Chief winemaker and viticulturist Andrew Margan stands in front of a volcanic rock overlooking one of his family’s vineyards. It’s cold, the wind on this particular day is howling, but in his country-smart clothes the gusts seem to roll off his back and his outstretched fingers as he explains the volcanic soils in the Broke region of the Hunter Valley that set his wines apart.
“For the last 20 years we have been focussing on our point of difference and what the vineyard gives us,” said Andrew.
Andrew Margan and his wife Lisa are celebrating 20 years of their award-winning Broke Fordwich Estate in 2016. Andrew, a born and bred Hunter Valley local met Lisa at the university they both attended in Sydney. “I cried for weeks when I first moved here,” admits Lisa.
But the spritely and energetic Lisa is not the type to wallow in tears. Together, the pair over the past 20 years have formed one of the Hunter Valley’s most popular epicurean stops – their restaurant winning numerous awards for Best Restaurant and Excellence in Sustainable Tourism.
Touring through the extensive Margan one-acre kitchen garden with Lisa, there is row after row after of fresh and home-grown produce – everything from pumpkins, fennel, garlic, asparagus, parsnip, corn, herbs; as well as roaming chickens and a specialist dry-age meat and charcuterie room. Local horticulturist Pat Hannson and her 84-year-old husband tend to the gardens that are run with organic and biodynamic principles.
“We collaborate a lot with local farmgate producers. We were pioneers of agri-dining in the Hunter Valley and I think we own that space. I’m over the ‘paddock-to-plate’ line because everyone is saying that… we’re farmers with a restaurant,” says a forthright Lisa.
Each Sunday, head chef Jonathan Heath and Lisa construct the menu for the week based on what is coming out of the ground. Around 90 per cent of the menu is currently sourced from their garden (they are aiming for 100 per cent by October). Visitors to the restaurant consume the garden delights in a beautifully designed cellar door and restaurant with imposing 300-year-old antique French gates at the entrance, acquired by the Margans on a trip to Morocco.
The Margans are known for their innovative spirit across their wines, too. They were the first to plant Italian grape variety Barbera in the Hunter Valley and most recently the first Australian vignerons to plant the Spanish variety, Albarino. The Spanish white wine has been classified as being ideal in just two maritime climates around the world – in Spain and the Hunter Valley. Their first vintage of the wine was made this year with 120 cases sold out prior to the official release. “I see a tangy, spicy lime character with texture and minerality,” Andrew describes.
The experimentation in drinks has extended to the winery’s first Semillon-based vermouth being released.
“A lot of Negroni’s were drunk in the making of this project,” said Lisa. “It’s such a delicate thing to get the balance right without being too overpowering.”