THE ORANGE REGION: EXPLORE AUSTRALIA'S COOL-CLIMATE WINES
Orange abounds in cool-climate wines, family-run cellar doors and a thriving food scene. A pleasant 250km drive through the charming Blue Mountains sets an idyllic route for Sydneysiders — a breezy weekend getaway accompanied with quality wines. And after enjoying benchmark chardonnays, fruit-forward sauvignon blancs, and distinctive reds and blends, you can also explore the delightful town.
The Orange region is widely commended for their production of fruits — namely apples, pears, cherries and wine grapes. In the 1940s, an experimental viticulture station was established, although the first commercial vines were planted in 1980 at Bloodwood, which remains a prime producer. Since then, many wineries have been established, and many remain family-owned.
CLIMATE AND SOIL
The Orange region’s producers benefit greatly from the cool climate and high altitude – some of the highest in Australia. James Halliday states that the region is “dominated by Mount Canobolas, which provides the high-altitude slopes and hence the cool climate; the volcanic basalt from which the soils have evolved; and the spectacular panoramic views which many of the vineyards enjoy”. Overall, James describes the Orange region as having “mild to warm midsummer temperatures, seldom rising above 32 degrees celsius, offset by cool to very cool nights during the growing season”. Winds through the area are welcome come spring, although they can sometimes disturb the fruit-set on more sensitive varieties. When talking soils, they can be grouped into four categories: well-drained, friable, deep red-brown clays; deep-red-brown/yellow-brown clay loams of mixed origin; red-brown podzolic medium-vigour clay loam and lower elevation patches of terra rossa with limestone.
Many of the region's wines are exotic and distinguished, with James saying they possess “elegance and fine-boned intensity across all styles”. Shiraz flourishes, as do cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, merlot, sauvignon blanc, riesling, pinot noir and pinot gris.
Chardonnay is the most prominent white grape variety and performs remarkably well across varying elevations. The region’s cool-climate styles are renowned for being “ultra-fine, slow-developing citrus-and-cashew style”, according to James Halliday.
Sauvignon blanc thrives here thanks to the region’s cool, high conditions. When grown at levels above 750 metres, it can offer pronounced tropical flavours including passionfruit, lychee and papaya. Tougher soils produce sauvignon blancs with a “herbaceous character that complements the strong fruit flavours”, as James describes.
Standing tall as the most widely grown grape variety, shiraz was more recently planted and has matured with great vitality. Equal parts exotic dark berries and enduring spices are included among its characteristics, with James believing that the style lends itself to the incorporation of a little viognier, but regardless of this, the “key word is elegance”. Remarkable examples abound, and are highly rated.
Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot
Mostly blended, but at times produced as single varieties, cabernet sauvignon and merlot are of medium body with fine tannins. James describes their flavours as running the gamut of the sappy/briary/herbaceous/earth spectrum “though with some dark berry sweetness, of course”.
Pinot noir is produced in limited quantities. It’s often light-bodied with red and dark cherry fruit flavours, and aromas offering a melange of spices.
*All wine styles and James Halliday quotes included within this article are taken from James Halliday's Wine Atlas of Australia. This title is available nationally and you can find a list of stockists here. If you would prefer a digital copy, you can purchase the ebook version here.
** Image source 1: Evolving Images, Destination NSW
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Mid-March to early May