Fabulous Granite Belt Wineries, Australia - Unique Wines, Great Food
Granite Belt Wine Region - Cool Climate Queensland Wines
The Granite Belt wine region is a surprise to many Australians and International travelers – Wineries in the Sunshine State of Queensland – How can that be? Queensland is normally associated with beaches, surfing, sunshine, the Great Barrier Reef and Tropical rain forests.
It must be far too hot for grapes and vineyards! But, as many people are discovering there are fabulous wineries in Queensland that offer unique wines, based on the unique terroir of the Granite Belt Region.
This area is located in the far south of the state close to the border with New South Wales, and its unique feature is altitude (as well as attitude!). The main town of Stanthorpe, located on the rugged Great Dividing Range, is about 750 m above sea level and about 100 km inland from the coast.
Cool Climate @ Altitude Wines with Attitude
Many of the wineries are close to altitudes of 600 - 1500 m. The vineyards, olive groves and fruit orchards of the Granite Belt are amongst those with highest altitude in Australia. The area is dotted with granite boulders, magnificent waterfalls and National Parks. The Granite Belt Region has the following unique features:
- Its northerly latitude, position on the western side of the range and its elevation tends to create clear winter nights leading to heavy winter frosts. Warm sunny days during the ripening period produce intense flavored pears, apples and many stone fruit varieties and grapes.
- The decomposed granite soils intermingled with granite boulders, create unique soils for Queensland's most awarded wines.
- Late frosts can damage crops during spring, but the rainfall peak is in summer between December and March and the harvest season is generally dry
- Cold nights and Spring frosts at either the start and end of the growing season, peak summer temperatures, relatively high humidity and occasional heavy late seasonal rainfall all contribute to the area's unique and challenging climate for grape growers. The cool winter and dry warm, but not too hot summer weather generates a slow ripening process which produces outstanding full-fruit flavors and varietal character. The granite soils are well drained and generally sandy-loam, which are ideal for viticulture. Some vignerons claim that the mineral content of the soil gives the wine a ‘flinty’ character reflecting the origin of the soils from the local granite.
Presently over 1,600 tonnes of grapes are harvested and processed into fine from the region's vineyards, with most of the 50 + having cellar doors or restaurants. The area also has a fabulous range of fresh produce including stone fruits, olives, apples and berries. Recently there several Lavender farms have been developed together with homemade chocolates. Fresh vegetables are sold at the many farmers markets that are held at many villages throughout the region.
There is excellent accommodation and many popular regional events and festivals for visitors to enjoy. The region is an ideal weekend destination and day-trip adventure from the Gold Coast, Brisbane and the North Coast of New South Wales (Byron Bay and Coffs Harbour ). The local wine tours run by many operators from Brisbane and the gold coast and locally are a fantastic way to meet and get information from the vineyard managers and vignerons, who craft award winning wines at their own cellar doors. The region is small enough to remain interesting and personal. Meet with the wineries owners and managers, find out about the local terroir and processes, and enjoy tasting the local wines with the owner's advice and information. You can also enjoy taking a guided tour of the vineyard. The oddly named 'Strange Bird Alternative Wine Trail' showcase the lesser known but exciting new varieties to those who are interested in expanding their knowledge. The Cellar doors are a wonderful mix of small tin sheds, tiny single room cellars to modern purpose built tasting facilities. Many of the wineries have cafes, restaurants and small shops selling a range of local arts and crafts.
One exclusive characteristic of this district is the renowned Queensland College of Wine Tourism, that integrates its own vineyard, winery (Banca Ridge Winery) and a delightful cafe and restaurant. Banca Ridge is the wine industry teaching facility based at the Stanthorpe State High School where the wine industry and teaching are integrated together on the Granite Belt. The Banca Ridge teaching program, won the Education Queensland Showcase Award for Excellence in Innovation in 2005. It supplied the bases for the subsequent development of the Queensland College of Wine Tourism with partnerships from the University and TAFE. The college has a wide range of learning and teaching programs covering the full gambit of subjcets for the wine industry including viticulture, wine production, tourism, marketing and advertising, business studies, hospitality and many related studies. You can visit the centerand learn about the Queensland wine commerce in the tourism center, taste the award-winning wines in the cellar door and enjoy fresh local produce in the winery of the cafe and restaurant, all supported by the college students in their exclusive teaching environment.
The major varieties grown in the Graite Belt are: Shiraz (Syrah), Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Verdelho, Sauvignon Blanc.The Granite Belt Region has put Queensland as a unique location with its own terroir on the Australian wine scene with meticulously crafted boutique wines from small vineyards, with all grapes sources locally. The most famous wineries that have built the outstanding reputation are multi-award winning producers like:
- Robinson's Family Wines is a famous Granite Belt winery producing outstanding Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay based wines.
- Golden Grove Estate showcase an outstanding array of gold and silver medal winning wines with blends of Barbera, Duif and Tempranillo. They also focus on semi-sweet wines and fortified wines.
- Ballandean Estate, which is the oldest family winery in Queensland was established by the Pudlisi family more than 75 years ago. They craft some of the best wines in the region and are renowned for their Reserve Shiraz.
- Summit Estate produces a lovely variety of award winning boutique wines which includes gold medals for their Merlot Cabernet blend and a reserve Shiraz.
- Robert Channon Wines, who have received a huge number of Queensland and Australian awards for their Verdelho and Chardonnay. They have also released a beautiful Sparkling Merlot.
- Other well known wineries are Wild Soul, Mason Vineyard, Pyramid Road Wines, Kominos Wines, Just Red Wines, Back Creek Estate, Symphony Hills Wines, Windermere Wines, Heritage Wines, Whiskey Gully Wines and Ridgemill Estate.
The region has recently experimented with alternative varieties especially the Italian ones such as Nebbiolo and Spanish Tempranillo. Other rarer varieties are Grenache, Marsanne, Rousanne, Vioginer. The region also creates a wonderful range of sweet desert wines, fortified wines and liqueurs. Several wineries, such as Summit Estate Wines produce a wonderful range of fortified wines. Castle Glen Australia are a major producer of port, local liqueurs, hand-made sparkling wine varieties (in the traditional French style) and a range of unique preservative-free wines. Several wineries have mixed enterprises expanding their interest for visitors, with olives and pine nut plantations. The Hi Value Fruit and Berry Garden, the Bramble Patch and many other farms craft a wide selection of fruit and berry based wines.
Many of the wineries host local festivals, music and other events: Ballandean Estate hosts regular jazz, opera and theater events, with 'Jazz in the Vineyard' and 'Opera in the Vineyard' the most well known. There are regular Blues happenings at Lucas Estate and similar music events are hosted at Robert Channon Wines, Rumbalara Estate, Lucas Estate, Kominos Wines, Heritage Wines, Mountview Wines and Whiskey Gully Wines. The Spring Wine Festival is held on the second and third week of October and the Apple and Grape Harvest Festival is held every second year in March.
When you are in the area drop in at the Stanthorpe Visitor Information Center for tour maps and guides. The Center which is open Daily from 9am-5pm (closed Christmas Day and Good Friday).
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© 2012 Dr. John Anderson