Heading south from Bendigo through harsh country side towards brooding Mount Alexander, I can’t help but be amazed by how far removed the reality of the wine growing and making industry is from the perceived romance of wine – and the beautifully presented bottles of hard labour and heartache that grace the shelves of bottle shops with their classy designer labels. Twice today I will hear of a late frost that’s come through after the vines are past bud burst – and the total crop lost.
After visiting Balgownie Estate 5 star winery and Sutton Grange – and tasting some cracking Bendigo Shiraz and brokering deals for our subscribers, I’m on the road further south. Rising up into Daylesford and on to Ballarat the countryside becomes lush, green and productive. From here its north west to the Pyrenees wine region between Avoca and Stawell. Thankfully a navigation mistake places me right outside the door of 3 of Australia’s finest wineries – Dalwhinnie, Taltarni and Summerfield. These are all Halliday 5 red star wineries and Dalwhinnie and Summerfield are ‘double red’ – in the top 100. I visit each and am blown away. After a long meeting with Mark Summerfield, I fail to persuade him to sell us wine wholesale for the advantage of our clients. However, if you ever get the opportunity to buy one of his wines, don’t let it pass.
From here it’s over the Pyrenees ranges. I’m thankful that I am in a hire car! The road is rough, rutted and dusty – and I dodge Kangaroos, lizards and hares. Winding back down the southern side, the countryside opens up and before me is Glenlofty Estate. I meet with the Manager and Vineyard Manager and also a neighbouring grower from Quartz Hill. We sample a number of wines and do a tour of their massive 137 ha vineyard. This is a major vineyard, established by Southcorp, then taken over by Treasury Estate and then sold to current owner Canadian Roger Richmond – Smith. To stand on the top of the hill and view such a large magnificent and varied vineyard – and see 90% of it burnt out with frost and the 2018 vintage destroyed, the heartache is palpable.
As I leave to head back to Melbourne Airport, I reflect on how vast and varied this state is. What I’ve covered is extensive, but hardly touches it – it’s nothing more than a quick overview of what’s to be discovered and enjoyed. I look forward to covering all these areas one by one in depth. And that’s only the beginning. South of here are all the cool climate areas to be explored. What a journey!