Welcome to the Victorian Wine Region series, where every week we feature select wine regions from the expanse of Victoria's charming hills and luscious fields. Subscribe to our newsletter today or view other articles in this series to learn more about the wines of the region.
Alongside Beechworth and the King Valley, the third region that makes up the triumverate of sites in Victoria's northeast High Country, is the Alpine Valleys region. As the name suggests, the Alpine Valleys region is situated in the foothills of the Victorian Alps, surrounded by spectacular mountain scenery and ski fields in winter. Although considered to be an emerging region in Australia's viticultural landscape, the Alpine Valleys is fast becoming a sought-after region thanks to the array of alternate varieties that are grown and produced here.
Like the King Valley and Beechworth, the Alpine Valleys climate is cool continental. And like its neighbouring regions, the varying altitudes and aspects of the vineyards create a range of micro-climates. Vineyards here range in altitude from around 150m to over 600m above sea level. The lower sites on the valley floor tend to be slightly warmer, compared to those on the higher slopes. Overall, the growing period is long and moderate, producing high-quality fruit with complexity and intensity and natural, fresh acidity. Due to the cool springs and autumns (and chilly winters!), frost is a very real problem in the vines. To mitigate this, most vineyards are planted on sloped sites, that don't allow the chilled air to settle. For flatter sites where the cold air is more likely to settle and create frost, prevention systems such as overhead sprinkler systems have been put in place. The soils throughout the region are mostly based on alluvial deposits from the rivers that flow through the valleys. They are granite-based and highly fertile, meaning that naturally high yields must be carefully controlled so as not to affect quality.
Unsurprisingly, cool climate varieties such as Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grow well here, producing elegant and delicate wines. But Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon also do well in the lower slopes, producing intense and concentrated wines, with plenty of cool-climate spice. However the real drawcard that sets the Alpine Valleys apart, and paints it as one of the most exciting emerging regions in Australia, is the vast array of alternate varieties that are grown here. Grapes such as Nebbiolo, Savagnin, Fiano, Barbera, Schioppettino, Vermentino, Teroldego - to name just a few! - are all grown and produced here. The naturally fertile soils, moderate growing periods and range of altitude and aspect all combine to give vignerons a haven in which to grow these marginal varieties.