Toasting Geelong

Whether it’s the distinct maritime flavours of the Bellarine or the ancient richness of the Moorabool Valley, the Geelong wine region is renowned for its rugged coastline and premium handcrafted wines, writes April Davis.

Surrounded by picturesque scenery, and with a host of activities and tours to partake in, Geelong’s wineries produce some of Australia’s best wines, and the region is a hotspot for wine lovers from across the country – and the world. To discover all it has to offer, Sally Vickers, the executive and marketing officer at the Geelong Winegrowers Association, shares some of her expert knowledge.

A STAND-OUT ZONE

With plenty to offer both tourists and locals alike, Geelong’s prime winegrowing area is a destination like no other.

“With each sub-region and winery displaying their own unique characteristics, visitors are invited to explore the diversity of the stunning scenery, tourist routes and restaurants, while sampling some of Victoria’s finest cellar door experiences,” says Vickers.

“There is no better time to visit the region’s wineries than in spring, when the greenery is bursting from the vines and the sun and gentle breezes blow away the long winter chill. Bud burst is upon us, bringing with it the excitement that soon the vines will be heaving with ripening fruits just waiting to be turned into next year’s vintages.”

Because of the region’s unique climate and rich soil, a trip to Geelong is sure to awaken your palate, all while you enjoy a relaxing weekend away.

“With three distinct sub-regions, [it’s not] surprising that the growing conditions and soil vary dramatically. From sandy loam, basalt plains, river loam to rich volcanic soils, a wide range of grape varieties can be grown here. The growing conditions here are no doubt harsh, but this adversity produces stunning results,” she says.

As well as producing some of Australia’s finest wines, the wineries are also surrounded by some of Victoria’s best scenery and touring opportunities.

RAISE YOUR GLASS

Renowned for its shiraz, pinot noir and chardonnay, Geelong is a region that’s ripe for the picking.

“Geelong’s family-owned boutique operators maximise their wine’s potential by hand- pruning, hand-picking and handcrafting their wines, [which] allows regional characters to develop. Areas within the region have varying micro-climates [that] influence the depth of colour, bouquet and flavour of each wine. The Bellarine has a maritime climate with bay breezes and spectacular views, while the hills and valleys of the Moorabool Valley have a warm, continental-style climate. [Finally,] the Surf Coast is famous for its long summer days and cooling ocean breezes,” says Vickers.

As well as its famous, mouth-watering varieties, the region has a lot more to offer in terms of wine tasting.

“Abounding in variety, the Geelong wine region is renowned for its superior shiraz, pinot noir and chardonnay, [but while] these are the backbone of most of the area’s wine specialists, the region is rich in adventurous winemakers. Plantings of riesling, gewürztraminer and merlot, [as well as] more exotic [varieties] such as primitivo, gamay, langrein and carménère, [are also available in abundance],” she says.

When asked how the wine produced in the region varies to other similar wines from neighbouring areas, Vickers explains the region’s history and terroir has made all the difference.

“Famous for its quality in the 19th century, the Geelong wine region’s pinot noir has led the renaissance, producing world-class [flavours] across all three [of Geelong’s] sub-regions. The style – [which] varies dramatically across the diverse terroir of each vineyard – maintains a common varietal base that is unmistakably Geelong. Our shiraz displays great strength and depth of colour, bouquet and flavour that also defines the region,” she says.

THE COMPLETE TASTE EXPEREINCE

Like most wine-producing regions, Geelong is also a popular destination for lovers of home- grown food and cheese.

“Family-owned vineyards, boutique producers and organic farmers grow and make their food and wine in traditional, high-quality ways,” says Vickers. “Hand-picked, milked and made – often by members of the same family – [their cuisine is] always [made] by people who share a passion for good produce. Gourmet flavours that call Geelong and the Bellarine home include wine, beer, cider, cheese, olives and olive oil, seafood, chocolate, vegetables and fruit,” says Vickers.

Some of the region’s most notable producers of home-made goods include, Meredith Goats Cheese, Drysdale Cheeses, Little Creatures Brewery, Ravens Creek Farm & Produce, Golden Plains Farmers Market and Moorabool Valley Chocolate, all of which are worth visiting.

TONS OF FUN

According to Vickers, there are plenty of reasons the Geelong wine region is a must- visit destination.

“The new Bellarine Taste Trail is reinforcing the Bellarine region’s reputation as a top destination for foodies and wine lovers, providing more than 60 reasons to discover its epicurean delights. The Bellarine Taste Trail brings together a treasure trove of products, ranging from wines and boutique beers to farm gate produce, bed and breakfasts, cafés and restaurants. To download the Bellarine Taste Trail map, visit: www.thebellarinetastetrail.com.au.”

Another must-see attraction is the Otway Harvest Trail.

“The Otway Harvest Trail is a celebration of the seasons that bestow their rich bounty on a luscious part of Victoria. We invite you to discover this for yourself at: www.otwayharvesttrail.org.au,” Vickers says.

The Golden Plains Farmers Market in Bannockburn has also built a reputation worthy of Geelong’s top-class wine industry. On the first Saturday of each month, winemakers and growers from across the Moorabool valley
gather in Bannockburn with offerings of meat, cheese, vegetables, fruit, honey, oil and flowers.

Vickers' last piece of advice is to enjoy all of what Geelong has to offer.

“Experience the Geelong wine region on a tailored tour. Charters and private tours are available for day trips, special occasions, events and festivals. For the Love of Grape Wine Tours offers a relaxing and memorable experience to the variety of wineries on the Bellarine, the Surf Coast and the Moorabool Valley.”

All of the company’s tours offer the convenience of drop-off to any of the region’s hotels, train stations or Queenscliff Ferry services.

“For the Love of Grape offers full day tours, including pampering and wine, full day wine tours (including lunch) and caters for corporate functions, hens or bucks groups,” says Vickers.

Visit the local tour operator directly at: www.fortheloveofgrape.com.au, for more information.

With a host of delicious food and wine on offer, a trip to the Geelong wine region will be a day – or weekend – well spent.