26 September 2023

Bendigo Loves A Red

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By Christine Salins.


Killiecrankie Shiraz

While the gold rush was taking place around Bendigo, Victoria, in the 19th century, there was another rush going on of a different kind. The rush to plant grapes began with the first vines planted in the region five years after gold was discovered in 1851.

While gold mining continued into the 20th century, the wine industry died with the arrival of the vine louse, phylloxera, in 1893. It took until 1969 before vines re-appeared in the region.

The winemaker responsible for the industry’s resurgence was a local pharmacist, Stuart Anderson, who established Balgownie Estate, 8km from Bendigo, forging the region’s reputation for full-flavoured reds.

Balgownie is a beautiful estate to visit with quality accommodation, glamping tents, an historic cellar door and restaurant. Although I didn’t get to Balgownie during my recent trip to Bendigo – being otherwise occupied with the Symposium of Australian Gastronomy – I did get to taste a strong line-up of Balgownie wines, along with the other fine labels reviewed here.

The Bendigo wine region (GI) has 610ha of vineyards planted in and around Bendigo, Bridgewater on Loddon, Marong, Mandurang, and Harcourt. Hot, dry summers; cool, wet winters; and crisp nights year-round produce richly flavoured Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Although there are some lovely whites being produced, red is by far and away the dominant colour. If you love a good red, this is the place to go!

Lome Viognier Roussanne Marsanne

Lome 2018 Viognier Roussanne Marsanne: Tim and Di Robertson’s Lome vineyard is in the picturesque Harcourt Valley on 360-million-year-old soils. It was originally an apple and pear orchard and, interestingly, some of those notes come up in this Rhone-style blend, along with subtle spice and vanilla. Aged in French oak, it is beautifully balanced with a subtle acidity. I tasted it twice, once with Chinese food (a good match) at the Golden Dragon Museum, and once with a superb soft cheese, Silver Wattle, from local cheesemaker, Long Paddock.

Balgownie 2018 Black Label Chardonnay: While Balgownie makes some knockout Bendigo reds, it also produces this beautiful Yarra Valley Chardonnay. Soft, creamy and light bodied, it has a pale lemon colour and bright flavours of pear and melon. There’s a touch of citrus, gentle oak, and a lovely crisp acidity.

Sutton Grange 2019 Fairbank Rosé: A nice quaffing wine which slipped down easily with the fried spring rolls and dim sims at the Golden Dragon dinner. Generously fruity with a hint of spice, it has a pale salmon colour and a long crisp finish.

Sandhurst Ridge 2016 Nebbiolo: Brothers Paul and George Greblo are continuing the legacy of their northern Italian ancestors in producing fine, intensely flavoured wines. Nebbiolo is a great food wine and this one went beautifully with Chinese roast duck. Its firm tannins are nicely balanced with cherry, raspberry and other red berry flavours, followed by a savoury finish.

Turners Crossing 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon: This was tasted at a very multicultural dinner, the highlight of which was a stunning goat curry. This big, bold Cabernet with blackberry and plum notes was a good match. Rich, earthy and just what the doctor ordered on a chilly evening.

Killiecrankie 2018 Shiraz: What a joyous discovery this was – elegant and harmonious with a fine texture and soft silky tannins. Vibrant with plummy, dark fruit, it was made in the garagiste style with hand-plunged ferments, basket pressing and minimal intervention. John Monteath and Claire Hull are doing interesting stuff at Killiecrankie (love the name!); this is definitely one to watch.

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