Cul­ti­vat­ing wine cred

Seymour Telegraph - - NEWS - By Lewis Fis­cher

At just 14 100 ha Nagam­bie Lakes is one of the small­est wine re­gions in all of Aus­tralia.

It’s also (ar­guably) one of the most unique.

Nagam­bie Lakes is the only re­gion in Aus­tralia — and one of only six we know of world­wide — where the grow­ing cli­mate is dra­mat­i­cally in­flu­enced by an in­land wa­ter mass.

Of­fi­cially recognised in the late 1990s, the meso­cli­mate spe­cific to the Nagam­bie Lakes re­gion is so unique that it’s only ef­fec­tive within 3 km of the wa­ter mass.

Any vines out­side that ra­dius won’t ben­e­fit from the same ef­fect.

As a sub-re­gion of the Goul­burn Valley where a con­ti­nen­tal cli­mate dom­i­nates, the in­flu­ence of the lakes, wet­lands and wa­ter­holes in the re­gion cre­ate some­thing like an in­land mar­itime ef­fect.

This reg­u­lates the re­gion’s tem­per­a­tures with a cool­ing ef­fect in sum­mer and warm­ing ef­fect in win­ter, re­sult­ing in a length­ened grow­ing sea­son.

‘‘It’s bet­ter for the vines to keep func­tion­ing over a re­ally long time,’’ Mitchel­ton wine­maker Travis Cly­des­dale said.

‘‘You get a more grad­ual and more even ac­cu­mu­la­tion of flavour and su­gar.’’

Grapes thrive in tem­per­ate cli­mates where they’re guar­an­teed a long grow­ing sea­son in which they can ripen on the vine.

When tem­per­a­tures drop too low vines be­come dor­mant and ex­ces­sive heat can cause grapes to ripen too quickly.

Nagam­bie Lakes has some in­su­la­tion against all that.

‘‘From a wine­mak­ing point of view there’s ob­vi­ously those unique dif­fer­ences here,’’ Mr Cly­des­dale said.

The re­gion is espe­cially suited to grow­ing French va­ri­eties, espe­cially those from the Rhone Valley.

‘‘The Rhone Valley has a sim­i­lar cli­mate to Nagam­bie Lakes in that it’s af­fected by the Rhone river,’’ Mr Cly­des­dale said.

Next door to Mitchel­ton is Tah­bilk, and both worked to es­tab­lish the sub-re­gion.

‘‘The more mod­er­ate the cli­mate the bet­ter the fruit we’re go­ing to grow,’’ Tah­bilk wine­maker Alis­ter Pur­brick said.

Adapted from the tra­di­tional Abo­rig­i­nal name, ta­bilk ta­bilk (mean­ing a place of many wa­ter­holes), the wet­lands at Tah­bilk have also been a ma­jor source of tourism for the win­ery.

‘‘The wet­lands work started in 1995,’’ Mr Pur­brick said.

‘‘We reveg­e­tated and opened up some of the nat­u­ral shal­low wet­lands which had been pugged up by stock abuse.’’

The wet­lands at Tah­bilk had been dry for about 100 years, but af­ter re­open­ing the en­trances to the wet­lands the aquatic life came flood­ing back and the area is even pop­u­lar with fish­er­men.

Vis­i­tors can com­plete walks out and around the wet­lands; the board­walks cater for 20-minute to two-hour strolls. Tah­bilk also runs a bat­tery­pow­ered boat that takes vis­i­tors on tours of the wet­lands.

‘‘Win­ery tours now are about hav­ing such a com­pelling of­fer­ing that if peo­ple are even faintly in­ter­ested in wine and they’re com­ing to your re­gion, they’ve got to come to your win­ery,’’ Mr Pur­brick said.

For Mitchel­ton Wines, that ex­tra of­fer­ing is a choco­late fac­tory.

‘‘I think it helps cre­ate di­ver­sity,’’ Mr Cly­des­dale said.

‘‘There’s an enor­mous op­por­tu­nity here, be­ing only an hour from Mel­bourne.

‘‘A lot of the other re­gions bor­der­ing Mel­bourne are al­most at sat­u­ra­tion point, so I think there’s a big op­por­tu­nity here to at­tract vis­i­tors away from some of those busier ar­eas with what we’re of­fer­ing.’’

As the Nagam­bie Lakes re­gion con­tin­ues to be recognised for its wine, espe­cially in its niche of pro­duc­ing ex­cel­lent French va­ri­etals, its cur­rent cult fol­low­ing is bound to in­crease.

Nagam­bie Lakes might be small in size but its her­itage, prox­im­ity to Mel­bourne, un­usual ar­chi­tec­ture and eco­cre­den­tials make it ripe for in­vest­ment and a ma­jor tourism draw­card for the re­gion.

Meso­cli­mate: Tah­bilk win­ery is lo­cated among the la­goons and wet­lands of ta­bilk ta­bilk.

Unique: The his­toric tower and yards of Tah­bilk win­ery.

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