Appreciate the country charm and intensely flavoured reds of the vibrant Heathcote wine region.
Heathcote’s shiraz is one of a kind, known for its rich colour, natural acidity and texture. Red wine enthusiasts can certainly get their fill, as shiraz and cabernet sauvignon are the area’s main plantings. While these crimson-purple grapes may steal the show, the region’s producers are also having success with Italian and Spanish varieties including tempranillo, Mataro, grenache, sangiovese, nero d’Avola and nebbiolo.
Visitors will find a small selection of top-notch cellar doors, many set within tranquil bushland settings reminiscent of the region’s past. Heathcote has a reputation not only for wine, but also for natural wonders such as the Pink Cliffs Reserve and the Heathcote-Graytown National Park. It’s an hour and a half drive from the not-too-distant Melbourne skyline, but travellers will feel a world away from the hustle of the city.
James Halliday on Heathcote
As with elsewhere in central Victoria, in Heathcote wine followed gold in the 1860s. The vineyards were not as numerous as might have been expected and, with one remarkable exception, were wiped out by phylloxera prior to the end of the 19th century. The one vineyard to survive was planted in the eye of the phylloxera storm in 1891, at Majors Creek near Graytown by Baptista Governa, and is now owned by district veteran winemaker David Traeger.
The last-minute excision of Heathcote from the proposed Bendigo region provoked more angst and argument from the potential winegrowers of Heathcote than it did from Bendigo, which lost one of the most exciting new areas in the whole of Australia. The argument from within Heathcote was a familiar one: where should the boundaries be drawn?
The western side was effectively the eastern boundary of Bendigo, the Siamese-twin join now to be sundered. The question was how far north, south and east should Heathcote’s boundaries extend. In a minor way, it was a mirror image of the Coonawarra boundary dispute between those who had been there longest and adventitious newcomers, in turn focused on the dark red Cambrian soil that so distinguishes this outstanding region. Unlike Coonawarra, the dispute did not get locked in lengthy and expensive court battles, and the extended boundaries were adopted.
The Cambrian red soil deposits start 20 kilometres south-east of the town of Heathcote, continuing south of the town before immediately turning north and running along the Mount Ida Range and thereafter Mount Camel Range for a distance of more than 60 kilometres, passing Colbinabbin.
Viewed from the air, the red soil country is a spectacular scene: square or oblong patterns of vivid red alternating with verdant green rows of vines, as the planting of new vineyards continues. On the ground, the slopes of the Mount Camel Range are equally impressive, and it is easy to see why land values have soared.
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Mid March to early May