1000 cow horns and poo for biodynamic wine

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David Paxton bought 1000 cow horns this year for his biodynamic preparations, and has buried 600 of them in the ground, all stuffed with cow poo from his own Scottish Highland cattle.

Such is the mundane detail of being McLaren Vale’s – and one of Australia’s – biggest biodynamic vine-growers. Many biodynamic farmers buy ready-made Preparation 500, but Paxton decided to DIY five years ago.

With several vineyards of his own, including Gateway and Quandong Farm, and others he leases (tastings), Paxton manages 240 hectares of vines, which is a lot. More than half is biodynamically farmed.

The oldest vines are a one-hectare shiraz block near his house, planted somewhere between the 1870s and 1900 – he doesn’t know precisely. The grapes go into his top wine: Paxton Elizabeth Jean Shiraz, named after his late mother. The first one was released on her 100th birthday, and she died at 102.

Where does he find so many horns in these days of de-horned cattle, I ask? Answer: abattoirs in the Northern Territory. “We do it ourselves because it’s cheaper, supply is more reliable, and we can be sure it’s pure, which is important to us.”

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