Hosting Victoria’s oldest family owned winery and shiraz vines in the world, the Goulburn Valley offers a look at the rich wine history that Victoria has to offer.
Where to Taste Shiraz
Established in 1860, Tahbilk is the oldest family-owned winery in Victoria. Such is this Goulburn Valley winery’s prestige that it sits among just 12 members in the specialist alliance Australia’s First Families of Wine.
Not only does the Tahbilk Estate boast some of the oldest shiraz vines in the world, which are still in production at Tahbilk today, but the red wines are fermented in the same cellar used since 1862.
The original winery buildings, stables and farm work sheds, built between 1860 and 1882, were made in the style of a French village square and make for a beautiful setting. It’s easy to pass time in the cosy cellar door too, which was built with handmade bricks and mud-stone quarried on the estate, and features supporting beams and pillars made from redgum and iron bark that grows on the property.
This National Trust-classified winery features ample attractions. Explore the winery’s Eco Trails on foot, taking the six-kilometre circuit along walking paths and boardwalks. Cruise through the billabongs after which the estate was named by the traditional owners of this land, the Taungurung people, in an eco-friendly electric-powered private charter boat.
And for wine aficionados there’s also a blending class available, allowing visitors to create their own signature blend from several varietals, as well as a guided lunch and wine tasting. Tahbilk is one of only a dozen or so carbon-neutral wineries in the world.
With its iconic ’60s tower on the banks of the sleepy Goulburn River, Mitchelton is a show-stopper with a host of attractions and award-winning shiraz to boot. This designer winery has several labels and a number of shiraz styles, some showcasing estate-grown fruit, some using grapes sourced from Mitchelton’s Heathcote vineyards.
Take a guided tasting through the winery’s range of current release, back vintage and museum wines from the Mitchelton or Preece wine collections at the cellar door. Beyond the draw of wine, this estate houses a boutique hotel, a spa, a restaurant and Australia’s largest commercial Aboriginal art gallery.
Places to Stay
Another new addition in the Shiraz Central wine route, the Mitchelton Hotel is hot property. Part of the eponymous wine estate, this boutique, 58-room hotel features minimalist interiors bathed in natural materials (think marble, leather, oak, linen and Merino wool).
Each room has its own balcony that overlooks either the sleepy Goulburn River, flanked by red gums and weeping willows, or the sea of grapevines that tumble down the hill.
Enjoy the parasol-lined infinity pool in summer, and in winter cosy up to the hotel lobby’s wood-burning fireplace with a glass of award-winning shiraz.
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How to Get There
Located in the heart of Victoria, Australia’s most compact mainland state, the start of the Shiraz Central wine trail is just a short drive from Melbourne.
The Macedon Ranges (one of four distinctive regions within Shiraz Central) is an hour’s drive north-west of the state capital.
The three other regions (the Grampians [Gariwerd] and Pyrenees; Bendigo, Ballarat and Heathcote; and the Goulburn Valley) are all situated within a two-hour driving radius of the Macedon Ranges.
An alternative regional gateway is the Victorian Goldfields city of Bendigo, which can be reached by a 90-minute flight from Sydney. And those travelling on the famed Great Southern Touring Route, which sweeps west of Melbourne and encompasses the Great Ocean Road, will explore the Grampians (Gariwerd) and Ballarat regions on their loop back to Melbourne.
The Terroir and Landscape
Victoria’s wild and mountainous Central Highlands are home to a vast array of microclimates, terrains and soils, all of which contribute to the region’s rich wine diversity and its cachet as Australia’s largely undiscovered shiraz-growing region.
Much of this striking landscape has been shaped by volcanic activity, resulting in incredibly fertile soils. And thanks to the sunny days and cool nights of the Shiraz Central wine route, locally grown grapes ripen slowly, offering a new style of cool-spiced Australian shiraz.
Each of the regions within the Shiraz Central wine route has its own unique quirks. Due to its high elevation (some vineyards are located approximately 800 metres above sea level) the Macedon Ranges is the coolest mainland wine region in Australia.
The Mediterranean climate of the Bendigo region typically results in low yields for local winemakers, thus producing shiraz wines of great depth and strength. The deep, well-drained and calcium-rich Cambrian soils of Heathcote are highly prized for producing rich and velvety shiraz.
The Goulburn Valley is the only Australian wine region (and one of only six worldwide), where the climate is influenced by inland water, which tempers the otherwise hot and dry summers to produce ripe and fruity shiraz. And the decomposed granite and quartz present in the soil of the Grampians (Gariwerd) make it ideal for growing elegant examples of shiraz.
Where to Taste Shiraz
Boutique, family-owned and run outfits are prevalent in the Shiraz Central wine trail, with many wineries operating on a scale so small that bottles are sold only through the cellar door, to select domestic restaurants and to niche retailers.
Offering a personalised and intimate cellar door experience and a taste of warm country hospitality, at the region’s tasting benches you’ll often get to meet the maker.
What to expect from a tasting
Shiraz is arguably Australia’s flagship varietal, the nation’s greatest wine export and most widely planted grape. In the Shiraz Central wine trail of Victoria the variety has reached the heights of refinement, at once silky and approachable yet complex.
Typically medium to full bodied, due to the long ripening season, Shiraz Central expressions of this red varietal wear a dark purple cloak with unmatched aromatics of berries and fruit introducing a mouth-watering palate of poise and beauty.
Expect to taste a range of forest and orchard fruits (think berries, cherries and plums) brought to life by a tantalising array of cool-spice notes.