Whistling Kite Wines
Into The Wild
Hidden treasures come in many forms. This certified biodynamic farm and cellar door is one of them.
When Adam Barich strolls through his family’s biodynamic vineyard it literally hums with life. Wind whispers through 14.5 hectares of vines, bird life flits between the property’s 100 fruit trees, and insects buzz from bloom-to-bloom in the gardens surrounding the cellar door. A wine tasting at the humble structure feels a bit like imbibing on a friend’s porch. The laid-back scene is all part of a normal day for Adam, his brother Callan and their parents Pam and Tony. Here, connection to nature is a way of life. It has been since converting the property to certified organic in 1997 and certified biodynamic in 2007.
“Dad was a returned Vietnam War veteran and saw the effects chemicals can have on people so he wasn’t keen to use it on food,” Adam says. “Even before they were certified, they only used very small amounts. We feel that that is responsible for the quality of the fruit and we’ve got the perfect climate for organic grape farming here because it’s generally dry so we’ve got less disease pressure.”
When Tony isn’t tending the vineyards (his happy place) he pops down to the cellar door for a chinwag. Like Adam, he is a quiet chap but his passion for biodynamics and the family farm (which has been under their watchful eye for more than 50 years) is infectious. Ask him about the forest he planted along the riverfront 38 years ago. “That’s why there are so many birds” Adam says. Feathered friends are important here, including the pair of resident Whistling Kites after which the wine brand is named. True to their name, they whistle.
Tony and Pam have long been environmental visionaries and determined ones at that. They were leaders in organics and biodynamics well before it became fashionable.
In addition to traditional plantings of Shiraz and Chardonnay (some of the oldest in the region), they took a punt on climate appropriate alternate varieties such as Petit Manseng, Montepulciano and Mencia. The property also boasts some of the oldest Petit Verdot and the first plantings of Viognier. It’s all good news for Adam, who makes a range of Whistling Kites’ minimal intervention wine in a shed behind the tasting space. There, he uses zero sulphur and a lot of love. Adam is a self-taught winemaker who has soaked up knowledge from mentor and local permaculture farmer Andrew Duncan, the man behind Back Verandah Wines. Whistling Kite’s staple range of wines are made offsite by Eric & Jenny Semmler at 919 Wines.
Adam is softly spoken and as salt of the earth as it gets so don’t expect rock star winemaker exuberance or inflated egos here. There’s none to be found, just a burning passion for the land and its produce. “We started the label in 2010 to show the progress from vine to bottle,” he says. “I didn’t set out to be a winemaker. I went to the city to study when I was 18, then worked for Olympic Dam [a large poly-metallic underground mine].” It wasn’t a great fit. “Me working there was like a vegetarian working in an abattoir.”
Eventually, his connection to the land drew him back to the Riverland. Now, the family shares their patch of paradise with the world through their cellar door with a River Murray view. Visitors have even been known to arrive by kayak or houseboat.
Wine tastings come with a side of heartfelt education. Impressive snacks (many of which are made with produce plucked from the nearby veggie patch) form part of the Wine and Food Delight flights (paired with red or white wines). The family do it all themselves; including the tasty morsels (platters and pizzas) and Adam’s minimal intervention wines.
For people wanting an immersive biodynamic experience, Adam offers one of the few ‘DIY’ winemaking experiences in Australia. He calls it the ‘Pick and Make Experience’ and for a lucky few, it is the chance to help make a wine from start to finish. It happens during vintage. “They help pick, press, make and bottle the wine over a few days,” he says. “Then they get their wine at the end of it.” Long pizza-packed lunches are also part of the experience. It’s all part of the heart-warming family vibe. Expect warm fuzzies all round. “My parents are wonderful,” Adam says. “Dad is quiet but he loves the vineyard and the produce he produces. Mum gets everything else done. She is the backbone of it all and if she wasn’t around, we simply wouldn’t have a label.”