Or­ange is the New Cool

Virgin Australia Voyeur - - OCTOBER -

The new culi­nary kids on the block are pro­vid­ing Aus­tralia with a fresh taste of Or­ange.

IT WAS GOLD fever that first drew num­bers to the Cen­tral West of New South Wales, the prom­ise of riches buried deep in the soil lur­ing for­tune hun­ters, trav­ellers and dream­ers from across the globe. A cen­tury and a half later, a dif­fer­ent kind of trea­sure has emerged from the ter­roir, with a flour­ish­ing food and wine scene trans­form­ing Or­ange into one of the most en­vi­able gas­tro­nomic des­ti­na­tions in Aus­tralia, tempt­ing vis­i­tors again. “Are we one of the lead­ing food and wine re­gions in the coun­try? Ab­so­lutely,” says Tom Ward, owner of Swing­ing Bridge Es­tate. But he main­tains it’s no fluke. “Friends say to me, ‘God you guys are do­ing well’, but it’s 20 years be­com­ing an overnight sen­sa­tion. It’s been the work of a lot of peo­ple who have been fo­cused for a very long time.”

To­day, the cool-cli­mate grapes planted through­out Or­ange grow at the high­est el­e­va­tion of any wine re­gion in Aus­tralia, boast­ing more than 80 vine­yards and cov­er­ing 1500 hectares. Each is nour­ished by the rich vol­canic soil of Mount Canobo­las, an ex­tinct vol­cano which pro­vides a geo­graphic an­chor for the re­gion; a place fre­quently dusted with snow come the win­ter. Shi­raz is pop­u­lar, as is chardon­nay, and wines from Or­ange have re­ceived a num­ber of na­tional and in­ter­na­tional awards, mak­ing it all the more dif­fi­cult to be­lieve that the re­gion’s first com­mer­cial vine­yards were only es­tab­lished in the early 1980s.

How­ever, de­spite be­ing a rel­a­tively young wine-grow­ing area, Or­ange has some se­ri­ous agri­cul­tural roots. Long be­fore it was the new coun­try cool, it was the land that fed the city, a food bowl whose growth was spurred on by the in­tro­duc­tion of the rail­way in the 1870s. It was here the Pack­ham pear was de­vel­oped at the turn of the cen­tury; and can­ner­ies ran 24 hours daily to sup­ply food ra­tions to Bri­tain af­ter World War II.

At the Or­ange Re­gional Mu­seum, the Pad­dock to Plate: A His­tory of Food and Wine in Or­ange and District ex­hi­bi­tion is one of the city’s best-kept se­crets. It de­tails how the area has been shaped and changed by agri­cul­ture and chang­ing food habits and has more than 350 his­tor­i­cal ob­jects, from the grind­ing stones of the Wi­rad­juri First Na­tions peo­ple to farm equip­ment, the in­tro­duc­tion of re­frig­er­a­tion and the im­pact of war on dis­play. Above all, the ex­hibit high­lights one of the key strengths of the Or­ange re­gion: its abil­ity to adapt and change.

A clas­sic ex­am­ple of this is lo­cal pro­ducer Mandagery Creek Aus­tralian Farmed Veni­son. Op­er­at­ing as a cat­tle prop­erty, deer were in­tro­duced to erad­i­cate a black­berry in­fes­ta­tion on the land. Af­ter they flour­ished, in 2002 the prop­erty be­gan farm­ing veni­son, sup­ply­ing es­tab­lish­ments such as chef Tony Wor­land’s renowned Tonic restau­rant in Millthorpe, where it is served as an en­tree paired with beet­root, soubise and red wine.

In a prime cor­ner po­si­tion on Millthorpe’s his­toric cob­bled high street, Tonic’s menu is sea­sonal, lo­cal and out­stand­ing, fea­tur­ing dishes such as braised wild rab­bit with cashew and car­rots, Cowra lamb loin with globe ar­ti­chokes and cau­li­flower, and roasted pork jowl with celeriac and ap­ple.

Opened in 2003, the hat­ted restau­rant was one of the Cen­tral West’s first fine-din­ing suc­cess sto­ries. How­ever, to­day the high stan­dard set by Tonic is main­tained by a ro­bust and dif­fer­en­ti­ated cafe cul­ture that is ded­i­cated to lo­cal pro­duce, from rus­tic The Agrestic Gro­cer — with on­site busi­nesses Bad­lands Brew­ery and The Sec­ond Mouse Cheese Com­pany — to the pol­ished Byng Street Lo­cal Store.

FES­TI­VAL SEA­SON

While the re­gion has es­tab­lished strong culi­nary cre­den­tials and is nur­tur­ing an award-win­ning wine lo­ca­tion, Or­ange’s emer­gence as a lead­ing gas­tro­nomic des­ti­na­tion has been most in­flu­enced by its palate-pleas­ing cal­en­dar of sea­sonal events, ones that have gar­nered a rep­u­ta­tion for push­ing peo­ple be­yond the cel­lar door, into the streets and out into the vines them­selves — where they can get their hands a lit­tle dirty.

Held in April, Or­ange F.O.O.D. Week is one of Aus­tralia’s oldest and ar­guably most suc­cess­ful re­gional food fes­ti­vals, while the Or­ange Wine Fes­ti­val, held this month, fol­lows closely in pop­u­lar­ity.

Run­ning across 10 days from 12–21 Oc­to­ber, when the vines be­gin to burst into sliv­ers of green, the wine fes­ti­val will in­clude tast­ings, tours, mar­kets, The Vino Ex­press ‘ slow travel’ rail jour­ney, classes and cel­e­bra­tions rang­ing from long lunches through to yoga and wine.

“It’s fan­tas­tic to have a range of dif­fer­ent events that brings peo­ple to Or­ange all year round,” says pro­ducer Gail Kendell from Small Acres Cy­der, which pro­duces a va­ri­ety of tra­di­tional ap­ple and pear ciders from the fam­ily or­chard in Or­ange.

Along with launch­ing its new vin­tage at this year’s Or­ange Wine Fes­ti­val, Small Acres Cy­der will be host­ing a pork and cider sausage mas­ter­class on site at the or­chard. It will also com­pete in a Cider Ver­sus Wine Sun­day lunch, where both wine and cider of­fer­ings will pair with a three-course lunch, and mem­bers of the pub­lic will ul­ti­mately make the fi­nal de­ci­sion on which drop wins.

It’s these kinds of hands-on events, where vis­i­tors can share a glass with the mak­ers and learn about their pro­duc­tion process, that ap­peal to both a wave of ex­pe­ri­en­tial tourists and the pas­sion­ate busi­ness own­ers who have set up in the city. “Or­ange has al­ways been great in pro­mot­ing it­self and sup­port­ing the food pro­duc­ers, wine mak­ers and small busi­nesses,” ex­plains Kendell. “It’s one of the rea­sons we moved here.”

OP­PO­SITE PAGE, CLOCK­WISE FROM TOP LEFT Baked goods fresh from the oven at Byng Street Lo­cal Store; Swing­ing Bridge Es­tate; mar­i­nated charred lamb rump from Charred Kitchen & Bar; deer roam on the Mandagery Creek farm; tip­ples from Swing­ing Bridge Es­tate; Tonic restau­rant. OPENER, FROM LEFT The Or­ange coun­try­side; Charred fo­cuses on lo­cal pro­duce.

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