This historic Sunbury wine region tends to fly under the radar, but thanks to its pioneering vignerons, its styles are worth exploring, particularly its benchmark shiraz.
As one of Victoria’s oldest wine regions, Sunbury surprises as being just a half-hour drive north of Melbourne Airport. Sunbury’s climate and distinctive soils produce elegant wine styles, with vines dating back to the 1850s. And although shiraz is the region’s trademark grape, other varieties like chardonnay, riesling and semillon grow particularly well in its cool, dry climate. Buy a few extra of your favourite styles to cellar, as Sunbury’s premium wines promise to age gracefully.
Sunbury’s wines combine with a line-up of top eateries, which invite taking a break between cellar door tastings. Uncover more of Sunbury's rich and varied past on a historical tour through the region, or take your tea with jam and scones in heritage gardens and explore beautiful parklands.
James Halliday on Sunbury
While a relatively small region, Sunbury has a marvellously rich history, some of which has been miraculously preserved. In 1858, James Goodall Francis, a former Victorian Premier, planted the first vines at Goona Warra – an Aboriginal name chosen long before Coonawarra was even a twinkle in John Riddoch’s eye. He subsequently built a magnificent bluestone winery, and while winemaking ceased there in the early 1900s, the buildings were preserved. In 1982, Goona Warra was purchased by Melbourne lawyer John Barnier and family, and brought back to life with estate vineyards, winery and restaurant.
James S. Johnstone followed quickly in the footsteps of Francis, establishing Craiglee in 1864. A fellow parliamentarian, he also established the Argus newspaper, and in 1872 made a shiraz which I have been lucky enough to taste on several occasions – bottles from a cache long forgotten and unearthed in the 1950s. Still with remarkable life and vinosity, they were a powerful testament to the suitability of the region for the production of elegant but long-lived shiraz.
The four-storey stone winery remains at Craiglee, but in this instance public health bureaucracy has decreed that Pat Carmody (whose family purchased the property in 1961, 40 years after wine production had ceased, and re-established the vineyard in 1976) should have to make the wine in a new building. This, it must be said, has not prevented him from making the best and most consistent wines from the region, most notably the multi- trophy-winning Craiglee Shiraz.
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Late March to early May