Western Victorian zone
The Western Victorian Zone covers a large geographical area to the west and south west of the Melbourne 'dress circle' (Port Phillip Zone).
It extends from Ballarat and Bacchus Marsh to the South Australian border, and includes the major coastal towns of Portland and Pt. Fairy. It only extends as far north as Horsham and does not include the north-westerly wine regions associated with the River Murray.
The zone includes three official GI wine regions: the two central western regions: Pyrenees and the Grampians well known for their red wines; while the third, Henty, covers the chilly south-west corner of the state.
There are numerous wineries that lie outside the three designated regions mainly around the Ballarat area. Ballarat is the largest city in western Victoria, home of the Eureka Stockade rebellion and has many grand Victorian-era buildings funded by Australia's largest gold rush. Like many provincial Victorian gold mining towns Ballarat had a thriving 19th century wine industry that disappeared in the 20th century under the impact of phylloxera and the change in the market to fortified wines.
Ballarat never had much chance of doing a Rutherglen and pursuing the fortified wine path. Ballarat is one of the coldest, windiest and rainiest parts of Western Victoria. However, wine lovers are discovering that Ballarat can produce excellent cool climate varietal expressions of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
The revival of Ballarat as a wine area started with the Yellowglen sparkling wines in the 1970s. Regional stalwart Norm Latta has been crafted out his own style of tannic, long cellaring reds and stylish Chardonnays at Eastern Peake since 1983. The vineyards for the Mount Beckworth and Dulcinea wineries were also established in this period as well. The 1990s has seen a second wave of growers set up in the region. There are now over 50 vineyards in the Ballarat 'non-region'.
It is only recently that the 'second wave' vines have matured enough to allow the full potential for the region to be expressed. Tomboy Hill has won much praise for its powerful stonefruit and nectarine Chardonnays and the elegant Pinot Noirs. New wineries such as Nintingbool and Wighttwick look set to continue Ballarat's new found reputation as Victoria's hottest wine non-region.
Maybe the reason they haven't become an official wine region is to stay true to Ballarat's rebellious non-conformist traditions. The real reason is that the wine crush is too small. Who cares about the Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation's stamp of approval when the wine tastes this good.