The granite-rich Strathbogie Ranges, with its dramatic rocky setting, is excelling at elegant wine styles.
Rocky outcrops and waterfalls form the backdrop to the region’s fresh and aromatic wines. However, the Strathbogie Ranges has a different story to the rest of Victoria, with a more recent winemaking history that dates back to the 1970s.
The region’s varying altitudes and diverse landscape are reflected in the wine styles. The area produces medium-bodied shiraz and pinot noir, and in more elevated areas varieties such as chardonnay and sauvignon blanc are flourishing.
Like many of the towns across central Victoria, they may have once drawn hordes of ambitious gold miners, but today it’s the wine that brings the crowds and deservedly so. Visit the Strathbogie Ranges over a weekend and you’ll likely be able to visit one of the monthly markets. Violet Town, Avenel, Euroa and Nagambie Lakes each host their own markets on various Saturdays throughout the month, showcasing some of the region’s best producers in the one spot.
James Halliday on the Strathbogie Ranges
The Strathbogie Ranges remains a sparsely populated region, without a single town of any significance other, perhaps, than that of Strathbogie itself. It is an open, windswept place, the original forest felled during the 19th century for large-scale grazing and thereafter to provide sleepers for the Melbourne to Sydney railway line.
There is scant record of any early viticulture, the only exception being a vineyard established near Longwood in 1900 by the Tubbs family, which made table and fortified wine, later to disappear without a trace.
The modern era began tentatively in 1968 when a local grazing family, the Plunketts, planted an experimental vineyard of a little over a hectare with no less than 25 varieties. The first commercial venture was that of Dr Peter Tisdall who, after extensive climatic M31 Avenel research, in 1975 purchased the property that became Mount Helen. He planted 13 hectares of chardonnay, eight hectares each of pinot noir and cabernet sauvignon, six hectares of riesling, five hectares of sauvignon blanc and four hectares of traminer.
Given that the vineyard has had a chequered history in the late 1990s, and that the Mount Helen brand has long disappeared, its early success is quite remarkable. The 1979 Mount Helen Cabernet Sauvignon won the coveted Stodart Trophy for Best One Year Old Red at the Royal Brisbane Show, and three other capital city gold medals. The 1980 Cabernet Merlot topped its class at the 1981 Royal Canberra National Wine Show, which Chairman of Judges Len Evans described as ‘one of the strongest classes of young red wines we have seen for 20 years.
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Mid March to mid May
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