Bendigo’s wine territory was founded in Victoria’s gold-rush era, and now the region is a gold mine for dense, crimson grape varieties.
Red is the dominant colour in the Bendigo wine region, with varieties including shiraz, cabernet sauvignon and merlot taking preference in the vineyard. However, that’s not to say the soil doesn’t nurture lighter white fruits, but the thick vines indeed thrive under the dry heat of the sun and mild winters.
Discover the many cellar doors hidden throughout the valley for an array of wines and dining temptations. The rejuvenation of the vinicultural scene is fairly recent compared to other Australian areas, but it’s a region on the rise with highly acclaimed wines to its name.
As well as its thriving wine industry, the region boasts a vibrant arts and culture scene that manifests itself in street monuments, contemporary galleries and intriguing laneways, and diverse eating experiences. If you’re coming from Melbourne it’s a comfortable two-hour drive north, or sit back and relax on a train journey that directly links travellers from the CBD to the still-booming Goldfields.
James Halliday on Bendigo
Whether vines preceded or followed the discovery of gold at the end of 1851 is not clear, but in 1864 there were more than 40 vineyards in the Bendigo region. By 1880, 216 hectares supported more than 100 wineries – a term which one must suppose included a lean-to at the back of a house containing a few wine barrels and a motley assortment of Heath Robinson- inspired pieces of winemaking equipment.
Phylloxera heralded a brutal end to winemaking when it arrived in 1893, but no doubt the bank crash of the same year and the move in popular taste to fortified wines also played their part in the cessation of winemaking in the region.
A gap of more than 60 years followed until Bendigo pharmacist Stuart Anderson planted vines at Balgownie in 1969, and within five years had captured the imagination of wine drinkers from Melbourne to Sydney with his startling red wines – wines with a colour, character and strength which were to set the pace for the many who followed in his path.
The eucalypt-forested countryside is undulating, with small, generally dry creek beds relatively common, but with little significant variation in altitude. Some care is needed in site selection to minimise the risk of spring frost, but the major limitation for viticulture is the absence of readily available water for irrigation.
This is red wine country first, second and last, with red grapes accounting for 86 per cent of the regional crush. In turn, shiraz provides 66 per cent of the red grape total, with cabernet sauvignon at 22 per cent. There are few other regions in Australia where there is such a disparity between the white and red crush.
There is no reason to suppose this pattern will change in the foreseeable future. The Italian designer varietals are represented by sangiovese, zinfandel and nebbiolo; the other four varieties are Bordeaux-style blend mates for cabernet sauvignon: merlot, cabernet franc, malbec and petit verdot. In absolute tonnage terms the latter three of these varieties are insignificant compared with shiraz and cabernet sauvignon. Sangiovese may prove the (smallish) dark horse.
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