Which is perhaps the last thing you expect to hear when you talk to a producer of wines destined for supermarket shelves on the other side of the globe.
Tom's Drop, Riverland, South Australia
By any objective measure, the red wines from Michael O'Donohoe's 4-hectare vineyard just outside Berri are some of the most successful in the entire region. Adelaide wine writer Phillip White called the 2002 Tom's Drop mourvedre shiraz the best red he'd ever tasted from the Riverland, and O'Donohoe's wines – which sell for $30 a bottle, more than twice the regional average price – have been poured by the glass at Bilson's, one of Sydney's poshest restaurants.
Not bad for a certified organic vineyard whose owner talks about 'Wild farming'; of growing his grapes as though they were bush tucker, like quandongs ('bugger-all water, 1 tonne to the acre yields'); and, unexpectedly, given his initially reticent, even prickly manner, of the power of meditation and the infinite love of the universe.
Mick is clearly proud of his achievements. As he throws a couple of huge steaks onto the barbecue – 'Micks rough-as-guts cookie" – I sit on the verandah of his old sandstone house overlooking the vineyard, drink some of his dark, earthy, warm-hearted red wine, and browse through his 'boasting book' full of press clippings, the Bilson's wine list and more accolades.
Mick stopped using synthetic chemicals on his orchards (oranges, apricots, pears, olives) in 1986. The vineyard's never been sprayed with anything but a little copper or sul¬phur. It certainly looks wild: the undervine area is positively shaggy, and wild olives, even the odd apricot tree, grow up here and there in the middle of the row. But this farmer's not concerned about his vines being robbed of water by competing plants: he'd much rather there was a good, self-mulching array of biodiversity, to keep the soil cool and to provide too comfortable a habitat for potential pests.
`Everything's living down there in the weeds rather than up in the vines,' he says. `Snails couldn't find their way out. They'd get lost.'
Like many other growers in 2002, Mick was offered a pitiful price for his intensely Coloured, low-yielding, powerfully flavoured grapes, so decided to make them into wine himself, in some hastily scrounged old gherkin barrels. The result was the mourvedre shiraz that made Phillip White swoon. Mick O'Donohoe wants to take his wild farming ideas even further. He plans to plant some more mourvedre, as bush vines, and to see how little irrigation he can get away with. He also wants to plant Mallee trees – 'the best bloody carbon sinks on the planet' – around the edges of the vineyard.
`I'm trying to prove a point,' he says. 'By relying on nature, I'm trying to prove to the big industrial wineries around here that there is another way of doing things.'
Then he goes inside and returns with another book, a thick academic journal with the rather dry title ofAdvances in Public InterestAccounting. Mick finds the page he's look¬ing for and hands the book to me: a long, dense article called 'Gandhian-Vedic Eman¬cipatory Accounting: Engendering a Spiritual Revolution in the Interest of Sustainable Development'.
The author is Dr Kala Saravanamuthu from the University of Newcastle, and her thesis is deceptively simple: replace the Christian, Calvinist philosophy underpinning western capitalism (man has dominion over nature) with the ancient, eastern, holistic view of man as an integral part of nature, and then fuse that to social environmental ac¬counting practice.
A few years ago, when Dr Saravanamuthu was working with a group of farmers in the Riverland on a sustainability project, she interviewed Mick O'Donohoe and found a living, breathing example of the Ghandian-Vedic philosophy of interconnectedness. Mick's chuffed that she's quoted him in her article. He told her, and he told me, that when he's walking in the bush down by the river, when he's working in the vineyard or the orchard, when he's standing over the fermenting vat, he will meditate, breathing in the infinite cosmos, and project that positive energy into the vines and the fermenting must.
Funny to think that beneath this Berri farmer's 'rough-as-guts' exterior might lurk a spiritual revolutionary.