Nagambie, Victoria

By Michael Harden
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Tahbilk Underground Cellars

Tahbilk Winery, Nagambie Lakes, Victoria [©Great Wine Capitals]

If you’re interested in observing a great food and wine area in the making, set your compass for the region surrounding the town of Nagambie. Less than an hour and half from Melbourne, this ruggedly handsome region of mountains and rivers, fields and lakes has, until recently, been virtually invisible to all but the keenest food and wine foragers despite the presence of one of Australia’s oldest wineries and some of Victoria’s best beef, lamb, fruit and vegetables. But things are changing. Local businesses – cellar doors, produce stores, butchers, restaurants – are waking up to the untapped potential in the often remarkable local produce while an increasing number of growers are branching out and planting an increasing variety of fruit and vegetables, buoyed by the dawning realisation that this is a region that can truly deliver the food and wine goods.

An abundance of water, courtesy of the Goulburn River, and a warm mild climate has meant that the area around Nagambie has been on the farming radar since the early 1800’s. The discovery of gold in the region early in the century brought an influx of people many of whom stayed to try their luck at farming when the gold ran out. While much of the early farming involved sheep and cattle, grapevines were being planted by the 1850’s on the river flats around the Goulburn River. Amongst the first major growers were a group of Melbourne businessmen who established the Tahbilk Estate in 1860, a gorgeously positioned winery still in operation that has not only kept the Nagambie Lakes area on the winemaking radar but has been instrumental in highlighting the region’s affinity with Rhone varietals like shiraz and marsanne.

The 1887 completion of the Goulburn Weir – a remarkable engineering feat that uses the Goulburn River to irrigate half a million hectares of farmland – ensured the region’s longevity as an agricultural hub but its distance from Melbourne meant fewer tourists and less recognition than other food producing regions like the Yarra Valley. Over the last few years, however, dramatic improvements to the roads have slashed the travelling time to Melbourne and not only have the numbers of tourists been increasing but more city folk looking for a ‘tree change’ have moved into the area to plant vines, grow olive trees, make cheese or simply wave the flag for the local producers.

Part of the beauty of visiting the area around Nagambie now is that it is only in the early stages of becoming a food and wine destination. You may have to look a little harder, ask a few more questions of the locals and travel a few more dusty pitted dirt roads before you find what you are looking for. But what makes this kind of hunt doubly satisfying is that there are an increasing number of real treasures to be found at the end of the trail.

Five Great Local Products

  • Strathbogie Beef Sausages

  • Alpi ‘Ruffy Blend’ Organic Tea

  • Purbrick & Crawford Raspberry Jam

  • Adrian & Valda Martin’s cherries

  • Vazzoler Cheese Two-Year-Old Cheddar

© Michael Harden 2006

First printed in Food and Wine Lovers’ Guide to Melbourne and Surrounds (2006)

Regions

  • Nagambie Lakes (VIC)

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