- Thursday 18 January 2018
- Written by Admin
Victoria's Heathcote is beloved for its shiraz, but other flourishing grape varieties from the region's innovative producers are creating a raft of stellar wines, writes Jeni Port in a new article for James Halliday.
Iron oxide helps give cosmetics their colour. It also gives Heathcote a big advantage when it comes to growing some of the most intensely coloured and flavoured shiraz on the planet. Taking the shape of lumpy little nodules the colour of rust, iron oxide is encrusted in the Victorian region’s red soil – a striking and highly visible feature throughout the area.
A host of metals stick to iron oxide – copper and tin included – breaking up the soil and proving a handy conduit for vine roots to go long and deep into the ground. It’s intense in colour, something the local sheep can appreciate when their fleece turns as red as a Manchester United jersey. Wine drinkers can appreciate it too when they set their eyes on the colour of Heathcote red wines: iridescent to the Nth degree.
Coonawarra has its terra rossa, but Heathcote has its iron-oxide-laden soils derived from rock of the Cambrian age – the oldest in Victoria at 500 million-plus years. Like terra rossa, the Cambrian soil runs in a loose strip, at its widest only a couple of hundred metres. It starts eight kilometres south of the township of Heathcote and runs 35 kilometres north. It’s deep, well drained and produces wines high in natural acidity, verve and that extraordinary hue; Hanging Rock winemaker Rob Ellis calls it “extreme”.
When it meets the shiraz grape, the planets align; the chemical compounds create energy in the glass. But not every producer has vineyards on Cambrian soil. It’s one of the great, unseen divisions in the wine region. The other is size. The Heathcote wine region is so vast, winemakers speak of a north, south and a centre. Covering 1910sq km, it is effectively three regions in one. There can be more than a month’s ripening difference between its warmer and cooler sites, and sometimes more, depending on the year.