The infamous Glenrowan region that brought Ned Kelly and his gang to their knees has an equally historic viticultural history, but its story is of a more refined nature.
Legend argues it was before the famed bushranger’s law-defying days that the first vineyards were planted, and now boasts some of the oldest plantings in north-east Victoria. Wine devotees will enjoy a boutique collection of full-bodied reds, with an emphasis on quality throughout the region. Initially building its reputation on fortified wines, the zone has since diversified with other varieties, including cabernet sauvignon and the ever-popular shiraz. The area also has several orchards producing cherries, nectarines, peaches and strawberries.
The region sits north-east of Melbourne and travellers can expect to arrive in well under a three-hour drive. Stretch the legs and wander the mostly unchanged countryside where the Kelly siege took place, or head further inland to the Warby-Ovens National Park for a natural display of native birds and other wildlife.
James Halliday on Glenrowan
This is Ned Kelly country, as immersed in history as Rutherglen, but with an added touch of romance from the days of the bushrangers. The feel of the country, too, is subtly different, flanked as it is by the Warby Range on the eastern side and Lake Mokoan on the south-western side.
In an oft-repeated story, vines here followed in the footsteps of gold. Richard Bailey and family settled near Glenrowan in the early 1860s, operating the first store in the town to supply the Beechworth and Ovens gold miners. When the gold ran out, they turned to farming on their property Bundarra at the southern foot of the Warby Range.
In 1866, son Varley Bailey planted vines to supplement the grazing activities on the farm, choosing the rich, red granite soil found on part of the property. The first vintage was made in 1870 and demand for the wines – particularly fortified – led to significant expansion of the plantings. By 1892 the wines were sold locally, in Melbourne and exported to England.
Varley Bailey replaced the old slab cellar with concrete cellars, which are still in use today. He died in 1931. His son Alan Bailey ran the winery, using the same techniques as his father and grandfather, until 1972 when it was sold to Davis Gelatine (a story in itself); it is now part of Fosters Wine Estates.
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