Victoria –the Garden State and home to some of the most beautiful and charming countryside that Australia boasts. From the rugged coastline that stretches along the Great Ocean Road to the mountainous Grampians National Park, the landscape is not only vast and varied but stunningly beautiful to boot.
In between the ocean to the south and the sprawling countryside of the north lies many of the most exciting, yet unheralded, wine regions that Australia has to offer. Victorian winegrowers have eschewed the trend of producing large volumes of gluggable-yet-characterless wine, and have instead focussed on quality over quantity.
The most exciting (and most delicious!) wines that are being made in Victoria today are produced in tiny volumes; and they often don’t make it further than either the winery cellar door or the wine lists of the regions’ top restaurants. Sadly, eating out in some of the finest dining rooms in Victoria with any regularity is out of reach for most of us, but exploring the region’s many varied and beautiful cellar doors is a great way to taste and enjoy the finest wines out there. What makes these cellar door experiences even more thrilling is you often get to taste the wines alongside the people responsible for growing the grapes and making the wines. They are often on hand to guide you through their selection, providing you with expert insight into the whole winegrowing experience.
The rustic and historical cellar door of Seppelt wines in the Grampians is a great spot to get a grasp of the historical impact that viticulture has had on Victoria. Steeped in history, the winery boasts the largest underground cellar in the southern hemisphere and a trip around is like looking back into a time long forgotten. Thankfully the wines stack up pretty well too, with the fabulous St Peter’s Shiraz (which is only produced in the best vintages) being one of the most powerfully complex, yet elegant wines being produced right across the state.
The Mornington Peninsula
The picturesque Mornington Peninsula, one hour south-east of Melbourne, is home to not only many of the country’s finest wineries and cellar doors, but also to some of the country’s most spectacular scenery. David Chapman, the super talented winemaker behind the seriously stunning Allies Wines sums things up perfectly:
“The Mornington Peninsula is a winemaker’s dream. Not only is it a beautiful place to live and work, but its cool southerly latitude and maritime climate are perfect partners for producing excellent Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Its compactness belies a diversity of elevations, aspects and soils that contribute to striking wines, with personalities as different as the places they come from.”
Sadly David doesn’t have a cellar door but his wines are definitely worth seeking out. Ten minutes by tractor is another star in the Peninsulas cap, and the charming wines are complemented by a fabulous restaurant on site that serves up scrumptious food to match the ethereal Chardonnay and Pinot Noir that the estate is renowned for producing.
The Bellarine Peninsula
The Bellarine Peninsula, on the other side of Port Philip Bay, couldn’t be more of a contrast to the prettiness of the Morning ton Peninsula. The barren landscape produces sumptuous wines, albeit in a completely different style to the pretty perfumed variety of the Morning Peninsula. Tricky to find, the quaint cellar door at Lethbridge offers a contrasting experience to that of the luxurious surroundings at Ten X, but is equally rewarding. From the moment you sit down at the huge oak table with the owners and start to taste their wines, you can’t help but get caught up in the romantic side of the wine industry.
The Yarra Valley
Heading north-east from Melbourne we come across perhaps the best-known wine region in Victoria, the Yarra Valley. One of the highlights of any trip to the Yarra has to be a visit to the Giant Steps/Innocent Bystander winery where the incredible cellar door serves up stunning wines alongside an incredible array of local produce that titillates the taste buds. One of the newest and most exciting arrivals in Healesville has been the opening of the Graceburn Wine Room run by Mac Forbes, one of the nation’s most exciting and enigmatic winegrowers. The Graceburn acts as Mac’s cellar door and is a great spot to relax and take in the local hospitality.
The Macedon Ranges
Also an hour’s drive north of the Melbourne CBD lies the lovely landscape that is the Macedon Ranges. Llew Knight’s property, Granite Hills, boats a quaint cellar door nestled in amongst the granite boulders that litter the hillsides. It’s a great spot to acquaint yourself with his stunning Rieslings that are renowned for their ability to age wonderfully over many a year. The team behind Passing Clouds has also been producing cracking wines from Macedon of late. Their past saw them forge an enviable reputation for producing deep rich wines from Bendigo which complement the releases from Macedon nicely; all of which can be sampled at their cellar door just outside Daylesford. Passing Clouds winemaker Cameron Leith enthuses at the current state of the industry in Victoria:
“We are blessed in Victoria to have a huge diversity of climates, soils and therefore wines. The traveller can go from the chilly heights of the Macedon Ranges producing world class Sparkling, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay then in under an hour’s drive be amongst gnarly Shiraz vines growing in the dry, Cambrian soils of Heathcote. We have grand wineries and vineyards within a short drive from our capital, or small regions where you do actually meet the winemaker at the cellar door. Victoria offers a terrific opportunity to learn about the wines from those that grow it and to share in their story.”
We haven’t even talked about Heathcote, Beechworth, The King Valley, The upper Goulburn or Henty yet, but the best way for you to explore these regions is to put a few of days aside, jump in the car and explore them for yourselves. Don’t forget that domestic travel can still be expensive, and unforeseen circumstances can cost you dearly. Make sure you always have a nominated driver when travelling between cellars and be sure to take the time to compare some travel insurance for your exploration of Victoria’s wine hot-spots. By doing so, you’ll be able to rest easy as you indulge!