Wine regions - Hilltops
Hilltops New South Wales
A land of unduling hills, plains and plateaus
The Hilltops region is one of Australia's most exciting viticultural regions. Cool climate conditions allow for the production of elegant wines of variety and complexity. A region to watch with great interest.
One sure fired way to keep an eye on what's emerging in the quality stakes is to note were winemakers are getting their fruit. You will find the Hilltops label on many a premium bottle produced by winemakers located elsewhere. Canberra wineries especially look to Hilltops for premium quality fruit, for although there is but one degree of separation temperature wise, the warmer climate of Hilltops shifts the fruit into a richness spectrum all of its own. Canberra winemaker Nick Spencer knows only too well the class of Hilltops fruit when he won the 2009 Jimmy Watson trophy with his 2008 The Long Road Shiraz.
The Riverina's Westend Estate and Hunter Valley winemakers are paying a lot of attention to Hilltops reds with Allandale, Meerea Park, Glenguin Estate, Hungerford Hill and Mistletoe creating exceptional wines with Hilltops Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
The Hilltops Region centres on the town of Young famous for its cherries. Other towns are Harden and Boorowa. The region in the Southern New South Wales Zone is part of the Murray-Darling Basin.
History and now
The first vines were planted in the 1860s by Croatian immigrant Nichole Jaspprizza with the express purpose of supplying grog to diggers on the surrounding goldfields. More family joined him in later years to work his extensive vineyards and orchards.
The modern era began in 1969 when Peter Robertson planted vines and produced his own wine on his property Barwang. Robertson later joined with McWilliams Wines to produce their Barwang label.
Other vineyards followed in the 1970s but it was to be another 30 years or so before winemakers with a depth of knowledge and understanding of the unique qualities of the region started to produce wines that graced the dinner tables in Australia and abroad.
In 2004 Dr Brian Freeman purchased vineyards in the region including Demondrille, which was already 30 years old at the time. He was formerly head of viticulture and oenology at Charles Sturt University and has brought to the region a researcher's curious intensity to experiment with grape performance. Freeman's varieties include Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Semillon and Riesling and the Italian and Spanish varieties Corvina and Rondinella and Tempranillo.
A year later Jason and Alecia Brown established Moppity, a property with 37 year old vines just waiting for a winemaker with the touch. Put simply, Moppity is the 'Maserati' of the Australian wine industry. Since 2005 they have gone from zero to top gold in the London International Wine and Spirit Competition for their 2006 Reserve Shiraz - from zero awards and accolades to numbering them in the hundreds and from 150 retail outlets to 900 in just the past twelve months.
Understandably Jason Brown is confident about the region's future, which he sees being derived from an exploration of the unique qualities of the land and climate. He also sees a future, like other winemakers in the region, for lesser known varieties such as Nebbiolo a dry and savoury wine he describes as the "antithesis to Aussie Shiraz" and Tempranillo a generous flavoursome wine which he believes should work really well in the region. Not forgetting the whites he has a particular interest in producing Hilltops Riesling with his new brand Lock & Key Riesling already winning awards.
Other wineries making waves for the region is Chalkers Crossing who has contributed significantly to the region's fortunes by developing a reputation for quality wine in the Asian market and who in 2010 won silver at the International Hong Kong Wine Show for their 2006 Hilltops Cabernet Sauvignon.
Grove Estate is also matching the region's qualities with alternative grape varieties. Their 2007 Sommita' Nebbiolo has won numerous awards as has their 2008 Shiraz Viognier.
The region is planted with a range of grape varieties including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Corvina, Rondinella, Tempranello, Nebbiolo, Sangiovese, Aleatico and Zinfandel. Not surprisingly cherry liquor is produced here.
Vines are grown at an elevation between 450 and 600m on a mix of
deep gravelly red soils, basalt and sandy granite derived soils.
The climate is continental, cool and dry with snow in winter and
most rainfall occurring from mid spring to mid autumn.
The region kicks of the summertime festivities with the National Cherry Festival every December and the April the Lambing Flat Festival celebrates Australia's gold digging and riotous past. You will find Hilltops wine exhibited at these events. But the best way to find the wine is to buy online or ask your local wine merchant for Hilltops wine as it does come from many wineries outside the region.
Harvest time: late March to late April
Sites with more information:
Cherry pies best served
with Hilltops's dessert wines