Regional Overview - Macedon Ranges - Wine Production
The Macedon Ranges are located at the southern end of Australia’s Great Dividing Range, less than an hours’ drive along the Calder Highway from Melbourne.
The region is well regarded for its wool and its wine. Its strong heritage values, great natural beauty, and close proximity to Victoria’s cosmopolitan capital city make it one of that State’s most popular destinations for food and wine tourism.
The Macedon Ranges is one of five premium quality wine regions that collectively form the Port Phillip zone. The remaining Port Phillip regions are the Mornington Peninsula, Geelong, Sunbury and the Yarra Valley.
The Macedon Ranges GI was finalised on August 21st 2002, when the name was entered in the Registrar of Protected Names. The term defines the region’s physical boundaries and proscribes its use under Commonwealth of Australia law (Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation Act 1980).
Like the neighbouring regions of Sunbury, Geelong and the Yarra Valley, wine-growing in the Macedon Ranges dates back to the 1840s and 1850s. It was then that pioneering farmers and graziers established a handful of small vineyards between Kyneton and Riddells Creek.
None survived beyond the 1890s. Viticulture in 19th century Australia was ill-equipped to deal with the challenges imposed by the region’s very cool climate growing conditions. Even vineyards planted on warmer sites further south towards Sunbury were hard-pressed to survive the recession years of the century’s final decade.
The Macedon Ranges’ first vineyard of this current era was planted by Melbourne restaurateur Tom Lazar during the late 1960s. His celebrated Virgin Hills label is no longer in Lazar family hands. Sadly, it has largely yielded its icon status to relative newcomers Bindi Wine Growers, Curly Flat, Domaine Epis, Granite Hills and Hanging Rock Winery.
Distinctly cool climate in nature, viticulture in the Macedon Ranges really only commenced in earnest during the 1980s with the planting of many of its small, family-owned vineyards. Even today, the region is tiny by Australian standards. Barely 615 hectares of vines can be found here. Production volumes on its 30 or so key vineyard sites are characteristically very low. There is considerable vintage variation from year to year. Most operations are small scale and family-owned, with cellar door facilities generally open only on weekends and public holidays. Visits by appointment are often favourably regarded.
Invariably elevated (400m-600m) and exposed to the elements, vineyard sites in the Macedon Ranges figure among the coldest to be found around mainland Australia. Heat summation figures here typically span 1000-1100 units. By way of comparison, those in nearby Heathcote frequently exceed 1490 units.
Altitude and exposure to prevailing winds provide the greatest challenges to viticulture. Sites around Lancefield, Macedon and Romsey are decidedly cool to cold throughout the year and are uniquely suited to the production of ultra premium sparkling wine, together with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir for table wine. Less elevated and more protected sites offer opportunities to grow and ripen Riesling, Shiraz, and the Cabernet family during warm years. High levels of natural acidity and exaggerated tannin profiles can compromise wine quality in cooler vintages.
The region’s main soil types are derived from sandstone and shales, and consist of low fertility, acidic duplex sandy/clay loams. Volcanic soils around Romsey, Gisborne and Woodend are rich in minerals and nutrients, and frequently appear as red, generally friable clayey soils.
From vine to glass
On Australia’s domestic markets, the Macedon Ranges brand is associated with premium and ultra-premium quality Australian wine. Little more than 26,000 litres found its way onto international markets in 2007-2008. Its top five destinations were the US, China, Canada, the United Kingdom and Hong Kong.
In June 2008, the average price per litre of exported Macedon Ranges wine was valued at $15.02, well in excess of that achieved for larger and much more established premium cool climate wine regions such as the Yarra Valley ($10.89 per litre).
Macedon Ranges wine may be hard to find but it’s well worth the effort.
Macedon Ranges vineyards at a glance:
- Port Phillip Zone
- GI registered 2002
- Located: 37°25'S, 144°55'E
- Altitude: 50m-700m
- Heat degree days: 970 Macedon, 1030 Kyneton
- Mean annual rainfall: 860 mm Macedon, 750 mm Kyneton
- Growing season rainfall: 370 mm Macedon, 290 mm Kyneton
- Mean January temperature: 17.2°C Macedon, 18.5°C Kyneton
- Planted area bearing vines (2007): 210ha
- Principal varieties (in order of planted area):
- Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Sauvignon Blanc
- Harvest: Apr-June Macedon, Mid Mar-end May Kyneton
- Total crush (2007): Approx 615 tonnes*
* 2007 harvest significantly affected as a result of severe frosts during October 2006
- Macedon Ranges (Wine) (VIC)
- Macedon Ranges & Spa Country (VIC)
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