Local Opinion - Heathcote

By Jane Leckie

Jane Leckie is the viticulturist at She Oak Hill Vineyard, an original vineyard in the Heathcote region established by her father in law Gordon Leckie in 1975. She Oak Hill produces Shiraz and Chardonnay from the family owned vineyard.

Heathcote is often described as an ‘emerging ‘ wine region and consequently it comes as a surprise to many wine lovers that Heathcote has a tradition of vine growing and winemaking dating back to the mid 1800s. However it was in the 1970’s that a real appreciation of the combination of the Cambrian soil and the reliably warm dry climate was recognised for its ability to produce grapes with an extraordinarily deep colour and intense flavour.

People often ask what it is about the Cambrian soil that makes Heathcote wine so special. As Ron Laughton of Jasper Hill says ‘This land was meant for vines’ The soil, estimated to be 500 million years old, is the oldest in Victoria and derived from rock of the Cambrian age. It is rich in minerals, particularly copper and tin, which break up the soil and enable the roots of the vines to grow long and deep in search of water. The soil is deep and well drained making it possible for many vineyards to grow fruit without supplementary irrigation hence the intensity of flavour and regional characteristics which are typical of Heathcote wines.

The Heathcote Wine Region, located in Central Victoria, extends from the northern township of Corop through to Tooborac in the South, and from Lake Eppalock in the West to Graytown in the East. The very the size of the region results in variations in climate, geology and topography. The north generally receives less rain during the vines-growing season. while the region’s southern vineyards experience cooler temperatures between bud burst and harvest allowing the fruit a longer ripening period. As a consequence of these variations wines within the region will have quite different flavour profiles. It is the variation in terroirs and microclimates within the region which give the wines of Heathcote their richness and diversity.

Heathcote has for many years enjoyed a reputation for its deep coloured, flavour rich Shiraz balanced by natural acidity but many growers and winemakers are recognising that the macro climate of the Heathcote region is ideal for the production of an increasingly diverse range of vines including Cabernet Sauvignon, Nebbiolo, Petit Verdot, Merlot, Sangiovese, Malbec and Tempranillo, and while famed for its red wines interesting varieties of white wines including Marsanne , Viognier, Chardonnay and Verdelho are available.

The vineyards and wineries of the Heathcote region are as diverse as the region itself. Large commercial wineries with well known brands sit alongside small family holdings, some of whom are second or third generations in the region. But all share the passion for producing wine which truly represents the acclaimed regional characteristics of the fruit produced in the area. Most of the smaller wineries pride themselves on employing traditional wine making techniques – the use of natural yeasts, basket or balloon pressing of whole berries and an emphasis on minimal handling of the wine. There is increasing appreciation of the role of oak in the maturation process and the art of blending barrels to produce the wineries signature products.

Many of the wineries welcome guests at their cellar door where the winemaker is delighted to discuss at length their wine making approach and practises to enhance the visitors’ experience of the tasting. Increasingly visitors to Cellar Doors are able to enjoy a meal with locally sourced food in the charming ambiance of the vineyard and within the township of Heathcote there are a number of cafes and restaurants who focus on promoting local producers with knowledge and enthusiasm.

The highlight of the Heathcote year is the annual Wine and Food Festival. A recent review of wine festivals in the Sydney Morning Herald described this event as’ one of the most enjoyable events I attended last year’1 Held on the first full weekend in October the Heathcote Wine and Food Festival is a celebration of what the region offers showcasing over 40 of the wineries, many of whom do not have Cellar Door facilities. Visitors can participate in structured wine seminars, meet the winemakers and sample some of the wonderful regional produce available. With a warm country atmosphere, live music and children’s entertainment this is a fabulous weekend for the whole family.



1Source: The Sun-Herald
This story was found at: http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2008/01/31/1201714138027.html


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