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.
The spectacular and striking Grampians wine region lies some three hours west of Melbourne, bordered by the Grampians Mountains National Park to the south-west, and the Victorian Pyrenees Mountain Range to the north-east. It abuts the Henty region along its south western edge, and is one of the most westerly regions in Victoria.
The plantings here are some of the oldest in Australia, with vineyards established in the early 1860s. Unlike most of the Victorian wine regions, the Grampians was protected from the phylloxera outbreak that plagued the rest of Victoria, due to its geographic isolation from the rest of the early-established regions. This has given the Grampians the honour of being one of the oldest wine regions with continuous production.
There is only one official sub-region of the Grampians, but it is one of the most historically important: Great Western.
The overall climate of the Grampians is cool Mediterranean, with a slight influence from the Southern Ocean. Warm days and cool nights provide the perfect conditions for cool-climate grapes, such as Pinot Noir, to thrive. In good vintages, the Grampians region enjoys long, stable periods of ripening, allowing the fruit to develop maximum flavour, whilst retaining its natural acidity.
The cooler temperatures of the Grampians are largely driven by the overall altitude of the region. Vineyards here range from about 140m above sea level, right up to the highest sites around 1,100m. Most vineyards are planted on east and north-east facing slopes, to maximise the warm, morning sun. The slope and aspect of these vineyards also helps to minimise frost damage, by not allowing the cooler air to pool and settle at the base of the vines.
There are two main soil types throughout the Grampians region, both of which are granitic in origin and a feature of the region's terroir. The first is a grey, sandy loam over clay. The second is a hard, yellow soil with structured clay subsoils. Neither soil is particularly fertile, which keeps vine vigour under control, and both are free-draining, allowing the vines to soak up water for the drier growing season. This small amount of stress helps to create hard-working vines which produce lower yields of more concentrated, higher-quality fruit.
Whilst the cooler and more coastal regions of Victoria focus on Pinot Noir, the star variety for the Grampians is Shiraz. The wines produced here are distinctively peppery, with beautiful concentration and elegance.
The Grampians region is also home to a uniquely Australian wine: Sparkling Shiraz. This iconic Aussie fizz has been produced here since the late nineteenth century, when early vignerons began to experiment with methode traditionelle.
Apart from Sparkling Shiraz, the Grampians also produces other high quality sparkling wines made from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, which grow very well in the cooler climate. Whilst hectares under vine of these grapes are reasonably high, they are rarely made into still wines, but rather mostly used for sparkling.
The other varieties grown here with great success are Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Pinot Grigio. All three of these varieties do well in cooler climates, and given the range of altitudes that the Grampians enjoys, are perfectly suited to the conditions.