James Halliday with glass of red wine in hand.

Queensland’s Granite Belt is one of Australia’s most interesting regions, on the face of it much too far north to produce high-quality grapes. That it is able to do so is explained by its altitude, over 800m. Its principal viticultural challenges are spring frosts and growing season rainfall of over 500mm – two-thirds of the annual rain. And I can personally vouch for the fact that snow can fall in January.

It was not until 1965 that the first wine grapes (1ha of Shiraz) were planted, and 20 years later only a handful of wineries had been established – most of which either no longer exist, or have changed name and ownership.

Things have changed dramatically as the region approaches its 50th birthday. Senior citizen Ballandean Estate (established 1985) has just released a suite of excellent red wines from 2012; Boireann (established 1998) only knows how to make world-class red wines; Golden Grove (established 1946 as a table grape producer but in reality 1985 when Sam Costanzo became winemaker/owner) with an impressive array across both white and red wines; Summit Estate (established 1997) a skilled maker of Spanish-inspired (Tempranillo, etc) reds; Symphony Hill (established 1999) has hit the headlines with first-class white wines and Shiraz; and Ridgemill with a stunning Chardonnay.

The early years were particularly difficult because cellar door trade was negligible; the mid-years saw general tourism without much wine knowledge; maturity has grown in the last 20 years with knowledgeable bricks and mortar and web visitation.

James Halliday Newsletter
Australian Wine Companion