Spin the Bot­tle

De­spite its prox­im­ity to Mel­bourne, this scenic wine re­gion has man­aged to fly un­der the radar – un­til now.

Qantas - - CONTENTS - Story by PE­TER BOURNE and RE­BECCA VILLIS

Beat a path (and the tourists) to the Heath­cote wine re­gion

a 90-minute drive north of Mel­bourne, Vic­to­ria’s Heath­cote re­gion doesn’t hold back on its bu­colic charm. Vis­i­tors are greeted by what looks like a gi­ant game of mar­bles aban­doned cen­turies ago: large gran­ite boul­ders strewn across sharp green peaks. Roads wind through this dra­matic land­scape punc­tu­ated with rolling hills be­fore reach­ing the area’s heart, where vast open bush­land dot­ted with age­ing eu­ca­lypts takes over.

But Heath­cote is much more than scenic drives and must-stop look­outs. A bur­geon­ing food and wine scene is also part of its charm. It all be­gan in 1955 when Cze­choslo­vakian vi­gneron Paul Osicka and his fam­ily ar­rived and planted the first vines in Gray­town. Two decades later, Ron Laughton of Jasper Hill in Ladys Pass pro­duced spec­tac­u­lar shi­raz, which re­mains the re­gion’s sig­na­ture va­ri­ety.

To­day, some of the coun­try’s big names in wine­mak­ing – Tyrrell’s, Sep­pelt, Brown Brothers – have vine­yards in Heath­cote. Yet the area is still some­thing of a lo­cal se­cret. It’s not set up for mass tourism (there are no big bus tours here) and the only vis­i­tors you’re likely to en­counter are kan­ga­roos and emus wan­der­ing among the vines. But that’s pre­cisely what makes it a won­der­ful es­cape – much like the Na­pas and Cham­pagnes be­fore tourists dis­cov­ered them. Plan a week­end here now be­fore the rest of Aus­tralia catches up.

The four guest vil­las at The Cel­lars at Heath­cote II are stocked with lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional wine

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