Queensland's Granite Belt – one region, over fifty varietals »
by Sonia Ghiggioli and Paola Andrea Cabezas
Contributed articles and stories
There's an air of excitement building as Spring warmth and rain comes to the sleepy little town of Stanthorpe, the epicentre of the thriving Granite Belt Premium wine region of high altitude and cold, frosty winters. This is when vineyards come to life, buds swell and the forecast of the vintage ahead is speculated.
As each vintage passes, the awards and accolades received, the premium price paid for wine grapes and the sell out of past vintages combine giving credence to the quality of the wine.
The Granite Belt has been a thriving Graphical Indication (GI) of Australia since 2002, but relatively little is generally known of the winemakers, viticulturalists and the wines they produce here.
The Granite Belt sits atop the granite plateau on the very Southern end of the start of Great Dividing Range in Queensland. It is a region of high, barren granite rocky outcrops and boulders to lower lying alluvial river basins and undulating hills in between.
Vineyards are placed at varying aspects and on many soil types, namely Banca, Cottonvale, Pozieres, Hanmer, and Karangi. Most are free draining granitic loam with little organic matter and are slightly acidic.
The geographical and climatic diversity within the Granite Belt allows for a plethora of wine grape varieties to be grown, resulting in so many different and alternative wine varietals that the Granite Belt hosts it's 'Strange Bird Wine Trail' depicting wines from all around the old and new world.
It is a unique wine region of Australia with it's ability to grow 39 alternative varieties such as albariño, mondeuse, petit manseng, pinotage, durif, nebbiolo, lagrein and malbec as well as over 11 classic varieties such as shiraz, merlot and chardonnay. This has more than doubled from 17 alternative varieties in 2007.
There are over 21 participating cellar doors in the Strange Bird Wine Trail. There is a wine here to suit every person's palate. No other wine region of Australia can claim over 50 different commercially available wine varietals in one small production area.
The grapes on the Granite Belt are mostly planted, pruned and harvested without the use of machinery and offer lower yields per acre than the most of Australia. The quality and diversity commands premium prices for grapes each Vintage with around $1,200 per tonne being the average.
Cellar door sales and wine clubs are the largest sales point for most of these boutique wineries, those with an annual crush of under 250 tonne of grapes, but you can also find Granite Belt Wines in independent bottle stores and select restaurants mainly in Brisbane and the Gold Coast. The diversity of grapes grown here makes for a large number of small batch wines each as an expression of their terroir and wine style.
The styles of wine are further differentiated by the winemakers and enthusiasts who are drawn to this picturesque Australian country town, about 3 hours drive South West of Brisbane airport.
There are a number of 'Families of Wine' who have passed on their knowledge of the land and winemaking skills. There is a long history of winemaking to draw on with wine grapes originally planted in the 1860's for altar wine by the late Catholic parish priest, Father Jerome Davadi. There are winemakers who have studied and continue to learn all around the world, bringing with them their enthusiasm, knowledge and passion for wine.
Grapes may be dry grown, box picked, hand picked and sorted or single estate grown depending on the style of wine they wish to achieve. The wine may be basket pressed, wild fermented, barrel or amphora fermented and aged or processed in numerous other ways to make a distinct and individual wine.
The cellar doors
As diverse as the varieties of grapes grown on the Granite Belt so too are types of cellar doors, cellar door cafes and restaurants and vineyard and winery owners. There are modern cellar doors and those with large leather lounges and fires blazing, there are cellar doors with views over the vineyard and those with enclosed sensory rooms, there are cellar doors with the hustle and bustle of large groups or those with a one on one experience with the winemaker.
Whatever your preference of experience, the Granite Belt is sure to deliver!
The local wine industry
The Granite Belt wine industry is supported by an active member based association, the Queensland Wine Industry Association (QWIA). QWIA facilitates educational events, imparts information and hosts the annual QLD Wine Awards. Prominent judges are brought in from around Australia and NZ to assess the quality of Queensland wines in comparison to the rest of Australia and a Masterclass is held in conjunction with the QLD Wine Awards each September to showcase and educate attendees about Queensland wine.
QWIA and The Australian Grape and Wine Association (AGWA) work together in research and development towards sustainability in vineyards throughout Queensland. They support a 3 year Ground Cover Crop Trial Project and are working towards introducing and educating more sustainable vineyard management techniques including the use of compost and mulches.
Further to this, there are a number of vineyards that practice organic viticulture and one which hosts a community wine project with members of the local permaculture group and Landcare organics group and other interested parties.
The Granite Belt is rich in wine culture and can stand proud in its strength in diversity.
For more information about this article or the community wine project, Sonia can be found at www.facebook.com/vinetime
For information regarding the Granite Belt permaculture design courses or permaculture group, see www.sugarloafpermaculture.net
For accommodation options and tourism information see Granite Belt Wine Country listing »
About the authors:
This article was written as a collaboration between Sonia Ghiggioli and Paola Andrea Cabezas.
Sonia worked as an Assistant Winemaker at QLD’s only Certified Organic Winery and her experience on a permaculture farm, her love of organic gardening and passion for sustainable viticulture has taken her to the Granite Belt.
Paola is an Argentinian born and Spanish trained Winemaker who has worked in Argentina, Spain, France and Australia. She is passionate about the Granite Belt and her work is highly influenced from her time at Nicolas Wines in Argentina and from her former mentor Jacques Luzon, while the European training is evident in her handcrafted reds. Paola is the winner of 15 Trophies and a number of medals.
- Granite Belt (QLD)
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