Movement in Macedon

Macedon Ranges is a very cold region, the coldest wine region on the Australian mainland, with a Heat Degree Days summation of 1217 – similar to Alsace and Beaujolais. (Photo: Macedon Ranges Wine)

The Macedon Ranges is a small wine region that struggles to be heard above the noise created by the more famous regions. It should be better known, as the wines deserve acclaim. It is set to be better known, with recent changes in the region.

Macedon is an exciting region with a very bright future.

Its most famous wineries include Bindi, Curly Flat, Knight Granite Hills and Hanging Rock. With Matt Harrop (ex-Shadowfax) moving to the region to take over as chief winemaker at Curly Flat, and Doug Neal (ex-Paradise IV) moving up from Geelong to become resident winemaker at Hesket Estate, things are moving. Harrop was already making Macedon wine under his and his wife Tamara Grischy’s label, Silent Way.

Hanging Rock and Cobaw Ridge are both into the second generation: John and Anne Ellis’s son Robert is now the winemaker at Hanging Rock, while Alan and Nelly Cooper’s son Joshua is making wine under his own label. Cobaw Ridge’s speciality is lagrein, although the quantities are tiny.

Mount Towrong has made some very good nebbiolos. Lyons Will Estate, Hunter-Gatherer and Athletes of Wine are new names to be reckoned with. Passing Clouds founder Graeme Leith and his son Cameron moved their winemaking operation from Bendigo to the Macedon Ranges and renamed it The Fools On The Hill.

Llew Knight at Knight Granite Hills continues to make wine for others as well as his own vineyard and has recently added a very smart grüner veltliner to the range. Liam O’Brien and Matt Brooke are two Melbourne sommeliers who started Athletes of Wine. And Ben Ranken, who works at Galli Estate, has taken over a vineyard planted in 1982 and renamed it Wilimee. Hunter-Gatherer is the brand of Brian Martin, whose day job is at the region’s contract sparkling winemaking facility, Kilchurn. There is movement at the station.

Currently, there are more than 40 vineyards and wineries, and the local association has 44 members. The region has about 500 hectares under vine and crushes 1,500 tonnes of grapes a year on average.

There are four main soil types: granite, basalt, non-marine sedimentary, and in the valleys, alluvial soils. No doubt there will be much discussion in the future about the relative merits of riesling grown on one soil type as opposed to another, just as in Alsace.

Macedon Ranges is a very cold region, the coldest wine region on the Australian mainland, with a Heat Degree Days summation of 1217 – similar to Alsace and Beaujolais. The vineyards are mostly between 500-600 metres above sea level, the lowest being 300m and highest 800m. This gives good acid retention and intense fruit flavours. Sparkling wine is a speciality: indeed, Domaine Chandon nearly set up its winery there, before deciding on the Yarra Valley in the mid-1980s. During a recent Macedon Ranges promotional showcase in Sydney I tasted two fine bubblies: Hanging Rock Rosé Brut NV and Hesket Estate Blanc de Noirs 2015. The notes for these and 17 other Macedon wines are on the website now.

Macedon is an exciting region with a very bright future. With plenty of available land suited to viticulture and the global warming trend, it’s a region to watch.

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