The Macedon Ranges Wine Region is well known for its cool climate, so it is not surprising that the dominant varieties are pinot noir and chardonnay.

But I encourage you to explore a little deeper, look for something a little different, and make the most of a tour of the cellar doors. Here are a few suggestions if you are looking for some offbeat varieties.

Cobaw Ridge was the first Australian winery to make lagrein. This is a northern Italian red wine variety well known for producing impressive darkly coloured wines. Winemaker Alan Cooper loves the depth of flavour of his wines. He believes that the high altitude of his vineyard, 610m, contributes to the quality of the lagrein. Enjoy the dark violet fruit and complex brooding aromas of these wines. 

For decades Granite Hills Winery has been famous for its riesling, shiraz and cabernet sauvignon. In more recent years, owner winemaker, Llew Knight, has broadened the range of varieties grown. Llew is especially pleased with his grüner veltliner, an Austrian variety. It is well suited to the cool climate and austere granitic soils here. Granite Hills also makes pinot blanc and gamay, with a few more alternative varieties on the way.

Renata Morello and Ollie Rapson at Lyons Will are enthusiasts for gamay, a French variety red wine. This variety is known for producing light- and medium-bodied wines in the Beaujolais region of France, but don’t be deceived; well-made gamay packs a powerful punch with its rich aromas and dynamic flavours. At Lyons Will, they take great care to capture all of the delights of this variety.

The white wine variety semillon is very common in New South Wales, especially the Hunter Valley, but it is quite unfamiliar to most Victorians. In its native France, semillon is used to make the famous sweet wines sauternes, but it is also frequently blended with sauvignon blanc to make dry whites. Bob Nixon at Gisborne Peak likes to explain to his visitors how semillon goes through several stages as it ages, culminating in golden honey richness if you have the patience to cellar it.

Hew and Di Richards discovered they had some gewürztraminer vines by accident in a chardonnay patch at their Midhill Vineyard in Romsey. Rather than removing them, the vines were shifted to a separate block. This variety loves cooler regions where it makes amazingly aromatic wines. Many wine drinkers expect gewürztraminer wines to be sweet because of their heady aroma, but they are often dry. Hew makes his wine bone dry and crisp. He recommends you try it with charcuterie, tuna or spicy dishes.

Mount Towrong is recognised as the go-to place in the Macedon Ranges for Italian varieties. One of Adam Paleg’s favourites is vermentino. This white variety from Sardinia and mainland Italy is known for making crisp, dry white wines. Often vermentino wines are very dry and light-bodied, but Adam takes care in the winemaking process to make the wines more textural and Italian in style. Mount Towrong also makes wines from prosecco, ribolla gialla, lagrein, nebbiolo, sangiovese and negroamaro – all Italian and all of interest to the adventurous wine lover.

If you are like me, when you travel, you are on the lookout for different scenery and experiences, so why not try some different wine varieties? You’ll be delighted by what you discover in the Macedon Ranges.

These days visiting cellar doors is a bit different. Bookings are essential in many cases. A quick phone call can save you disappointment of being turned away. Ring ahead to also check if lunch or picnics are available.


Photo: Lyons Will Estate, photo by Fiona Sexton.

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Darby Higgs
Darby Higgs
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