Explore Rutherglen vineyards and cellar doors

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Many of the great winemaking houses of Rutherglen, Victoria, are still owned and run by members of the original family

Many of the great winemaking houses of Rutherglen, Victoria, are still owned and run by members of the original family [©Visions of Victoria]

Mount Prior vineyard, Rutherglen, Victoria
Autumn in the vineyards, Morris Wines, Rutherglen, North East Victoria
All Saints Estate and St Leonards Vineyard, Wahgunyah, Rutherglen, Victoria

North East Victoria viticulture encompasses a diverse range of production models, from small and medium-sized family businesses that grow grapes for other companies to medium-sized public companies that produce a mix of sparkling, table and fortified wines under their own labels.

In 2007, the zone’s total vineyard area amounted to around 3,500ha of vines. That’s roughly two thirds the planted area of the Barossa Valley.

North East Victoria boasts some of the world’s oldest and most unique fortified white wines, thanks to the long-held family traditions that underpin companies such as All Saints Estate, Baileys of Glenrowan, Campbells, Chambers, Morris, and Stanton and Killeen.

A special voluntary classification of Rutherglen Muscats and Tokays sees each of those wines in the region classified in ascending order of age and quality. Those denoted as ‘Rutherglen’ range in average age from two to five years. For ‘Classic,’ the range is five to 12 years old; for ‘Grand,’ 12 to 20 years old; and for ‘Rare,’ 20 years or more.

The zone is famous for producing more than fortified wines and big bold reds. Brown Brothers especially has done much to sponsor and/or introduce grape varieties not commonly found in the Australian industry. Its cellar door offerings total close to 50 distinct wines, including the relatively obscure Albarino, Graciano, Nero d’Avola, and Vermentino.

Sparkling wines from the company have also been consistent trophy winners at Australian wine shows in recent years.

Industry records indicate North East Victoria’s historic connections with full-bodied reds and fortified wines are largely confined to vineyards around Rutherglen and Glenrowan. Here, red grapes account for 90 percent of plantings, with Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Muscat a Petits Grains Rouge, and Durif leading the way. Muscadelle, with just 5 percent of total plantings, heads the list of white varieties.

Shiraz maintains its overall supremacy throughout the remaining regions of the Alpine Valleys, Beechworth, and the King Valley. However, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot figure more predominantly in the cooler, more elevated sites, with the King Valley being the most diversely planted region of the entire zone. Few places in Australia can offer such an A-Z of grape varieties, with Arneis and Zinfandel both enjoying a toehold there, together with a myriad others in small, generally experimental plots.

These cooler regions of the north-east are also home to a greater proportion of white grape varieties, with Chardonnay and Pinot Gris figuring among their most widely planted white varieties.

No visit to North East Victoria would be complete without dropping by the cellar doors of the region’s legendary producers of rich and uniquely Australian fortified wines. All Saints Estate, Baileys of Glenrowan, Buller, Campbells, Chambers, Morris, and Stanton and Killeen at least make up the A-team, so be prepared to linger a while.

“No other wine can rival these wines for sheer complexity, decadence in flavour and hedonistic pleasure.” Robert Parker, Wine Advocate.

Rutherglen’s sweet Muscats and drier Tokays are “two of Australia’s great gifts to the world; sumptuously hedonistic, dark, sweet, and alcoholic.” Jancis Robinson, Oxford Companion To Wine.

Baileys of Glenrowan, Brown Brothers, Smiths Vineyard and Warrabilla are no less significant among the zone’s table wine producers. Battely Wines and Giaconda will require an appointment to visit but are worth the effort. Take whatever opportunities are on offer. You will not be disappointed.
 

Regions

  • Alpine Valleys (VIC)
  • Beechworth (VIC)
  • Glenrowan (VIC)
  • Goldfields (VIC)
  • King Valley including Milawa (VIC)
  • Legends, Wine and High Country (NE Victoria) (VIC)
  • Milawa (VIC)
  • North East Victoria (VIC)
  • Rutherglen (VIC)

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May 26th, 2009
 
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