Heathcote – the winegrowers’ association
Heathcote Winegrowers’ Association represents more than 60 vineyards and wineries who share the passion for great and exciting wines and sharing the experience at their cellar doors with tastings of the region’s exciting and renowned wines.
The association co-ordinates visits to the region by international wine buyers and sommeliers keen to explore the very best of Australian wine and take them to fine restaurants and into the homes of wine lovers around the world together.
Heathcote also joins with other wine regions at major festivals around Victoria promoting the riches of the vines produced with passion by its winemakers.
Signature events for the Heathcote Winegrowers’ Association are the annual wine and food festival held each October on the weekend following AFL grand final featuring more than 40 wineries together at the one time and the wine show each August when the region’s wines are assessed by leading industry peers.
Association membership is open to wineries and vineyards in the region.
Heathcote – the region
The Heathcote Wine Region received its GI (Australian Geographical Indication) 21 August 2002 following many years of advocacy from winemakers of the region for recognition under Commonwealth legislation
Located to the north of the Great Dividing Range, the Heathcote region is at elevations between 160m and 380m. The majority of soil under vine is Cambrian – red and deep with excellent water retention.
These calcium-rich red soils are made up of weathered "greenstone" and are prized for their water retention capabilities. While they drain freely, enough water is held in the soil to feed the vine throughout the growing season, and there is rarely need for irrigation in Heathcote.
Small, concentrated grapes are the result, and they make rich, concentrated wines. The soils are also notable because they impart deep intrinsic characters – almost a sense of place or terroir – to the wines.
Some vignerons do not irrigate, aiming for smaller fruit that is intensely rich in flavour. The region’s rainfall is evenly distributed between the seasons and the climate is temperate, with cooling winds blowing from the south.
Heathcote wines are defined by their inky depth of colour, and deep, dark, complex fruit. Voluptuous and well balanced, acid and tannin meld together in a way that does not dominate the fruit, but gives the wine great cellaring ability.
These characteristics are a product not only of winemaking skills, but of the vineyard itself. It is the ‘terroir’ of the different vineyards that is responsible.
Terroir is the interaction of the soil, sunlight, rainfall and micro climates and it creates unique conditions determining the way the vine, and hence the wine, develop. While the terroirs of Heathcote differ, they all produce high quality fruit – and can be credited with the burgeoning fame and demand for Heathcote wines.
The size of the region, by implication, results in variations in climate, geology and topography. The main variations are apparent as one travels north.
The north is drier than the south and typically receives an average of 5-10mm less rain per month during the vines growing season (October to April). The region's southern vineyards experience cooler temperatures during the growing season.
These can vary between 1.8 and 1.4 degrees Celsius lower, resulting in an extended growing season. This variation in temperature during the grape ripening period results in a spread of picking dates and subsequently the development of a range of different flavour profiles.
Heathcote – the wine region history
The history of Heathcote is one similar to so many small towns of its era - once a bustling gold mining and logging town, bringing people of many different cultures and nationalities, with hopes of making a gold fortune.
To the north of the town, those immigrants disillusioned with mining struck a new type of gold, with the development of land for grazing, cropping and vines. Henning Rathjen was one of the early German settlers to arrive to the Colbinabbin area, at the northern end of the Mount Camel Range in today's Heathcote wine region in the 1850s.
He planted one of the earliest vineyards in the region, before the arrival of the vine louse, phylloxera, which resulted in the destruction of the vines. The land was then used for agricultural purposes. In the bush to the north-east of Heathcote, Italian immigrants planted more vines, some of which still exist today.
More recently, Albino Zuber and Bruno Pangrazio were responsible for plantings, which today contribute to some of the iconic wines that the Heathcote wine region is renowned for - both at home, and internationally.
Today, there are around 40 wineries, and 70 vineyards in the Heathcote region, including descendants of those early settlers, once again growing grapes on the range overlooking Colbinabbin.
Heathcote – destination and accommodation
Fo more about visiting Heathcote and finding accommodation.