North-East Victoria wine regions

By Jeni Port
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North-eastern Victoria produces a diverse range of wines from old-style fortifieds to the newer Italian varietals

North-eastern Victoria produces a diverse range of wines from old-style fortifieds to the newer Italian varietals

Dominant White Grapes: chardonnay, riesling, muscadelle (“tokay”)
Dominant Red Grapes: shiraz, cabernet sauvignon
Principal Wine Styles: muscle-powered reds; luscious multi-layered fortifieds

The North East was once a place you looked to exclusively for luscious fortifieds and big reds. Here, whites were regarded as little more than a light entrée before the more serious main meal of powerful fruit, awesome tannins and potent alcohols to be found in shiraz and cabernet. Sparkling wines, if they existed, were red. Of course, this was as much an accident of history as anything, the result of early vineyards around Rutherglen and Glenrowan being established close to Wangaratta and the Murray River.

Rutherglen was originally a gold rush town and as gold declined, vineyards rose. Some of those early vignerons stamped their names into our state's wine history: Morris, Chambers, Campbell, Sutherland-Smith and Brown. It was these makers who established the North East's enduring reputation for muscat, tokay, port and hearty reds. How times have changed. Today, the North East incorporates one of the highest and coolest wine regions in Australia, along with one of the warmest and great fortifieds and muscle-pumped reds are just part of an extensive wine menu.

Up in the King Valley in the Victorian Alps, grapes need oxygen masks. The vineyards are some of the highest in the state planted to 800 metres and higher. This is the home of finely-structured chardonnay, pinot noir and aromatic whites. Further down the Valley around Whitfield and Cheshunt, there's a little corner of Italy where unusual savoury flavours of Italian varieties are a speciality. The Alpine Valleys, created by the Ovens, Buffalo, Buckland and Kiewa Rivers, specialise in full-bodied reds and whites and new untried varieties like the Russian saperavi and Spanish tempranillo. Beechworth, with its granitic outcrops, is home to cool climate spicy reds and warm, textural whites.

And all the while there remains Rutherglen and Glenrowan still producing those wonderfully luscious fortifieds and big reds . . .

© Jeni Port 2006

(This article first appeared in The Age, July 8, 2006)


  • Alpine Valleys (VIC)
  • Beechworth (VIC)
  • Glenrowan (VIC)
  • King Valley including Milawa (VIC)
  • Murray River (Tourism) (VIC)
  • North East Victoria (VIC)
  • Rutherglen (VIC)

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