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.
In a south-western inlet bay of Port Phillip, lies Geelong. Approximately 75 kms from Melbourne, it was originally established during the Gold Rush in the mid 1800s, and quickly grew to be a major area for wine production. By 1861, Geelong was Victoria's largest wine region. But like so many Victorian regions, Geelong was hit with Phylloxera and by the early 20th century, all vineyards had been pulled out or destroyed.
Thankfully the area was revitalised in the 1960s with the planting of the Anakie and Idyll vineyards, and the region has never looked back. Today, it is considered one of the best regions in Australia for cool climate styles.
Geelong can be divided into three subregions: The Moorabool Valley, Bellarine Peninsula, and the Surf Coast - each with their own distinctive climates and terroir.
On the surface, it's very easy to draw comparisons with the Mornington Peninsula, being situated just across Port Phillip Bay. But in reality, the two couldn't be more different. Where Mornington is surrounded by water on three sides, Geelong sprawls along the coast and bay, as well as pushing inland to the valley. This sub-regional diversity gives Geelong winemakers the enviable position of being able to produce a wide range of wines and styles.
The Bellarine Peninsula, like the Mornington, enjoys a cool maritime climate. The surrounding waters of Port Phillip Bay act as a stabilising force on the diurnal temperature range, providing a long, consistent growing season. The soils of the subregion are predominantly sandy loams, clay and some limestone. Wines produced here tend to be more brooding, but still have amazing freshness and vibrancy.
The rugged Surf Coast sub-region hugs the Southern Ocean, with the prevailing ocean breezes creating a more Mediterranean climate than Bellarine. It is still cool and moderate though, allowing for the production of wonderful cool-climate styles. The soils here are sandier and less rocky with low fertility but the adversity in viticulture has resulted in smarter viticultural practices, hardier vines and more interesting wines.
Heading inland towards Ballarat, lies the beautiful Moorabool Valley. Being some distance from the coast, the climate here can be classified as continental, though some influence is still felt from Port Phillip Bay. The Moorabool Valley has some of the oldest plantings in the Geelong region, typically close-planted, and thanks to a natural rain-shadow, very low-yielding. The major soil type for this sub-region is basalt soils over limestone with some granite outcrops, which produces a subtle minerality in the wines.
Like so many Victorian regions, the hero varieties for Geelong are Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The cooler climate allows Pinot to flourish, and retains beautiful, natural acidity in the whites. The more inland Moorabool Valley, produces Pinot with incredible depth and complexity, with Bellarine and the Surf Coast making a lighter, more elegant style, but no less complex.
Shiraz is also grown to great success in sub-regions like Moorabool, with many vignerons also experimenting with Italian varieties such as Sangiovese, given the Mediterranean-like climate of the Surf Coast. The other alternate variety that is seeing a surge in popularity in Geelong, is Gamay. Given the slightly warmer, drier conditions of Moorabool, a number of producers are having great success with this grape.
With such a range of sub-regions, climates, grapes and subsequent wine styles, it's not hard to see why Geelong has become one of the most exciting and best performing regions in Victoria and Australia as a whole.