The Granite Belt is part of the Southern Queensland Country region, producing exceptional medium-bodied wines, praised for their elegance in style. Home to some of the highest vineyards in Australia (some up to 1000 metres above sea level), this cool climate region enjoys soils simulating those of southern Burgundy, France. Its tall country and delicate mountain breezes make up this unique grape-growing area, and although still a young region, its success has not gone unnoticed. The summer rainfall during vintage time, however, can provide constraints, James Halliday saying that “the Granite Belt is an interesting region” where “the principal drawbacks are spring frosts and vintage-time rainfall.” The region is also crowned as the only spot in Queensland to experience four differing seasons in one year. Although it’s not just diversity and fine wine that puts the Granite Belt so boldly on the map – stunning national parks, gigantic exposed granite rocks, fields of wildflowers, and boutique bush accommodation can also be explored within this spectacular wine region. Tantalise your palate with supreme wines grown from the land here, while also exploring the rare rock formations of Australia, and enjoying moments of pure tranquillity.
The first vines in the Granite Belt were planted in 1965, being one hectare of shiraz grapes. This grape variety seemed to standout most among the rest, and continued to do so over the next 25 years. Some time later, in 1969, John and Heather Robinson established Robinsons Family Vineyards, and in the following year, farmer Angelo Puglisi began Sundown Valley Vineyards, now named Ballandean Estate. A mention must also be granted to the late Sydney-based wine consultant John Stanford, who James Halliday states “became involved in the yearly 1970s, and was something for a Messiah for its potential.”
Climate and soil
The subtropical highland climate of the Granite Belt is dissimilar to any other grape-growing region in Australia, sharing similarities to an oceanic climate. Being high elevated marks the Granite Belt as the coolest part of Queensland, and an ideal growing spot for grapes and other fruits. When winter comes around, temperatures drop to cool, with night-time frost not an unusual sight. Because of this, tourists are attracted to the destination, finding it an ideal holiday spot to cuddle up by a crackling fire. When talking soils, a versatile mix of highly fertile and infertile earth make up the area. In the beginning, the infertile soils (being too sandy or granitic for viticulture to commence) threatened the Granite Belt’s vine potential. However, almost 40 years after the first shiraz vines were planted, the fertile soils flourished with plant life, and the region proved its place in becoming a standout wine region of Australia. James Halliday states that the Granite Belt “is capable of producing grapes and wines of high quality, judged by any standards.”
the Wine styles of granite belt
Throughout the dynamic Granite Belt wine country, red and white varieties grow almost equally: 55% red and 45% white. Shiraz, being the first grapes planted in the region, is the most distinctive wine style, followed by cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, semillon, merlot, sauvignon blanc and verdelho – although sauvignon blanc and merlot are not as prominent as the other grape varietals. They are also especially proud of their alternative varieties – namely chenin blanc, fiano, viognier, sangiovese and nero d’avola.
Shiraz grapes were the first vines planted in the Granite Belt, growing with great vitality, and crafting the region into what it is today. James Halliday says that shiraz “is the one consistently distinctive wine style from the region: dark in colour, strong in body, flavour and tannins; and above all else, redolent of spice when young, but developing soft, sweet velvety fruit with time in bottle.” Shiraz from the Granite Belt resembles examples from the Hunter Valley, both parading blackberry notes, with spices and strong tannins.
Blue and black fruit flavours are at first recognised within cabernet sauvignon from the Granite Belt, which then develop with richness. A full-bodied and full-flavoured wine, showing that warm growing conditions produce top quality cabernet sauvignon. Its vibrancy and wondrous aromas – herbaceous and berry-like – please the nose, with juicy berry fruits entertaining the palate. Structure and length is another key quality of cabernet sauvignon from the Granite Belt.
Both oaked and unoaked chardonnays are equally popular in the Granite Belt region. Smooth chardonnay that shows white stone fruit characteristics is the region’s star example and is acknowledged worldwide for its delicate qualities. These grapes respond exceptionally well in the subtropical climate of the Granite Belt, with its character being clear, and easily distinguishable.
Semillon from the Granite Belt shows tropical fruit flavours at younger years, and when matured, classic honeyed and toasted characteristics come forth. It’s not unusual to recognise capsicum, citrus, and grassy aromas on the nose, and passionfruit immediately on the palate. Other tropical fruits will develop in the mouth some time after. Semillon from the Granite Belt also holds firm acidity.
Verdelho from the Granite Belt presents rounded tropical fruit flavours – including pineapple, passionfruit, lychee and banana. Bright and fresh is its nature, with the creamy qualities of melons subtly lingering, and becoming most apparent after sip. Originating in Portugal, which enjoys warm summer conditions, verdelho lives comfortably in Queensland with similar weather conditions
things to do in the granite belt
Second to fine wine, the serene nature that inhabits the Granite Belt is what draws visitors to the area next. Girraween National Park (‘Girraween’ being an Aboriginal word meaning 'place of flowers') has the densest quantity of wildflowers in Australia that bloom wonderfully thanks to the granite, rocky soils. It’s also where the largest granite rocks in the country can be hiked around as you awe their beauty. Girraween National Park is a truly sacred place, glistening with rare species, both wildlife and botanical, and the best time to visit is late July during wildflower season. If you’re chasing waterfalls, The Main Ridge National Park is where to head. It’s a quiet spot to enjoy lunch on the communal tables placed in various forest areas, and the refreshing splashes that come from Queen Mary Falls are just delightful. Ensure to breathe in the meditative scents of the fragrant eucalypt forest that can also be found close by. If art is what you’re craving, head to the Stanthorpe Regional Art Gallery for a thoughtful day among creativity.
Accommodation in the granite belt
Residing in an environmentally friendly lodge within Girraween National Park will completely enthral you in the stunning nature that surrounds you. At Girraween Environmental Lodge, there are a number of self-contained cabins available, built entirely from recycled goods, and are completely luxurious. The estate contains also an enchanted natural spa space; a place to tiptoe to late at night and watch the dazzling stars of the park sky shine. If you’re seeking optimal luxury, slip into the restful world of Spicers Peak Lodge, where panoramic views and five-star finishes will lead you through a private, intimate stay.
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