A cool place to be - the Granite Belt
By Mark Smith
Visiting a vineyard region is all about the wine, isn’t it? Just try telling that to your average grower in Burgundy or Piedmont. You’re going to end up in truffle. No, visiting a vineyard region is all about the wine and the food. And when talk turns to Queensland and its emerging new industry, the Granite Belt’s high country speaks for itself. This is northern Australia’s best destination for four seasons of prime regional produce and award-winning wines.
Of course, the visitor experiences to be found here are not exactly over Brisbane’s back fence. But a relaxed, three-hour road trip on National Highway 15 will soon set you down among 50 different vineyards - with most offering intimate tastings and cellar door sales. The cherished farmland round about is home to more than 50 varieties of commercially grown, seasonal produce - from apples and almonds to truffles and zucchini.
With Dalveen to the north and Wallangarra to the south, this part of Australia’s Great Dividing Range has Stanthorpe as its centre piece. It’s the region’s main hub of visitor activity. Professional tour guides here can provide inside knowledge and free-flowing advice on all that’s happening.
Regulars and newcomers alike will tell you the cool, elevated slopes of Queensland’s Granite Belt are an ideal retreat from the heat of the tropics. Just set the A/C to zero and make the most of your wind-in-the-hair driving. The clearly defined seasons that roll by here add splashes of colour to landscapes already uniquely shaped by the forces of nature.
Accommodation options include farm stays and B&Bs, cosy country cottages and well-serviced caravan sites. Budget tight? Doss down at a local rubbedy-dub or a back-packers’ lodge.
Be prepared for a few surprises when you taste wines from the region’s 620ha of bearing vineyards. Granite Belt Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Merlot all figure among the most celebrated wines of Queensland’s burgeoning new industry. They’re far removed from the simple communion wines made by 19th century pioneering vigneron, Father Jerome Davadi.
Tell locals at the cellar door you want to try a ‘strange bird’. The Granite Belt’s Alternative Wine Trail was launched back in 2007. Its visitors can sample and purchase wines made from the dozens of ‘strange bird’ grape varieties that have taken flight here over the past decade or so. Tuck into a Tannat or a Tempranillo or two.
The catalogue of annual food and wine events in these parts includes the Australian Small Winemakers Show - in late October - the Spring Wine Festival, and the biennial Apple and Grape Harvest Festival.
A century or so ago, the Granite Belt’s most highly-prized successes were based upon tin mining and fruit-growing. Today, its business opportunities are wide-ranging and innovative. Be sure to:
- Look out for Boireann Wines, the star player in the region. Bungawarra, Kominos Wines, Lucas Estate, Mason Wines, Pyramids Road, Ravens Croft, Robert Channon, Symphony Hill, Whiskey Gully and Witches Falls can also offer a premium quality wine experience.
- Check out the Queensland College of Wine Tourism. This $7.5 million state-of-the-art education and training facility at Stanthorpe was opened in March 2007, and is the first of its kind in the world. All Australian wine regions should look this professional.
- Visit some amazing recreational spaces, including the iconic Girraween National Park. This ‘place of flowers’ is a land of massive granite outcrops, spectacular peaks, and precariously balanced boulders.
- Go Nude. The Granite Belt’s Nude Food Trail is a self-drive experience that takes you to where the wild things are - in season and around the corner. Experience the bite of caulicceddi (wild turnip), cosce vecchie (dandelion) and Stanthorpe sauvignon blanc.
- Drop a line at Quart Pot Creek or play ‘Captain Thunderbolt’ with the kids at Donnelley’s Castle. Admire the region’s unique rock formations as you ‘stand and deliver.’
- Granite Belt (QLD)
- South East Queensland (QLD)
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