In the northern hilltops of New South Wales, New England is a cool-climate region of lush terrain and vineyards producing elegant wine styles.
New England once held some of Australia’s early viticulture plantings from the penal colony era of the early 19th century. Although the grapes produced in this area have long been regarded for their quality, modern-day wine pioneers are resurging the oenology scene and experimenting with styles that thrive in the cooler temperatures in a variety of soils. One of the leading varieties grown in New England is chardonnay, known for its stone fruit and citrus qualities, but other plantings include riesling, pinot noir and shiraz, plus a range of alternative styles.
Trek further into the region for an unhurried country experience and discover spectacular views and beauty throughout the New England National Park. Explore dense vegetation in the Gondwana rainforest, and experience the pristine wilderness with multiple walking tracks and camping options.
James Halliday on New England
It is easy to understand why the first graziers in the region should have called it New England. The summer rainfall ensures the gently rolling hills of the main tableland section are lush and green, interspersed with creeks and rivers.
In 1818 George Wyndham, already established at Dalwood in the Hunter Valley, successfully applied for a 12,000 hectare holding at Bukkulla, and a 40,000 hectare run near Inverell named Nullamanna, then the outermost settled land in New South Wales.
In 1841 he duly established a vineyard, which produced substantial quantities of wine, mainly for blending with the lighter wines of Dalwood. A small quantity of Bukkulla’s wines were also exported (in barrel) to England.
Vineyards proliferated, and by 1882, the Sydney Mail on 24 June of that year described Inverell as ‘one of the foremost wine producing neighbourhoods in the colony’. There were 30 vineyards in production, the three largest being Bukkulla, Beaulieu and Roslyn, winning medals from as far afield as Bordeaux, Paris, London, Amsterdam and Calcutta.
In an all too familiar story, the wineries progressively went out of production in the first half of the 20th century as the removal of tariffs in the wake of Federation, and the outbreak of the World War I bit hard. The Australia-wide swing from table to fortified wine also had an impact here, as in other parts of New South Wales. Fire, frost and very high transport costs all added to the difficulties, and the last winery ceased operating in the World War II.
In 1968 Dr Keith Whish planted a vineyard, and brought the cycle to a full turn by obtaining his cuttings from Penfolds’ Dalwood Vineyard. He named the vineyard Gilgai (a nearby town), eventually expanding it to six hectares, but was a lone soldier until the 1990s.
29°14’S (Glen Innes)
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Early March to early April