Henty may have built its fame on merino sheep and the wool industry, but today it’s an equally sweet spot for sampling premium wines.
Travellers seizing the longer route for an extended adventure along the Great Ocean Road will be well rewarded with a stopover in the Henty wine region. The township itself doesn’t boast an enormous population or infrastructure, but what it lacks in residential size, it makes up for in the elegant vintages annually produced. The plantings are considered part of the coolest inland climates of any Australian wine region, which is why varieties such as riesling, chardonnay and pinot noir thrive here, with comparable growing seasons to Germany’s Rhine Valley and France’s Burgundy.
Like most of western Victoria, the undulating terrain and extended country plains make for incredibly relaxing scenery, promising an experience worth the detour. Henty provides the same gilt as other wine-focused getaways.
James Halliday on Henty
Previously (unofficially) known as Drumborg or far south-west Victoria, the name adopted at the time of GI registration honours Edward Henty, the first permanent settler in what was to become the colony of Victoria. He landed at Portland Bay in November 1834, bringing merino sheep and vines from Tasmania. While he presumably planted the vines, they disappeared without trace, but the sheep flourished. Henty is ideal grazing country, gently undulating, the grass staying green for much of the year in normal seasons.
One hundred and thirty years were to elapse before Karl Seppelt identified what was then known as Keppoch (now Padthaway) and Drumborg as promising cool-climate viticulture sites. Grazier John Thompson was the next to plant vines in 1975, seeking to diversify his farming activities, doing so with great success. While the climate is one of the coolest on the Australian mainland, and poses real challenges in cooler vintages, the region can produce wines of quite marvellous intensity, elegance and finesse.
When Seppelt planted the first 60 hectares of its 100-hectare vineyard, knowledge of cool-climate viticulture was minimal. Almost inevitably, wrong varieties and wrong vine training techniques were employed, and there were times when it seemed possible Seppelt would sell or abandon the vineyard. Times have changed; given the suitability of the various soils in the region, the generous amounts of high-quality water available, and the still-modest land prices, it would not surprise to see major new entrants in the coming decades.
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Mid March to mid May