When people drink wine, the link is often missed between what’s in the glass and the unique site from which it was produced.
You can travel the world and talk to countless winemakers and any producer, worth their salt, will talk about wine being made in the vineyard and not in the winery. The greatest vineyard sites around the world have an affinity with specific grape varieties that produce compelling, conversation-worthy wines.
The Macedon Ranges is the coolest wine-growing region on mainland Australia with snow not uncommon during winter, something akin to cool climate regions like Burgundy and Alsace in France which are only marginally cooler. It is this genuinely cool climate that allows the production of some of Australia’s best pinot noir, chardonnay and riesling.
Matt Harrop is the winemaker at Curly Flat and Silent Way, and Harrop has experience across Australian and international regions. He describes viticulture in the Macedon Ranges as needing to be ‘precise’ with the cold, long vintages requiring meticulous care that can only be done by hand, meaning costs are high, yields are low, but quality can be quite exceptional.
Llew Knight is one of the pioneers of the region, with his vineyard Granite Hills nearing its 50th vintage, both Knight and Harrop agree that the definitive quality and differentiator of the area is the stunning natural acidity afforded by cool growing seasons, meaning acid is not added to wines, unlike most other Australian regions; giving the wines of Macedon Ranges their structure, freshness and longevity.
The most extensive plantings in the region are pinot noir and chardonnay which is no surprise given both varieties express themselves best in cool locations; Harrop also describes riesling from the region as a superstar with the best examples world-class, no doubt a nod to the classic wines produced by Knight at Granite Hills.
When talking about the future of the region, Harrop describes its ‘altitude as its insurance’, as vineyard sites warm around the world, it will be harder and harder to produce exceptional pinot noir. Knight has plantings of both grüner veltliner and gamay that are producing some exciting results with the latter having the potential to produce structural, long-lived wines reminiscent of Crus sites in Beaujolais.
The Macedon Ranges may not be significant in terms of volume, but with established producers like Curly Flat, Bindi Wines, Domaine Epis and Granite Hills as well as a raft of new producers there is a lot to be excited about.
Patrick is a skilled wine appreciator and has spent a majority of his life pursuing his passion for wine. His site, winereviewer.com.au, provides independent reviews, over 3000 in fact, of the wines he discovers. It’s fair to say he knows a thing or two about wine!
Photo by Maja Petric