Regional Tasting Series: Beechworth

Beautiful Beechworth, sitting in the shadow of the Australian Alps and set high above the north-east plains of the Great Dividing Range, has carved out a wonderful niche for itself in the Australian wine scene. The warm days and cool brisque nights combined with a wide variety of microclimates is producing some of the most unique and compelling wines in the country from both classic and 'alternative' varietals.

Established in the 1980's with the likes of Giaconda, Castagna and Sorrenberg, this relatively new wine region has seen an influx of savvy producers, growers and young winemakers looking to establish themselves and showcase that Beechworth magic. Driven by innovative, thoughtful and passionate winemaking as well as a fierce independence, the region is firmly making its mark on the Aussie wine scene.

Scattered across the alpine landscape, the varietal make-up has seen the likes of pinot noir, shiraz and chardonnay excel, while more recently Italian and Spanish varietals like sangiovese, nebbiolo and tempranillo are more than proving there worth. Its ability to ripen such an array of varietals is largely due to its wide-ranging topography of complex sites, elevated hillside vineyards and gently rolling peaks and gullies.

The soils are composed of a mixed assortment of granite, ancient slate and shale, pockmarked with sandstone and gravel over clay which impart the wines with a unique mineral streak. With vineyards situated anywhere from 300m to over 700m in altitude site selection is paramount, and prone to mother natures less pleasant side but ultimately lending itself to a patchwork of diverse terroirs that make this region unique.

With only a handful of producers in the region and 20 or 30 vineyards planted, the potential in Beechworth seems to be barely in its infancy. That's an exciting prospect given the quality and diversity of wines already being produced. Those that have established themselves here have tasted the promise of something truly special, and while time will tell, they are off to an amazing start.