Wine regions - Heathcote
The Heathcote region, nestled between the Goulburn Valley and Bendigo is a premium shiraz-producing area.
View of the Heathcote
region from Mt Camel
with Tatiarra's vineyard in the foreground
Photo: Domaines Tatiarra
The region, like so many in Victoria, was given over to sheep grazing
in its earliest white history, followed by gold mining in the
late 1800s. The
very first vines were planted by German immigrant, Henning Rathjen in the 1860s,
but it was to be another 100 years before vigernons re-discovered the vine-growing
magic of the region's ancient volcanic soils.
The soils are derived from Cambrian rock formed by volcanic activity 500,000 million years ago. Weathering and metamorphis with sedimentary rock over time formed deep red soils rich in minerals known as Cambrian earths. These soils have good water-holding capacity.
The region sits on the north side of the Great Dividing Range at elevations between 160m and 320m. Rainfall is evenly distributed between the seasons and the temperature is temperate, with cooling winds emanating from the south. The landscape is quintessentially Australian, with partly-cleared weathered hillsides and remnant Box-Ironbark forest.
Heathcote is home to some big names in Australian shiraz. Wild Duck Creek Estate shot to fame in 1997 when American wine critic Robert Parker Jrn scored their Duck Muck at 99. Parker has since been a fan of Heathcote reds. David and Diana Anderson of Wild Duck have continued to produce exceptional Shiraz and Cabernets.
At Jasper Hill Vineyard, Ron and Elva Laughton use biodynamic farming principles to produce highly acclaimed wines. Their daughter Emily has also kept the family tradition with her Occam's Razor label.
The list of wineries receiving accolades from wine critics is long. Critics
such as James Halliday, Ralph Kyte-Powell, Huon Hooke and Stephen Tanzer cite
the depth and intensity of colour and flavour of the region's reds as their
The quality of wines is represented through all the periods of development in the region starting with Paul Osicka, who planted Shiraz vines in the early 1960s. Then in the 1970s there was another burst of development with vineyards established at Jasper Hill, Eppalock Ridge and She-Oak Hill.
The 1990s to the present day has seen the consolidation of the region's reputation with the expansion of vineyards and establishment of new labels such as Barnadown Run, Heathcote Estate, McIvor Estate, Coliban Valley, Munari, Sanguine Estate and Greenstone Vineyard.
The region's reputation is highlighted by the number of wineries outside the region who source their fruit from Heathcote. Shelmerdine, Shadowfax, Taltarni, Tyrrells, Carlei Estate, Dominique Portet and Hanging Rock Winery just to name a few.
Heathcote is a great region to cellar door. It is a one and a half hour trip from Melbourne and even shorter trip from Bendigo. Barnadown Run, Redesdale Estate, Barfold Estate, Coliban Valley Wines, Heathcote II, Mount Burrumboot, Shelmerdine, the relatively new Flynns Wines and Idavue Estate, McIvor Creek Estate, Downing Estate, and Louis de Castella Wines. Heathcote Winery and Lindenton Wines have their cellar doors right on Main Street.
Vines growing in the granite
soils at the
southern end of the Heathcote region
produce fruit for award winning wines
Photo: McIvor Estate.
Shiraz is the region's soprano. But don't pass up the opportunity to experience other red varieties striking high notes within their range. Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, Grenache, the Italians, Sangiovese and Nebbiolo, the Spanish Tempranillo and Rhone varieties Marsanne and Roussane, all grow exceptionally well in the region, producing single variety and blended wines of intensity and opulence.
The local tourism industry caters well to the wine traveller with a range of accommodation and eateries in the main town of Heathcote, including specialist wine stores, cafes, restaurants and galleries. The town has preserved its past with streets of bull nose verandahs and fine Victorian architecture. Some historic highlights include the refurbished Old Gaol, Courthouse and the old Shire offices.
Mount Burrumboot and Shelmerdine have vineyard cafe's and Redesdale Estate has a comfortable self-contained cottage amongst the vines.
Heathcote Wine & Food Festival every October
Tourism experiences in the region include historical and cultural
experiences; nature-based walks, relics from the gold rush days,
cycling, orienteering, wildflowers, bird watching, gold prospecting
and gemstone fossicking.
The first week of October each year is the Heathcote Wine & Food Festival a day of wine and food tasting and general festival fun.
Harvest time: mid March to early May
Photos courtesy: Domaines Tatiarra & McIvor Estate
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