Blend 27 degrees, blue skies, Aussie bush, water views, a biodynamic vineyard and veg garden, a chicken coop, a productive beehive, one delightfully hospitable host and the shade of a fig tree and you have the recipe for a perfect day out, no?
On the Australian* side of the Port Phillip (aka Bellarine Peninsula), Kiltynane WInes (pronounced Kill-tie-nen) is perched unpretentiously overlooking Swan Bay. It knows it’s on to a good thing. It’s off the beaten track, isn’t on the highway signage and isn’t doing wine making like everyone else. Walking onto the property, my companion exhaled “I’ve got to bring my family here!”. Kiltynane is one of those special places you wish you could keep all to yourself whilst simultaneously wanting to bring everyone you love to.
As if producing premium biodynamic wine wasn’t enough, Kiltynane is a place for organic vegetables, free range eggs and honey too. It also plays host to rustic cooking and healthy living workshops. It’s rare to find a business that oozes a strong sustainable living philosophy from its every pore but that’s exactly what you have in Kiltynane. It’s more than a winery, it’s a ‘good living’ mecca.
There for a lucky personal tour (Kiltynane kindly hosted a Give a Fork! event and invited us to visit after the hectic campaign period was over), we were greeted by Kiltynane’s wine man/permaculture gardener extraordinaire Ben Shaw who showed us around and talked us through the philosophy behind the business and their big dreams:
Growing grapes is renowned for being tricky business. Why biodynamic?
Our winemaker Kate spent some time in biodynamic wineries in France and was inspired to apply the rich knowledge she acquired. Biodynamics is about continually improving the soil so by its very nature is sustainable farming. In terms of food production, the taste from biodynamic produce is superior. For me, some of the best wines I have tried have come from biodynamic vineyards, including Cullen Wines and Carlei Wines.
We are very much about natural winemaking and minimal intervention, which includes wild ferments instead of manufactured yeasts. ‘Minimal intervention’ wines tell a story and truly reflect terroir – which encapsulates climate, soil and vintage.
Why do you think more wineries aren’t farming biodynamically?
I think that any philosophy that is on the fringes is harder for organisations to adopt. The conventional agriculture system is fairly entrenched and Australian wineries are, on the whole, fairly conservative and risk-averse. Having said that, many new-world wineries (especially in New Zealand) are embracing biodynamics. Hopefully Australian wineries embrace biodynamics because it will only enhance our reputation for quality wine.
What are the greatest challenges of biodynamic farming?
Biodynamics is highly rewarding but also quite involved. There are many elements that you have to bring together and timing is crucial. For example, you have to ensure your biodynamic preps (solutions) will be ready in time for application to the soil and application has to occur during particular moon phases etc. Then you add composting, crop rotation and choice of plants to the mix of things you have to think about and coordinate and yes, it can be slightly more challenging than simply planting a mono-crop and keeping growth and pests under control with synthetic spray-ons.
What are the greatest rewards?
When people eat from the vegetable garden, they are blown away by how good the produce tastes. We grow a lot of heirloom varieties and I love to see people’s reactions after seeing and tasting varieties of common veggies they never knew existed. Inspiring other people to grow their own food, though, that would have to be my greatest reward.
Why do you think it’s important that we all learn to grow some of our own food?
Growing your own food connects you to nature. Research has shown that a strong connection to nature has huge health benefits both physically and mentally. Importantly it also means we can rely less on a mainstream food system which currently is not sustainable.
Tell us about some of the upcoming events you’ll be hosting at the winery.
We are hosting the girls from Pot ‘n’ Pan Culinary Tailoring for a pop up event in the new year (Jan 4th). They will be using ingredients from our edible garden, and cooking over the fire pit in amongst the vegie beds… should be a lovely way to start the new year! Through summer we will have workshops to deal with the bounty of harvest – quince paste, passata, jams, chutneys, etc will all be in the making.
Only 1 hour from Melbourne, 40 mins from Avalon airport, 30 mins Geelong and 10 mins from Queenscliff, Kiltynane Wines cellar door offers views across the vineyards, gardens and Swan Bay with its abundance of bird life.
Expansive lawns provide the perfect place to relax as you take in the stunning views of Swan Bay. Indulge in all day gourmet grazing platters featuring organic produce from the garden, seasonal mezze selection and local cheeses and breads.
43-53 Nye Road, Swan Bay, Vic., 3225
3km from corner of Bellarine Hwy and Portarlington-Queenscliff Road or 1km from the Rail Trail crossing of Portarlington Road if you are cycling.
(03) 5258 4280
*The Mornington Peninsula, directly across the bay, is often labelled as the ‘European’ side.