When asked to list our best wine growing regions, people will generally mention the Barossa Valley, Adelaide Hills or the Hunter Valley, but we’re here to tell you why Heathcote is the hidden gem of Australian wine growing regions. (Hint: their wine is amazing).
Why is the Heathcote wine region so special?
Located to the north of the Great Dividing Range, Heathcote is a hidden gem amongst Australia’s more famous wine growing regions. With elevations between 160 - 380 metres, the majority of the soil is Cambrian. For those of us who forgot to get a degree in horticulture, that means the soil is red and deep, with excellent water retention.
These calcium-rich red soils are made up of weathered “greenstone” and, while they drain freely, enough water is retained to feed the vine throughout the growing season, so there is rarely any need for irrigation - in a dry country like Australia, this is really important. Elevation also plays a role, as do the cool winds from south Heathcote.
Summers are also comparatively mild, resulting in an extended growing season - an exciting prospect for wine lovers. The ripening of the grapes is slow and steady, allowing for optimum phenolic development. If you also happen to lack a degree in viticulture, this is a fancy way of saying that the colour and flavour are of the highest quality.
Heathcote’s rich history as a wine growing region
Heathcote shares a similar history with the rest of inland Victoria, which is the story of the early settlers in the 1860s who came in enthusiastic search of gold. While for some the gold rush was lucrative, others lucked out and found their fortune in farming the rich and fertile soils characteristic of the region instead.
Most of those intrepid fortune hunters were from Europe, and it wasn’t long before the potential of the land for growing grapes was discovered; with acres of vines planted for wine making. A hundred years later the area finally made its mark on the national wine scene, and today there are over 40 wineries and 70 vineyards in the region.
World-class wine from the Heathcote region
Heathcote makes some of the finest shiraz produced anywhere in Australia, and - not to be forgotten - cabernet sauvignon is the second most important red grape in the region. Merlot is mainly used as a blending component with the cabernet, and there is a rich spectrum of alternative red grape varieties that showcases the region’s ethnic diversity.
In true Australian style, we do a fine job of outclassing our larger overseas equivalents when it comes to wine making, and Heathcote also produces the Italian Nebbiolo and Sangiovese varieties, as well as the Spanish Tempranillo and Viognier. Not to be forgotten are two other Rhone varieties - the Marsanne and Roussanne.
Discover five the best wineries in Heathcote
There are so many amazing wineries in the Heathcote region that it’s hard to single just five of them out for special attention. You can use this list as a starting point to explore all the wonderful vineyards and wineries that the region has to offer.
Jasper Hill was established by Ron and Elva Laughton in 1982, and has been run as a family business ever since. Their aim is to make great wine with minimal intervention, preserving the balance of natural flavours by interfering as little as possible.
Heathcote Estate was planted in 1999 on the ancient Cambrian soils that define the heart of the region. It was established with the objective to make one wine - a single vineyard shiraz - and has forged a reputation for wines of exceptional character.
Established in 1997 by Gary and Cynthia harbour, McIvor Estate is set amongst the rolling hills of the Great Dividing Range. The vineyard and olive grove are modelled after a traditional Italian mixed farm, in homage to Cynthia's rich Italian heritage.
The Sutton Grange vineyard is cultivated using organic and biodynamic methods, and the wines are traditionally handcrafted by winemaker Melanie Chester. The wines combine distinctive style and interpretation with organically grown estate fruit.
Tellurian Wines Tellurian was born from Ian Hopkin's passion for Heathcote shiraz. Offered the opportunity to partner in a vineyard on the Mount Camel range in 2002, the end result is fine wine from Heathcote's 550 million-year-old Cambrian soils.
Which Heathcote wines do you love? Are you a shiraz fan, or do you prefer a crisp glass of sparkling white? Let us know on our Facebook page. We love to talk wine.