Regional Overview - Geelong - Wine and Vine Facts
Victoria’s second largest city of Geelong is approximately 75km south-west of Melbourne. It comprises the sprawling expanse of bay side suburbia and industrial estates, together with 471 hectares of vineyards scattered across sites from Moorabool in the north to the Bellarine Peninsula and Surf Coast in the south.
Geelong is one of five premium quality wine regions that collectively make up the Port Phillip zone. The remaining Port Phillip regions are the Mornington Peninsula, the Yarra Valley, Sunbury and Macedon.
Commercial viticulture is a small but relatively recent innovation here after earlier attempts between the 1850s and 1880s. The region’s official status as an Australian Geographical Indication is little more than a decade old.
‘Geelong’ was entered in the Register of Protected Names in June 1996. The term defines the region’s physical boundaries and proscribes its use under Commonwealth of Australia law (Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation Act 1980).
Vineyards existed all over southern Victoria during the middle and latter part of the nineteenth century. Indeed, Hubert de Castella’s authoritative text - John Bull's Vineyard (1886) - indicates this was a halcyon period for growing grapes and making wines. By the 1860s, Geelong boasted more than 50 vineyards and 400ha of vineyards. Along with Rutherglen, this made the bay side locality one of the largest and most important wine-growing centres in south-eastern Australia.
Small scale, and family-owned and operated, Geelong’s pioneering vineyards ceased production during the late 1870s and early 1880s. Isolated infestations of the vine louse phylloxera in the region around 1876 provided the catalyst for change, but the real damage to the industry was done by zealous, government-backed vine pulls and changes in Australian drinking habits.
Idyll Vineyard, planted by Daryl and Nini Sefton in 1966, is commonly regarded as Geelong’s modern day pioneer. As in the past, sites there today generally remain small and family-operated, with a total area under vine that is barely 70ha more than the region enjoyed 140 years ago.
No matter where you settle in the region, Geelong’s climate is strongly maritime in nature. The growing season here is long by comparison with many other mainland sites. Frequent sea breezes provide significant cooling effects throughout the year, and along with low natural rainfall they contribute to low to moderate plant vigour and vineyard cropping levels.
On exposed sites, wind and seasonal cold fronts can result in poor flowering and fruit set in early summer. Vineyard heat summation figures frequently top the 1470 mark, ensuring reliable ripening for early varieties like Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, but qualified success for Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon during cool, damp vintages. Mean January temperature maxima across the region hover around 19.0°C, a clear degree warmer than the Mornington Peninsula.
Geelong’s highest monthly rainfall totals are recorded during spring. Across the growing season, total rainfall seldom amounts to more than 250mm, making supplementary drip irrigation an imperative for premium wine producers.
From vine to glass
On international markets, the Geelong brand is associated with wines of impeccable quality and stylistic interpretation.
In the 12 months to September 2008, average export sales for wine labelled Geelong earned $A12.82 per litre, well in excess of the $3.78 calculated for Australian wine as a whole exported during the same period.
Geelong wine’s top five overseas destinations were the UK, the US, Canada, Japan and Sweden.
Geelong vineyards at a glance:
- Port Phillip Zone
- GI registered 1996
- Located 3807'S, 14422'E
- Altitude: 20m-350m
- Heat degree days: 1470
- Mean annual rainfall: 540mm
- Growing season rainfall: 250mm
- Mean January temperature: 19.0°C
- Planted area (2007): 649ha
- Principal varieties (in order of planted area):
- Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Shiraz, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon
- Typical harvest period: March-April
- Total crush (2007): 1042 tonnes
- Geelong and Bellarine Peninsula (VIC)
- Melbourne Surrounds (VIC)
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