Wine regions - Rutherglen
The Rutherglen region is fortified wine country. Two of the highlights from this remarkable wine region include the unique styles of fortified Muscat and Topaque (Tokay). Other regional standouts are its full-bodied reds and dessert wines.
Saved for future generations, Rutherglen's
historic architecture makes a visit to this
region a time traveller's delight
Rutherglen is in the North East Victoria Zone. All the vineyards and wineries straddle the top half of the region, the northern boundary of which is marked by the Murray River. The main towns are the small river port of Wahgunyah and Rutherglen the regional centre. There are also a few vineyards around Barnawartha on the Hume Highway.
Lindsay Brown a pastoralist, first planted vines in the 1850s following advice from newly arrived German settlers, making Rutherglen one of the oldest wine regions in Australia. Gold was also discovered in the 1850s and by the 1860s Rutherglen township and surrounds were booming with an influx of miners and money. A few miners decided to retire and follow Brown into the vineyard business establishing wineries that to this day bear their names, Campbell's Winery, Gehrig Wines, Morris Wines and G. Sutherland Smith & Sons. Government financial support for growers and the arrival of the railway made it possible for the Rutherglen wine industry to expand. More vineyards were planted and wineries were able to export their wines, thus making their reputations in Australia and abroad for full-bodied reds and fortified wines.
The region took a king hit in the 1890s with the twin scourges of phylloxera and economic depression undermining the region's growth. Fortunately vignerons were able to introduce phylloxera resistant root stock as well as producing fortifieds and full-bodied reds which were very much in demand in the first half of the 20th century. As a result of their resiliance many of the wineries and vineyards established before the turn of the 19th century are still in production. Today the wineries still produce superb Muscat and Topaque, Shiraz and Cabernets but producers have also expanded production of the lesser known varieties Durif, Mondeuse, Pedro Ximenez, and Trebbiano. The region also produces fine Chardonnay, Riesling and Semillon and sparkling red and white wines and dessert wines such Moscato and Biancone.
The famous Rutherglen Muscat or Brown Muscat, is Muscat à Petits Grains Rouge a variety which originated in Greece but came to fame in the Rhone Valley of France. The Muscats are aged for great complexity and intensity.
Topaque (Tokay) wines are exceptional from this region. The wines are made from Muscadelle grapes and aged to make Topaque and port styles.European laws have resulted in the name change from Tokay to Topaque, which only serves to highlight the true uniqueness of these Rutherglen wines.
To assist wine lovers select these wonderful wines, the winemakers have developed a classification system with four categories 'Rutherglen', 'Classic', 'Grand' and 'Rare'.
Party time on the bridge
at Pfeiffer Wines
Climate and Soil
This is flat country sitting at an elevation of between 150 and 250 metres. The soils are alluvial, deposited over aeons by the Murray River. The two main soil types are a fine sandy loam, found close to the banks of the Murray River and a soil called Rutherglen loam found on the lower slopes of the gently undulating hills.
The climate is warm and dry. Summers are hot with a mean January temperature of 22.3°, but temperatures fall to cool in the evenings. Rainfall is good during the growing season (297mm).
Much to do and see
The wine industry in Rutherglen has been at the forefront of promoting the region as a food and wine lovers’ destination. There are over 15 cellar doors, winery restaurants and cafés and accommodation throughout the vineyards. The region is also a buzz with celebrations vinous throughout the year - the Tastes of Rutherglen festival in March and Winery Walkabout in June. There are also major events held at individual wineries throughout the year such as concerts, plays, poetry readings, picnics, lunches and dinners at All Saints, Buller Wines, Campbells, Cofield and Pfieffer Wines.
Cycling is one of the best ways of getting around the region and with the completion of the new 8.8km Wahgunyah to Rutherglen rail trail, bike riders are able to cellar door hop and work up appetites for the region's fare at restaurants and cafes. This short trail in the heart of the vineyard country is linked to the North East Victoria rail trail network that runs between Wangaratta and Bright.
In its history is the essence and style of the Rutherglen Wine Region. Old vines, aged wines, up to five generations in the wine industry, preserved 19th century architecture and townscapes and good old fashioned hospitality. A place to see and savour.
Harvest time: mid March to late April
Cyclists at Campbells Wines -
take the dedicated bike track
Sites with more information: