region of the Adelaide Hills is carving out a stellar reputation for its small batch, all-natural handmade red and white wines.
1. Basket Range wines
The boutique wineries here, including Lucy Margaux, Jauma, Ochota Barrels, BK Wines, The Other Right and Gentle Folk, all practice low-intervention grape growing practices.
These sustainable winemakers all come from different backgrounds (some have science degrees, others have worked in large wineries) but share a passion for traditional, artisan winemaking. They all work together as a loose collective, exchanging advice, equipment and labour. Some have embraced biodynamic farming principles.
“We aim to produce wines that express themselves. To achieve this I would never consider adding yeast, bacteria, acid, sugar or any of the other artificial or natural additives,” says Anton Von Klopper, head winemaker at Lucy Margaux.
Plantings in the Basket Range tend to be on the small side because of the region’s hilly terrain. Varietals include gewurztraminer, chardonnay, grenache, syrah and pinot noir. Despite only producing small parcels of fruit, each of these winemakers has won acclaim among Australia’s leading wine writers, who describe the experimental Basket Range group as the hottest thing on the winemaking scene right now.
2. Banrock Station
Long known as the fruit bowl of Australia, the Riverland is gradually emerging as a standalone wine region in its own right.
Apart from bulk wine production the region is now home to some 25 wineries, such as Angove Wines, Salena Estate and Caudo Vineyards. One of the most interesting projects here is the Banrock Station Wine and Wetland Centre, a sustainable winery which incorporates a large wetland conservation area and a native mallee woodland.
Over the past 20 years the winery has invested in a number of environmental projects around the world, contributing millions of dollars over that period.
Closer to home the company has restored the nearby wetlands, which are now accessible via a number of wooden boardwalks. Along the way visitors will find information huts and bird-viewing hides; the wetlands are now a major breeding ground for migrating birds.
Guided tours with one of the ranges are also available. The impressive property, which is just three hours’ drive from Adelaide, incorporates a number of eco-friendly practices such as the use of solar energy and recycling its wastewater.
Enjoy lunch on the big wooden deck and drink in the sweeping views of the surrounding countryside.
3. Coorong Cockles
In a state that is synonymous with world-class seafood an enterprising operation in Port Elliot, a bustling seaside town has carved out an interesting niche by harvesting local pipis or cockles.
Founded in 2012 The Goolwa Pipi Company has taken what was once an underrated shellfish – often used for bait by fishermen – and turned it into a highly desirable gourmet product. Over the last decade the edible pipi industry has grown from being worth $700,000 a year to over $4 million a year, with the majority being consumed in high-end eateries in Sydney and Melbourne.
A small number are now exported to Asia thanks to the introduction of an innovative packaging system which keeps the pipis at their peak condition.
Coorong Pipis are harvested by raking a 60km stretch of beach on the Younghusband Peninsula, southeast of the Murray Mouth. Available in a variety of sizes, pipis are fully cleaned to remove to sand. They can be bought from specialist seafood outlets or ordered directly from the company. Pipis or Coorong Cockles are now a regular feature on many restaurant menus and are used in many Italian and Asian recipes.
Long before vineyards were planted in the Clare Valley, the region was a major producer of cereal crops, such as wheat and barley.
This fifth generation farm keeps that tradition alive, but today it employs sustainable farming practices in tune with 21st century. Only organic fertilisers are used on the property.
Pangkarra not only grows some of the finest grains, legumes and pulses in South Australia but has also created a range of high-end products such as premium wholegrain pasta, grissini and lavosh – the ultimate paddock to kitchen bench operation.
Flour is milled using traditional stone milling methods, while pasta is dried slowly on racks at a consistent low temperature, which ensures the product’s nutritional qualities are protected. All Pangkarra products are high in fibre, low in fat, low GI and are an excellent source of antioxidants and phytonutrients.
More recently, Pangkarra Foods have launched a pre-soaked chickpea in a pouch, as well as three delicious snack packs comprising roasted chickpeas, faba beans and broad beans. These products are available at grocers and good supermarkets across South Australia or at the Central Market in Adelaide.
5. Southrock Lamb
Known around the world as a wildlife sanctuary, Kangaroo Island (KI) is also a major agricultural region.
Raising sheep is the island’s oldest farming enterprise, but Southrock Lamb has developed an enviable reputation for its free range, stress-free lamb raised on the island’s clean, unspoiled pastures.
Lambs are handled as little as possible and the meat is aged to improve eating quality. Owners Andy and Kate Gilfillan are committed to a sustainable lifestyle.
Apart from running 4000 breeding ewes they have also planted their own vegetable garden and a large olive grove.
The couple have deliberately kept their operation on the boutique scale and only process about 60 lambs a month, supplying resorts, hotels, restaurants, farmers’ markets and local cellar doors.
Over the years the Gilfillans have also built up a loyal base of private clients. Despite fluctuating demand over the year, Southrock Lamb has managed to survive and prosper – largely thanks to the support of local chefs.
"Chefs have a seasonal approach, but they will also use every cut of meat from the carcass,” says Andy. "They also love the story of Kangaroo Island and Southrock."
6. Hutton Vale
The Angas family, which has been farming the rolling countryside between the Barossa Valley and the Mount Lofty Ranges for over 170 years, has moved from broad acre farming to a more intensive, sustainable model.
