(Australian Associated Press)
Gold Coast vineyards are toasting their increasing popularity among wine drinkers locally and overseas.
Wine lovers don’t need to travel to Europe to experience boutique varieties like Tempranillo or Verdelho, better known for coming from vineyards in Spain and Portugal.
Nestled in the hinterland of Queensland’s Gold Coast, a number of award-winning vineyards are producing these wines too.
And the Gold Coast-grown varieties of Verdelho, Tempranillo and Semillon are increasingly tantalising the Australian wine industry and wine lovers, creating a niche tourism market.
Queensland is still a fledgling player in the Australian wine industry, with about 70 commercial wineries compared to around 700 each in Victoria and South Australia, according to the Australian and New Zealand Wine Directory of 2017.
However, change could be fermenting.
One of the fastest growing wine regions in Queensland, the Gold Coast wine country encompasses the cooler climate of Mt Tamborine and Springbrook through to the milder climates of Albert River and Canungra Valley. The region allows a range of grape varieties to be grown.
Mike Hayes, from Ballandean in south-east Queensland’s Granite Belt, was recently named Winemaker of the Year by the Australian Society of Viticulture and Oenology. He has long been an advocate for alternative varieties of wine.
On the Gold Coast, Shane O’Reilly, managing director of O’Reilly’s Canungra Valley Vineyards and chair of the Queensland Tourism Industry Council – shares this view.
He says the future of Queensland’s wine industry lies in establishing these alternative wines.
“We’re not trying to compete against the shiraz, cabernet and chardonnay varieties here in Queensland,” he says.
“We’re trying to propagate wines that really suit our region, similar to the wines coming from other parts of Europe, like Portugal and Spain, where the climate is hotter and drier like ours.
“We’ve tried to establish our wines as a point of difference.”
This approach is succeeding for Mr O’Reilly and his vineyard, which recently won gold in the Tourism Wineries, Distilleries and Breweries category at the 2017 Queensland Tourism Awards.
Australia is among the top 10 global wine producers and exporters.
Wine Australia’s Export Report for 12 months to December 2017, shows that the Australian wine export market grew by 15 per cent to $2.56 billion (the highest level since the global financial crisis in 2008) and volume increased by eight per cent to 811 million litres. Premium wines are driving demand with the Export Report citing it had experienced the biggest growth.
According to the Queensland government most Queensland wine is sold domestically, but overseas exports to China, Japan, Taiwan, and the UK are increasing.
O’Reilly’s wines are catering to international interests. In the past four years, the company has shipped 15 containers — or 211,680 bottles — to Chinese clients.
Mount Nathan Winery owner Peter Gibson, who has been working with the Chinese market for ten years, believes Queensland’s market share is increasing.
“A lot more Queensland wineries are exporting than they did five years ago. It’s difficult to compete with commercial wineries so we rely on boutique fortified honey and port type wines rather than table wine products,” he says.
“Last year our sales to mainland China grew by 25 per cent. We have a warehouse in Shanghai and a division at the winery solely devoted to growing exports within greater China.”
Witches Falls Winery owner Jon Heslop says being a small producer affords him more flexibility to adapt to changing customer palates.
“Consumers are looking for greater connection to the origin and producer of their wines – they have a preference for locally produced and support the use of quality ingredients,” he said.
While flexibility comes with its risks, the winery has had success with its niche Wild Ferment Range; growing it from one variety (Chardonnay) in 2005 to 12, including lesser known varieties Gamay and Tempranillo.
“We encourage fermentation to take place using only the indigenous yeast present on the grapes at the time of harvest – often too risky for commercial wineries as the outcomes of such actions, though often spectacular, can’t be predicted.”
Cedar Creek Estate Vineyard and Winery owner John Penglis is making a difference with Verdelho and Semillon. His most popular variety, Revelation Red, is grown from a French-American hybrid grape called Chambourcin, which was given to him by the CSIRO in 1999.
Mr Penglis established a career as a winemaker just seven years ago after he retired from three decades in television, most of this time with Channel 9 in Brisbane.
“Our difference is you can enjoy a variety of wines without having to travel to Europe for the taste experience,” says Mr Penglis. “You can have a lot of fun with winemaking when you have the chance to experiment.”
At 84, Mr Penglis isn’t slowing down. In April he will be part of the Queen’s Baton Relay for the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games, and he continues to work seven days a week at Cedar Creek Estate.
“If you want to grow old, then that’s when you stop work,” he says.
Top boutique wines on the Gold Coast include:
– Witches Falls Winery, 2017 Wild Ferment Viognier $34.00 (French Rhone variety that produces a crisp, dry wine which has great complexity, richness and character)
– Heritage Estate, Rabbit Fence Red $22.50 (blend of shiraz, cabernet and merlot with red berry and black current and plum aromas)
– O’Reilly’s Canungra Valley Vineyards, “Vince” Verdelho $35.90 (tropical fruit and pineapple on the nose with guava and passionfruit flavours)
– Cedar Creek Estate Vineyard & Winery, Revolution Red $22 (subtle fruit flavours of estate grown Chambourcin blended with South Burnett Merlot)
– Mount Nathan Winery, Bubbly Brut $35 (award winning semi-dry sparkling white wine – crisp strong flavour, pleasant aftertaste and light bubbles making it an easy-drinking drop).
AAP, in collaboration with the City of Gold Coast and Gold Coast Tourism, is publishing a range of newsworthy content in the lead-up to the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.