The rugged maritime wine region of South Australia’s Mount Benson is producing a new wave of robust red and white wines. Part of the greater Limestone Coast region, this relatively new wine region’s rich soils are proving an ideal home for a range of maturing vines.
From the gently undulating landscape overlooking the Southern Ocean from a scattering of hidden vineyards, this region’s small-scale winemaking scene is enjoying quiet success. Welcoming, relaxed cellar doors commonly provide the opportunity to chat about the wine directly with the estate’s winemaker or vigneron.
The lead wine styles from Mount Benson include shiraz, cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay, the special soils and temperate climate contributing to the intensity of characters found in the fruit grown here.
This coastal hub makes the perfect getaway, whether to taste its wines, sample its seafood or relax by the water's edge. The drive from Adelaide to Mount Benson takes about three and a half hours.
James Halliday on Mount Benson
The plantings here at Mount Benson and at nearby Robe are among the most recent in Australia, and there was no history of viticulture prior to 1989. But the potential is exciting, notwithstanding the lack of prior experience and some teething problems with frost (chiefly in Mount Benson) and wind.
So far, at least, access to the vast underground watertable of the south-east has not been restricted, nor is salinity yet a problem. One day the situation may change; if it does, the viticultural wheel may turn full circle, and we shall see dryland, unirrigated vineyards in production again.
But that day is a long way off. In the mean- time the relatively sparse landscape, formerly home to sheep but little else, will continue to blossom with the spread of verdant vineyards among the bleached, brown summer grasses. Only the charming seaside town of Robe, 20 kilometres to the south of Mount Benson, with its fleet of crayfishing boats, provides much for the tourist. But it alone is sufficient reason to make the hour’s drive across from Coonawarra and see the region first-hand.
The first vines were planted in 1989 by Peter and Leah Wehl, gradually extending to 24 hectares of Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and (eventually) a little Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc. Derek Hooper of Cape Jaffa followed next, in 1993.
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Late March to late April