Bendigo Wine region
Winemaker Tony Winspear, Balgownie Estate Bendigo
Winding through the Bendigo Wine Region
The gentle rolling hills that fold away from Central Victoria’s granite outcrops to Bendigo hold a revelation – stunning wines with a rich heritage.
The first grapes were planted in the Bendigo region in 1855 just after the start of the massive gold rushes which brought tens of thousands of hopeful diggers from all over the world to Bendigo to seek their fortunes.
They brought with them a lust for gold, but also the wine and food knowledge of Europe and it was only a few years before the judges at the 1873 Vienna Exhibition were heard to exclaim of Bendigo's early Hermitage (Shiraz) wines that "no Colonial wine can be that good".
The Winemakers Region
The tradition of wine grape-growing in the Bendigo region is nearly as old as Bendigo itself.
Credited with being Bendigo’s first vignerons are Jacques Bladier and a German named Delscher, both of whom planted vineyards at Epsom about 1855, and Jean-Baptiste Loridan, whose vineyard of 10,000 vines on the Sheepwash Creek was noted in the May 1856 Bendigo Advertiser as being two years old.
It is believed that when the easily accessible gold ran out in Bendigo, viticulture was something the general labour force who knew hard work and the area could easily turn to. But the threat of phylloxera in late 1893, at the Emu Creek vineyard of Frederick Grosse, marked the beginning of the demise of the original wine industry in the Bendigo district.
The resurgence of the wine industry in Bendigo is traced to the planting of the Balgownie Estate and Byronsvale vineyards in the late 1960s. Bendigo’s new wave of winemakers are winning attention with their elegant reds and stylish whites. The majority of the local Bendigo wineries are small to medium-sized, and are still run by the families who founded them. Regular visitors to the region fondly refer to it as “The Winemakers’ Region”, knowing it is not uncommon to meet the winemakers, sleeves rolled up, tending vines or working in the winery.
The same soil that once provided wealth through gold, is now helping to produce award-winning wines.
Situated completely inland within the zone of Central Victoria, the Bendigo wine region has a Mediterranean climate with warm, dry summers and mild, wet winters.
The undulations and aspects of the Bendigo region create some variation in meso-climatic conditions. In seeking and exploiting these climatic differences, the vineyards tend to be small in area.
The majority of soils in the Bendigo region are described as sandy gravel, volcanic basalt or clay loams mostly over clay sub-soils. Deep soils, those with gravel or sand or with a moderate chalk content can be ideal for the cultivation of wine grapes.
Varieties and Wine Styles
The diversity of climate in the Bendigo wine region plays host to a range of grape varieties and wine styles. The climate is perfectly suited for the Shiraz and Cabernet the region is renowned for.
In the cooler areas, the classic Chardonnay and Pinot Noir varieties produce exemplary sparkling and table wines. Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc enter the picture as the temperature rises.
The region is now carving an exciting reputation for Mediterranean-style wines such as Sangiovese, Nebbiolo and Monastrell.
The light rosé in recent releases from many of the local wineries are fast gaining popularity locally and interstate.