Matt Moran visits the New England wine region to find a chef with a difference. Graham Manvell and his wife, Marlene, show Matt their zoo of unique farm animals all bred with the purpose of going on the plates of their restaurants.
The farm started because Graham is a chef and owns several restaurants, and he wanted to be sure of the integrity of the produce he used. He and his wife Marlene also wanted to be as self-sufficient as possible.
About 40% of the product used in their chain of restaurants is produced themselves – lamb, beef, buffalo, wine, and beer.
Babydolls or Ole English Southdowns
The Southdown is a small, dual-purpose British sheep, raised primarily for meat. The Southdown breed was originally bred by John Ellman of Glynde, near Lewes, East Sussex, about 200 years ago. His work was continued by Jonas Webb of Babraham in Cambridgeshire, who developed the larger animal of today. It was exported to New Zealand and was used in the breeding of the Canterbury lamb.
This sheep was involved with crossbreeding to develop other breeds: with existing stock, the Hampshire, via the Hampshire, the Oxford Down with the Norfolk Horn, the Suffolk.
The Southdown in Britain is recognised by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust as a native breed, although today it is popular amongst the smaller scale breeders of sheep.
It has been split into two sub-breeds. The Southdown raised by commercial growers today, is larger than the "traditional" Southdown of years past. North American Southdowns are also taller than their British counterparts.
The original blood line of the old English Southdowns are the "Baby Doll" Southdowns.They have been selected specifically for their smaller size of the original blood lines and a focus on wool and hobby breeding rather than commercial meat production.
In California, New Zealand and Australia they are placed in vineyards to graze weeds because they are too short to reach the grapes on the vines.
Baby Doll breeders claim that their sheep are closer to the old, traditional, British Southdown than are the commercial Southdown sheep being grown today.
Traditionally the State’s verdant agricultural belt, the New England region is famous for its strong focus on traditional farming such as beef, sheep, poultry, grains, dairy and pasture. It’s also an emerging wine region which you can explore from Tamworth.
NSW’s newest wine region now has 20 cellar doors that focus on cool climate varieties. The unique New England climate is due to the subtropical influence of summer rainfall combined with temperate cold winters and is the only designated wine region in Australia that has both cool- and warm-climate vineyards.
Being a new wine region, the jury is still out as to which varieties stand out and dominate, however, chardonnay, pinot gris, riesling, shiraz and pinot noir are all showing clear promise. Other varieties include tempranillo and gewurtztraminer. Don’t miss delicious riesling from Blickling Estate or cellar doors at Tara Downs and Melville Estate Wines.
There are also plenty of places to buy fresh produce from the farm gate or from regular growers’ markets on weekends. You may be lucky enough to find seasonal niche produce such as olives, nuts, fish farming, honey, hydroponics and berries. At Arc-de-ciel Trout Farm near Nundle, you can take a tour of the farm before catching your own juicy trout for dinner. At Odgers and McClelland Exchange Stores, you can buy locally produced Middlebrook Honey, Bellata Gold pasta, Demeter flours, and Gwydir Grove olive oils. Nundle also hosts the annual Nundle Gourmet Picnic each March.
More About Buffalo
The buffalo are smart creatures – they turn up their nose and smell when they first meet you, get a handle on who you are, remember you for next time. If you ear tag them or do something they don’t like, they’ll remember you. Graham is the one who does all the buffalo handling, so he knows they are wary of him. Whereas Marlene is more gentle and doesn’t have as much to do with them, so they treat her differently.
But he says they are smart and just know what’s going on. When the gates are opened they’ll just know to come down. If they’re grazing up in the hills, Graham just calls them and they’ll come down the hill like a steam train. You can’t herd them with dogs because the buffalo will have a go at the dogs.
Humans have to be very careful around buffalo, because if they don’t like you they’ll let you know. His brother-in-law was charged once, but Graham managed to get between them and stop it.
At the moment there are 24 buffalo on the farm plus about 8 babies.
His buffalo are a mixed breed – the females are Asian Water Buffalo and his breeding male is an Italian Riverine Buffalo. The Italian Riverine produces better milk, which is better to feed the calves with. Graham does not milk them for commercial use.
The cuts of buffalo meat are the same as beef. So you can cook anything from buffalo fillet to buffalo osso bucco. Buffalo are slaughtered at a normal cattle abattoir.
In addition to the buffalo, Graham and Marlene also have their winery cellar door on this property, called Kitty Crawford Estate/The Lazy Poet Wines.
They also have a guest house on property with a small kitchen that we can use, a large brick oven (they recently had a party and fit 4 pigs in the oven at once), and a small wooden stage on a grassy paddock where they have hosted outdoor concerts in the past.