For most Australians the association of Queensland with wine is an oxymoron. The common sense view is that it is simply too hot and humid for good wine. This is true for much of Queensland but there are high altitude areas where it is cold enough to snow and to make more than passable wines - and occassionally a really outstanding wine.
Queensland Wine Industry Association: www.queenslandwine.com.au
Genxywines's Breakdown of Queensland Wine
Regions and Main Districts (Provisional)
(Official GI regions are labelled as regions, unofficial ones will be called districts)
Brisbane and Scenic Rim Area (including Gold Coast hinterland)
Darling Downs District
Granite Belt Region
South Burnett Region
Sunshine Coast Hinterland District (including Noosa)
Other minor districts such as Texas and North Burnett are included in the general Queensland Zone
The negative perception of Queensland wine is a massive problem for that state’s wine industry. Queensland’s largest wine producer, Clovely Estate increased its retail sales interstate from 20,000 litres in 2004 to 1 million in 2005 after dropping the ‘Made in Queensland’ label and replacing it with the ‘Made In South Eastern Australia’ label.
It was not that long ago that Biltmore Cellars in Queensland’s premier wine region around Stanthorpe marketed the local product as the ‘world’s worst wines’. This dates back to the period before the 1970s when Queensland wines were made by Italian and Greek immigrants to the Granite Belt mainly for the consumption by their family and friends but sometimes sold as cheap, bulk wine.
Robert Channon, one of the Granite Belt’s leading
contemporary winemakers commented that : “Some
of their home-made wine was as good as you’d find on similar small farms in Italy or Greece. Others were, how shall we say ? Interesting…Foul. Its because so many people remember those bad wines that Queensland continues to have a poor reputation. Queenslanders are the worst. They take a lot of persuading that our wine can match other regions.”
Certainly we at genxywines can concur that it is very difficult to find a Queensland wine in most Queensland bottleshops with the sole exception of the Sirromet and Clovely Estate wines competing at the lower end of the retail price range.
Through the active support of the Queensland Government and the wine-making wonder that is Queensland’s Master of Wines, Peter Scudamore-Smith, the local industry has made great strides in quality in recent years. If you can ever find a bottle that Peter has had been involved with it is worth a try.
Making wines since 1839
Queenslanders have been making wines since 1839 when the first vines were planted near Ballandean in the Granite Belt on the state’s southern border with NSW. The Romaville Winery, Queensland’s first commercial winery on the inland western slope of the Great Dividing Range, was established in the 1863. Like other Australian mainland colonies there was a flourishing mid-late 19th century wine industry with extensive vineyards near Brisbane at Ommaney and Ipswich and also Toowoomba and Stanthorpe.
Phylloxera does not seem to have been a significant factor in the demise of the early local wine industry. A more likely explanation is the double whammy of the sugar cane industry and Federation. The opening up of central Queensland to the sugar cane industry (in particular rum) and rail transport led to Queensland’s major cities being flooded with cheap rum. Queenslanders, since the late 19th century, have had a much higher consumption of spirits compared to wine than any other Australian state. By contrast in the late 19th century South Australians, and to a lesser extent, Victorians drank more wine than spirits. The lifting of inter-colonial trade tariffs after Federation put further stress on the Queensland wine industry through the glut of South Australian and NSW wines.
By the 1930's
By the 1930s the Queensland wine industry no longer existed in commercial terms with the sole exception of the Romaville Winery with its popular fortifieds. Romaville continues its splendid isolation and is the only survivor of 19th century industry. The Granite Belt has been making some of its ‘interesting’ amateur wines since the 1920s and there was a long standing Shiraz vineyard near Kingaroy.
The modern industry began to emerge
However, the modern industry began to emerge in the Granite Belt in the 1970s through the efforts of John and Heather Robinson, Angelo Puglisi and John Stafford. The high altitude Granite Belt is an area that is climatically similar to the Mudgee, on the cusp between a cold climate and warm climate region. Its spicy Shirazes are its most famous product and it can be cool enough for Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc do surprisingly well for such a northerly latitude. However, the Granite Belt was not the first Queensland region to win official GI status.
South Burnett in the warmer and more humid area around Kingaroy about 100 km inland from the Sunshine Coast gained full GI registration in Dec 2000 (the Granite Belt was not registered until March 2002). Verdelho, Chardonnay, Semillon and Shiraz are important varieties South Burnett although they are more in the smooth quaffing style than the more elegant Granite Belt wines. Both regions are strongly pursuing alternative varieties such as Sangiovese, Barbera, Nebbiolo, and Nero d'Avola.
Growth in the 200km coastal strip
While there are now over thirty wineries in the Granite Belt the real growth in the industry has been along the 200 km coastal strip between the Gold Coast and Noosa. Wine, particularly fruity whites, are becoming a bigger part of the south-east Queensland’s outdoor cafe lifestyle. Most of the tourist focussed cellar doors are selling wines sourced from the unfashionable Granite Belt and South Burnett. Queenland’s slant on wine tourism is to take the wine to the tourists rather than the other way around is the case with Hunter Valley, Margaret River or Barossa Valley.
It doesn’t seem possible on a humid summer day but there really is some serious viticultural activity in higher parts of the Blackhall Ranges behind the Sunshine Coast. Site and varietal selection is critical but Eumundi Winery has some rather good local locally grown Petit Verdot and Chambourcin, while Blind Man’s Bluff out near Kenilworth has a stand out lean and flinty Chardonnay. The production levels are too small for the coastal strip to be assigned any official GI regions. However, our approach is that the coastal strip can be meaningfully broken down into the ‘Brisbane Scenic Rim’ (Brisbane/Gold Coast hinterland) and the more northerly ‘Sunshine Coast’ (Noosa/ Sunshine Coast hinterland).
Another area of significant viticultural activity is around the inland city of Toowoomba and is known as the Darling Downs. The Darling Downs had a significant 19th century wine industry and the most well known contemporary wineries from here are Rimfire, Jimbour Station and Preston Peak. Rimfire has an award winning Chardonnay, Jimbour Station makes a particularly super-heroic style of Shiraz, while Preston Peak has a remarkable dessert white muscat that reminded us of vanilla ice cream ! The wines may not be subtle but they can be positively memorable rather than ‘interesting’.
The regional taxonomy of the Queensland is still in
its very early stages. The Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation only
has the registered two regions within Queensland which leaves the rest
of Queesland chucked in to a meaningless Queensland Zone category. The
Queensland Government lists several other districts, some of which we
reckon are too small and indistinct from other districts. Our provisional
model for the purposes of this website is to steer a middle road that
attempts to reflect the actual level of diversity in the current Queensland
wine industry. If someone, more expert on Queensland wines, has a better
breakdown then we want to hear from you.