Bendigo Unearthed

Renowned for its centuries-old architecture, gold rush roots and locally-grown wine and produce, the Bendigo wine region has become one of Victoria’s top destinations, writes April Davis.

Located in central Victoria, Bendigo has a Mediterranean climate that generates the ideal conditions for producing a selection of artisan red wines that can be savoured by wine connoisseurs and amateurs alike. The city has a rich winemaking history that dates back to1855 when Jacques Bladier and a German named Delscher started Bendigo’s first vineyards during the early days of the gold rush. To learn more about the region’s viticultural history, we enlisted the help of Wes Vine, the president of the Bendigo Winegrowers Association, to unearth his knowledge of the area.

A FINE DROP

With more than 20 vineyards scattered across the area, Bendigo is home to some of Victoria’s most skilled and experienced winemakers, which means the high-quality wine the city produces is always flowing. The region mainly specialises in red wine, but the climate also nurtures white varieties.

“In the region’s vineyards, plantings of red grape varieties predominate over white. The main reds [produced include] shiraz and cabernet sauvignon, both [of which] are
well suited to the [area], with winemakers producing long-lived [wines] from both styles,” says Vine.

“Other red grape varieties include pinot noir, nebbiolo, cabernet franc, malbec, monastrell, sangiovese, Grenache, petit verdot and barbera,” he continues.

When it comes to white wine, chardonnay and sauvignon blanc are regional favourites, and riesling, semillon, viognier and fiano are also popular varieties.

For some insight into the inner workings of some of Bendigo’s top wineries, Vine details the successes and passions of some of the talented winemakers that have laid their roots in the picturesque city.

“At Sutton Grange Winery, 27-year-old chief winemaker, Melanie Chester, won Gourmet Traveller’s Young Winemaker of the Year award in 2015. [Over at Killiecrankie Wines], owners and winemakers John Monteath and Claire Hull are mixing their passion for wine and art, producing award-winning wines, while turning their cellar door into a gallery of their photographic works,” he says. Many of the local vintners are also expanding their wine range by including more exotic varieties, such as Spanish tempranillo, which is known for its earthy red berry and cherry palate with aromas of chocolate, raspberry and leafy tobacco.

THINGS TO SEE AND DO

Bendigo is a city that’s ripe for the picking – and not just because of its grapes! With a vibrant mix of cafes, gold rush architecture and attractions, antique stores and sprawling gardens, there’s plenty to see and do.

“Seasonal fresh produce can be found everywhere in the region,” says Vine. “Shop at the local farmers market, take a Food Fossickers tour through the city, or visit a farm gate or food store, such as Bendigo Wholefoods.”

Some other worthwhile destinations for visitors are Chancery Lane, an alleyway plastered with posters, tins of flowers and herbs, which is known for its quality eateries and fashion boutiques, and for history buffs, an underground Bendigo Mine Tour or the historic talking tram that travels the streets of the CBD is a must.