Winemaking in Australia is going from strength to strength. Each year brings with it more international recognition, more awards, and more importantly, fabulous homegrown wines. Not traditionally known for its wine-growing, Queensland is moving up in the wine world thanks to the hard work and innovation of local winemakers. We caught up with some of the Sunshine State’s vino VIPs to see what they have in store for us this year.
The Granite Belt | 2h45m from Brisbane
The Granite Belt is currently ranked number five in Australian wine regions, but they will be top of the list if Mike Hayes of Symphony Hill has anything to do with it. In 2017, Mike was named Australian Winemaker of the Year, the first Queenslander to be given this accolade.
“I have been involved in the wine industry in one way or another for nearly forty years,” Mike told Style. “I love being a winemaker because you are looking at the whole process. Everyone talks a lot about winemakers, but the real hero is the vineyard. That is the real winemaker.”
Just three hours from Brisbane, the Granite Belt is known for being an experimental and open-minded region; trialling emerging grape varieties and making small batches of intricately grown wines.
“We steer away from the heavy alcohol levels of the jammy shiraz and the overly oaky chardonnays, instead experimenting with new and exciting varieties from Portugal, Russia and Georgia to name but a few.”
The Granite Belt has an almost unique setting due to the altitude (600 – 1,000 metres) and soil composition. Made up of decomposed granite, volcanic rock and slate, the acidic soil allows the winemakers to produce wine with natural longevity.
“The Granite Belt produces elegant, balanced and delicate wines. Unlike other places in Queensland, we get four distinct seasons up here, which is a big part of it. In the autumn the leaves fall, in the winter the vines shut down completely, in spring the buds form and in summer the fruit develops.”
The standout feature, Mike says will be the resilience of the region to climate change. Where some coastal wine regions might see an increase of up to six or seven degrees and increasingly unstable weather over the next 75 – 100 years, the Granite belt is predicted to have less than one-degree increase in temperature.
This year you should be drinking: Tempranillo and Fiano.
Right now, you should be cellaring: Saperavi and Vermentino.
If you can only drink one wine for the rest of your life make it: The award-winning Symphony Hill Gewurztraminer.
South Burnett | 3h from Brisbane
Only a few decades old, the South Burnett region is blossoming due to the hard work and dedication of a handful of boutique vineyards that make up the South Burnett Wine Trail. Jason Kinsella and his family planted their vineyard in Murgon over 20 years ago. Fast forward two decades and it is now the much-loved Moffatdale Ridge winery.
“We planted our vineyard because we wanted to make our family farm sustainable and build a generational business which would benefit our community and our region. Verdelho has become our passion and our obsession because it partners perfectly with Queensland’s amazing seafood,” Jason told Style.
Although the South Burnett Region is perhaps best known for its Verdelho, Jason believes that rosé will continue to rise in popularity and that emerging varieties such as nero d’ avola, nebbiolo and vermintino will be the next big thing for them.
“South Burnett has the perfect climate to grow Mediterranean varieties which are becoming increasingly popular. Our region is becoming the beneficiary of climate change as the years progress our fruit is ripening earlier and avoiding our usual wet season starting at the end of January.”
Wines from this sub-tropical region of Queensland are made to be enjoyed in warmer weather which makes them popular in the Chinese and wider Asian markets. As climate change takes hold, Jason believes that regions such as South Burnett will become more and more popular.
“In the next 10 years, I would hope that larger wine brands based in more traditional southern regions recognise the potential to use Queensland as a training ground to learn how to work with climate change and grow new varietals which are gaining popularity.”
This year you should be drinking: Verdelho.
Right now, you should be cellaring: Tempranillo.
If you can only drink one wine for the rest of your life make it: Moffatdale Ridge Verdelho.
The Scenic Rim | 45 mins from Brisbane
The Scenic Rim is less than an hour drive from the city and cannot be defined by a single grape variety, according to Paradine Estate Wines’ Viticulturist Paul Harris. There is a pour to suit every taste from the regions range of smaller boutique vineyards, specialising in diversity.
“We are a warm climate region. So we have a different selection of wines available,” said Paul. “The Scenic Rim is the food basket of Brisbane. The soils here are wonderful for growing almost anything. There are veggie farms everywhere.”
Paul puts the bigger flavours, beautiful aromas and lasting tannins of the Scenic Rim wines down to the warm climate, good rainfall, lots of sun while the grapes are growing and mixture of red and black soil in the region.
“We only have to fertilise once a year to replace a few elements, whereas most places, like Europe, have to fertilise at least two to four times a year. Using less chemical fertilisers results in a smoother, fuller flavoured wine.”
As well as the benefits that come from the excellent growing conditions there are also challenges.
“Depending on the weather, I’m battling humidity and mildew, and like all gardeners, weeds. They grow faster than the vines. So looking after the vines here at Paradine is intense between July to picking in January. Because everything is done by hand, there are no shortcuts and you have to have the passion for it. It is hard work up here, but the rewards are huge.”
Paul is always asked how he, John (the winemaker) and Chris (the owner) make such great wines in such a harsh environment.
“The Australian wine industry has done so much research into it winemaking over the years. That’s why we are among the best in the world. Australian viticulturists and winemakers are always being headhunted by overseas vineyards. They want to know what we know.”
Using this knowledge, the team at Paradine assess the fruit when it is picked to decide what type of wine they will create.
“While we might have an idea before the pick. It’s not until that moment we can taste and smell the season’s work that we decide on the aromas and flavours we want to achieve.”
While fairly popular, not that many Brisbanites are familiar with the area and the Scenic Rim is growing as more people discover the region. Each year it has more and more magnificent restaurants serving local produce, as well as more boutique wineries opening.
This year you should be drinking: Mourvedre and Vermentino.
Right now, you should be cellaring: Cabernet Sauvignon and Mourvedre.
If you can only drink one wine for the rest of your life make it: Paradine Estate 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon.
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