Journals of a wine buyer: Day Four

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!

Wine picks: Taltarni Sangiovese and Glenlofty Cabernet Sauvignon

Journals of a wine buyer: Day Three

Heathcote is Victoria’s premium Shiraz producing region. It is positioned in the heartland of central Victoria – mid way between Shepparton and Bendigo. The countryside is truly Australian – harsh, dry, dusty and has a low rainfall. The conditions here are difficult, with some years suffering from drought and others from too much rainfall or frost. The vines are low yielding, small and gnarled. The lack of moisture and harsh circumstances sends the root structure deep into a narrow belt of Cambrian high mineral soil that runs north from Heathcote township. This unique terroir produces intense, deeply coloured and flavoured fruit – and wine with unique savoury flavours.

First call is to the areas’ benchmark pioneer and producer, Ron Laughton from Jasper Hill Estate. Ron started the whole Heathcote journey some 40 years ago and is hailed as the pinnacle producer of the region. His wine is simply stunning – and so is his generosity. He takes me for a full tour, including tasting barrel samples of new vintages that will be blended to make up the next Georgia’s Paddock Shiraz. Next up is a visit to Bob Downing from Downing Estate, just over the road from Jasper Hill with vines planted in the same band of Cambrian soil. Some of Bob’s Shiraz’s are included in this month’s subscription. Sanguine Estate is next – this winery, along with Jasper Hill, Downing’s and Paul Osika are Halliday 5 Red Star rated – the highest awarded. Sanguine’s Shiraz’s are regularly rated amongst the 10 best in the world, along with the likes of Penfolds’ Grange. Heathcote is one of our finest Shiraz producing regions – producing wine of an acquired savoury taste profile. However, it’s not a tourist area with destination wineries. To see a broad selection from the region, visit The Wine Hub Cellar and Store in Heathcote Main Street – they stock products from almost all the area’s producers.