Today, the historic Hutton Vale property still sells fine wool and free-range lamb, but has expanded its portfolio to include high quality pork, pickles and preserves, and small batch wines – mostly riesling, shiraz, cabernet sauvignon, mataro and grenache.
John and Jan Angas, sixth generation Barossan farmers, also host a small number of visitors on their magnificent 2000-acre property, providing guests with a hands-on experience of life on the land.
Activities include a nature walk in the hills, a structured wine tasting, fruit picking and a magnificent farmhouse lunch. Hutton Vale is part of the original estate created by George Fife Angas (1789-1879), one of the architects of the Colony of South Australia. Today, Hutton Vale remains a highly productive family enterprise selling its produce to cafes and restaurants in the Barossa or direct to the public at the local farmers’ market or via its website.
7. Food Forest
Located on the outskirts of historic township of Gawler, north of Adelaide, Food Forest is a small landholding which has inspired many people around the world to embrace permaculture.
Annemarie and Graham Brookman took over a very unpromising 15 acre property on the Gawler River in 1983 and have since transformed it into a highly productive mixed farm, producing 160 varieties of organically certified fruit and nuts, wheat, vegetables, free range eggs, honey, carob beans, Australian native foods, nursery plants and timber.
Food Forest also makes a small range of vegan-friendly wines, including tempranillo, mataro, shiraz and merlot. The Brookmans offer regular courses introducing students to permaculture, free range poultry and fruit and nut growing – they also host young farm volunteers, run offer small group tours of the farm (by appointment only) and a consultancy service.
Food Forest sells its farm-fresh produce directly to the public via its website or at the weekly Showgrounds farmers market in Adelaide. Farm Forest is recognized as a pioneer in the field of permaculture and rural tourism in South Australia and has won numerous awards and grants, including the 2013 Barossa Regional Food Award.
8. Wild Caught Abalone
Abalone, a highly prized mollusc harvested in the chilly waters around the Eyre Peninsula, is one of the most misunderstood of shellfish.
Brothers Damon and Dion Edmunds, veteran abalone divers based in Streaky Bay, are dedicated to educating the general public about the delights of abalone – and supplying the best and freshest wild caught Greenlip and Blacklip abalone.
The brothers run a successful wholesale operation called Streaky Bay Seafood supplying fresh and frozen seafood to pubs, cafes and restaurants around Australia, plus a busy retail shop next to their modern processing plant. Apart from abalone the company also supplies King George whiting, snapper, garfish, calamari, prawns, lobster, crabs and oysters; all seafood is supplied by local fishermen using small boats or hand lines.
Fish is delivered daily to the processing plant. The small, family owned company recently launched a new premium abalone brand called 2brothers for the export market.
Between them Damon and Dion have over 45 years in the abalone trade and adhere to strict environmental protocols. Abalone are harvested by hand from the sea floor, following a mandated quota system. The meat is quickly shelled and placed in an ice slurry and transported directly to the processing factory.
9. Beerenberg Farm
Dating back to 1839, Beerenberg Farm is one of the must-do experiences for foodies in the Adelaide Hills. The beautiful property, just outside Hahndorf, supplies fruit and vegetables that go into the company’s world-famous range of jams, chutneys and condiments and sauces.
Apart from visiting the well-stocked farm shop, visitors can also pick their own strawberries between October and April each year. Generations of South Australian families have been coming here to pick their own strawberries and Beerenberg is now featured on the self-drive Epicurean Way tour. From modest beginnings selling a few pots of jam and chutney at a roadside stall, Beerenberg has become a global brand pioneering the use of small foil packs and selling its jams to major airlines and hotels, especially in the Asia-Pacific region.
Today, the company has over 50 products including including mustards, marmalades, chutneys, sauces and marinades, pickles, dressings, dessert toppings and olive oil – all made from fresh local ingredients in the traditional farmhouse style.
A new luxury range, called the Beerenberg Signature Collection, was recently added. But strawberry jam remains the biggest single seller. The farm shop is open daily 9am to 5pm, apart from Christmas Day.
10. Barossa Heritage Pork
Along with Aussie Rules Football, eating pork is part of the DNA of South Australia. The early German settlers brought their sausage making and smoking traditions with them and the English settlers brought their famous pig breeds, many of which still thrive to this day.
Barossa Heritage Pork, owned by Michael Wohlstadt, is one of the most respected small pig breeders in the state – there are several others in the Barossa region. Michael’s free range Berkshire and Tamworth pigs graze in the foothills of the Barossa Ranges alongside his Jersey cows. The pigs are therefore fed full cream Jersey milk, alongside local grain milled on the farm.
“Barossa Heritage Pork is marbled, with enough fat that is soft and creamy, and which easily renders during cooking,” says Michael. “The meat suits slow and high temperature cooking and stays moist. It is tender and flavoursome.”
No food additives, growth stimulants or hormones are used. Apart from various popular cuts of meat, the farm also supplies suckling pigs, hocks, minced pork, whole heads and American spare ribs – plus its own sausages flavoured with fennel, sage and garlic. Meat is available directly from the producer or at the weekly Barossa Farmers’ Market in nearby Angaston.