Wander the wineries of Rutherglen to taste liquid history in the region’s luscious fortified and red wines, with many cellar doors retaining their heritage facades. Rutherglen’s rich past is a part of its charm, but that’s not to underestimate its repertoire.
Head for Victoria’s High Country to soak up its scenery, unique character and bountiful produce. Within a three-hour drive north-east of Melbourne lies a spoil of wines styles and incredible food, where historic, family-operated wineries are the norm. Key varieties include durif, shiraz, muscat and topaque, and Rutherglen’s long-lived, world-famous fortified wines are, of course, a must-try.
Visitors can also pedal to produce along the region’s rail trails, stopping to sample local olives, chocolates, cheeses and fruits. Throw down a rug and picnic in the gardens or relax at a peaceful camping spot.
James Halliday on Rutherglen
This is a part of Australia steeped in history, with character and personality second to none. One of the first vignerons in the north-east was Lindsay Brown, who took up the Gooramadda run in 1839. Gold came later, but Brown was convinced there was greater (and surer) wealth in viticulture. Victoria’s great wine historian and chronicler Hubert de Castella recorded Brown saying: “To get gold, you need sink only about 18 inches and plant vines.
As in so much of Victoria, gold and vines remained intertwined during the extraordinary boom days of 1860 to 1893 – with Ned Kelly and the Murray River providing local colour – each in a different way facilitating the flow of wealth. The bank crash of 1893 and the onset of phylloxera then struck hard at what had become Victoria’s most important wine-producing region, but it had the resilience to survive.
Right from the outset it was obvious the shimmering heat of the summer days, not to mention the acid-retention counterbalance of the cold nights, were ideally suited to the production of full-bodied red wines and even more to fortified wines. For reasons that are lost in the mists of time the emphasis fell on muscat and tokay, but the significance of the red table wine market that the region developed in the United Kingdom cannot be overemphasised.
It was this market that led to the establishment of the three great vineyards and wineries of the region: Mount Ophir (280 hectares), Fairfield (250 hectares) and Graham’s (also 250 hectares). These produced massive quantities of both heavy table and fortified wine, most of which was exported in barrel to the United Kingdom. They survived the Second World War, sustained by the local market, and re-established their export franchise at its conclusion, but the shift away from fortified wine (and heavy table wine) led to their demise in the second half of the 1950s.
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|Growing Season Rainfall||
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End February to early May