Bendigo Wine Region
In the vineyards in this region, plantings of red grape varieties predominate over white, with the dominant red variety being shiraz, and the dominant whites chardonnay and sauvignon blanc. Other red grape varieties include cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir, merlot, cabernet franc, malbec, mataro, sangiovese and touriga. Other white grape varieties include riesling, semillon, and traminer.
The towns and lands in the Bendigo region share a common historical legacy in their gold-mining roots. The gold-bearing soils of the area have proved to be ideally suited to viticulture. The grapes of the Bendigo area have from the earliest days been wine, not table, grapes, and to this day they are only minimally irrigated and ultimately handcrafted into premium wines. The wines of intense flavour, produced here by the confluence of superb climatic and geographic conditions, have made Bendigo’s reputation abroad as much as its gold has.
Within the Bendigo region, land conditions include volcanic plains, alluvial flood plains, rolling granite hills and sedimentary rises. In the volcanic plains in the Campaspe River catchment area, area soils are red gradational and duplex. In the flood plain areas, brown loamy soils predominate, while in the granitic areas coarse uniform sandy soils are found on rocky crests and predominantly yellow duplex soils are found on slopes.
In the sedimentary rises shallow, stoney gradational or uniform soils typify rocky crests, and red or yellow duplex soils the slopes. In the volcanic plains of the Loddon River catchment area, red brown gradational and duplex soils are found on well-drained slopes. In the flood plains, red duplex soils with sandy loam topsoils and non-mottled clay sub-soils are found; in the granitic areas the more gentle slopes and crests generally feature yellow and yellow grey duplex soils (southern granites) and red duplex soils (northern granites); in the areas of sedimentary rises, both red and yellow duplex soils are found with shallow, stoney gradational soils located on isolated, rocky crests.
The majority of soils in the Bendigo region range from brownish surface loamy sand and clay loam over a stony clay base to quite acidic soils, yellow-brown in colour. Jackson and Schuster (1981) typify the region’s soils as "sandy gravel, volcanic basalt or clay loams mostly over clay sub-soils." It is significant that they observe that "deep soils, those with gravel or sand or with a moderate chalk content" are ideal for the cultivation of wine grapes.
Situated completely inland within the zone of Central Victoria, the proposed region of Bendigo has a Mediterranean climate with warm, dry summers and mild, wet winters. Within the proposed region of Bendigo, there is some variation in meso-climatic conditions due to elevation, slope and aspect, from the foothills of the central highlands (such as at Castlemaine, Harcourt, Elphinstone) to the warmer undulating plains west and north of Greater Bendigo.
Overall, however, the region is classified, in terms of suitability for wine grape production, as a "Region with Mean January Temperature (MJT) from 21.0 to 22.9oC" (Dry and Smart 1988). This classification is shared with the Barossa, Clare, and Goulburn Valleys (inter alia), and distinguishes the Bendigo region from both the Sunraysia (Mildura) and Swan Hill-Kerang regions, with MJTs of from 23.0 to 24.9oC, and the Macedon region, with an MJT of 18.5oC.
Related again to other regions in Victoria, Bendigo has an average mean temperature in the growing season (October-April) of over 19oC, distinguishing it even from its neighbouring regions of Avoca and Seymour, as can be noted in Figure 1 below (reproduced from Gladstones, 1992).
Comparisons of the Bendigo region with its neighbouring regions using other indices common in evaluating areas for wine grape production show that Bendigo has higher daily mean temperatures during the ripening period, a lower daily range of temperatures, a lower relative humidity, and more sunshine hours at that time, while the average amount of rainfall is similar to the other regions (see Table 2 below, drawn from Gladstones’(1992) statistics).
In addition to the usual climatic variables temperature, rainfall, sunshine hours which are used to ascertain suitability for general agriculture, the more precise measurement of temperature summation is also commonly used to determine optimum climates for the production of wine grapes (see Gladstones, 1992 and Kirk and Hutchinson, 1994).
Kirk and Hutchinson (1994) place Bendigo in the 1501 - 1800 day degrees C temperature summation. They note (p. 250) that:
"A strong case can nevertheless be made that the majority of the world’s most highly regarded wines are made from grapes grown in regions with temperature summations of 901-1200, 1201-1500, or 1501-1800 day-degrees C, which for convenience can be categorized as Cool, Mild and Warm, respectively."