At the moment, wine lovers are spoilt for choice when it comes to finding unique and high-quality offerings from the vineyards of Victoria. Even though it’s the mainland’s smallest state in terms of land mass, Victoria’s climatic diversity, in particular, makes it possible for the state to excel in a myriad of varieties.

But it’s just not the climate that gives Victoria its edge. The state is also home to some of the oldest soils in the world. This is particularly true for the Heathcote appellation in Central Victoria, which is famous for its complex volcanic Cambrian soils that are over 500 million years old. Collectively known as “Cambrian Greenstones”, the strata of fine red calcareous sodic clay soils, dark brown gravels and ironstone create a mineral rich environment for the vine roots as well offering great moisture retention benefits that ensure that the dry-grown shiraz grapes mature more slowly in the hot summer weather. Coupled with cooling winds that bring down the nighttime temperatures, this unique combination of soil and climate helps the grapes to retain a perfect level of acidity. Litte wonder then that Heathcote consistently produces complex, superbly balanced shiraz wines that are both rich and elegant.

Many of the best wineries in Heathcote are boutique family run operations where the skills and experience of the owner/winemaker are now being passed onto the second generation. Some of the top wines from the area include:

Wild Duck Creek Duck Muck Shiraz –  Duck Muck gained cult status when the 1997 was awarded 99 out of 100 by US wine guru Robert Parker – prompting single bottles at the time to fetch up to $1400 at Australian auctions. Fortunately, you can now find vintages at more realistic price levels (At the moment, the Cellarit Wine Market has the 2013 vintage available for $280.) The Springflat Shiraz is the winery’s flagship wine and a perennial favourite with allocations of the new vintage only available to customers on the mailing list. It’s a blend of three vineyards with slightly different soil profiles; two in the north on Cambrian soils over ironstone and granite, and one in the south on clay loams over mudstone. Matured in 40% new French and American oak hogsheads for 22 months, it can be cellared for up to 20 years or more. (The Cellarit Wine Market has a good selection of back vintages.)

Jasper Hill Georgia’s Paddock Shiraz –  Jasper Hill’s first vintage was released in 1982, making it one of the oldest wineries in the region. Established by Ron and Elva Laughton, their daughters Emily and Georgia, for whom two of Jasper Creek’s most famous wines were named,  now work for the winery. Emily, in fact, has established two of her own labels, Occam’s Razor and Lo Stesso, and her husband Nick is a winemaker at Jasper Hill.

The following 96 point review by Wine Advocate’s critic Joe Czerwinski highlights the rich, complex character of one of Australia’s most renowned wines:

“A big, rich wine, the 2015 Georgia’s Paddock Shiraz offers deep, earthy notes of black olive and espresso that complement the blackberry and plum fruit. There’s a hint of menthol that helps lift the wine and avoid any undue sense of heaviness—a notable accomplishment in a wine that’s labeled at 15% alcohol. Full-bodied and velvety in texture, complex and long, with two decades of aging potential, there’s simply nothing to criticize here.”

The Cellarit Wine Market has a good selection of back vintages.

Vinea Marson Shiraz Viognier – This is a great value wine from a small, family owned and operated winery established in 2000. The wines are made by Mario Marson, who originally was a winemaker and viticulturalist at the renowned Mount Mary in the Yarra Valley where he worked alongside the late Dr John Middleton. The 2013 vintage is available from the winery’s website for $36.

Burke & Wills Vat 1 Shiraz – The 2015 vintage won the Premier’s Trophy at the Victorian Wine Show. It was chosen to represent Heathcote after being named the region’s top wine at the 2017 Saint Martin Heathcote Wine Show, where it won four trophies – Best Young Shiraz, Best Single Vineyard Wine, Best Heathcote Produced Wine and, ultimately, The Tonnellerie Saint Martin Trophy for Best Shiraz. Burke & Wills Winery is a small family run business owned and operated by winemaker and music entrepreneur Andrew Pattison and his wife Heather McCormack. Contact the winery for details on how to order.

Merrill Witt, Editor

Photo Credit: Australian Wine Review