Two local wines took out gold medals at the north-east Victoria Wine Challenge last week.
Swanpool Creek Wines won a gold medal for its 2018 Shiraz, while Saffron Gramophone took home two golds for its 2018 Malbec.
Swanpool Creek and Saffron Gramophone are two very different wineries that make up just one corner of north-east Victoria's wine-growing region.
But it's a corner that is getting a lot of attention.
Mark Foletta, a wine tasting lecturer at the University of Melbourne, owns and operates Saffron Gramophone and has been producing a Malbec for several years.
Jess Davison and Michael Vanderzee have owned the Swanpool Creek B&B and Winery for 10 years and have only recently started producing wine.
Swanpool Creek, which only covers 2.5 ha, grows shiraz and chardonnay grapes.
Ms Davison said the 2018 shiraz, which won the award, was one of the first vintages they had professionally produced.
“The vines had been in since about 2000 we think,” Ms Davison said.
“We've had the property for 10 years, but we had to work with the vines.
“The couple we bought it from were horticulturists and they had put in an amazing garden.
“They had also planted a vineyard with shiraz and chardonnay vines.
“When we moved in it had been vacant for about 18 months and had become overgrown.
“The vines had never been put up on the trellises.
“They were actually growing among the blackberry and wattle.
“It was like a hidden vineyard.
“We had to get down and clear the berries and cut down the wattles.
“We then had to train the vines up on to the trellis, which took about two to three years.”
It was not until about 2017 when they decided they had something they could work with.
However, it was not until 2018 that they had a sufficient volume to produce their first wine.
“It was pretty much six or seven years of hard work,” Ms Davison said.
“We picked in March and got the grapes to the winemaker at about 9 pm one night.
“We hadn’t discussed too much about what it might taste like, but in June of this year we had a chance to try the 2018.
“We said to the winemaker, ‘what can we do to improve it?’ and his reply was ‘don’t touch anything, don’t upset it - it is perfect as is’ - which we couldn't believe.
“I think we've been very lucky to take a on a site that was very well chosen by the previous owners.
“The aspect is really good. It faces north west. It’s a nice slope with nice deep draining soils and a reasonable water supply.
“And we've got cold winds from Mt Buller. It leads to a long maturing season which helps to develop a really lovely flavour.”
Mark Foletta has been growing vines for his Malbeck for the past five years.
“I make it in a bit of a yearling style, so it focuses on primary fruits and gets in the bottle earlier to focus on those more juicer characteristics that Malbecs are know for,” Mr Foletta said.
“It's not a very well known variety in Australia. I used to work over in California and that’s where I fell in love with it and developed a passion to grow my own.
“I sourced a clone about six years ago and have have had about four to five vintages since. It's been very popular.
“I've sold in the bulk market, but this is the first time I've put it in a bottle under my own label.
“This was my first wine show and I was pretty stoked to take out the best wine of the Glenrowan region and also the best alternative red for the whole of the north east, which was a big shock to me.
“I lecture wine tasting at Melbourne University and I often talk about the north east being a pioneer in the alternate varieties.
“But it was really nice to get a gold for the Malbec, and I also got a bronze for my shiraz, so it was very exciting.”
The north-east Victoria Wine Challenge is a regional wine show dedicated to showcasing and celebrating the best wines in the region.
The north-east zone is a large wine growing area and within it are the five smaller ‘geographic indications’ (GI’s):
● King Valley;
● Alpine Valleys;
● Glenrowan; and
Additionally, there are vineyards outside these GI boundaries but are within the larger north-east zone boundary.
You can pick up a bottle of Swanpool Creek 2018 Shiraz from Tatong Tavern, or the Swanpool store.
Alternatively you can order a bottle online at www.swanpoolcreek.com.au
Mr Foletta said he had not finalised the retail side of the business just yet and asked people to keep an eye out in local bottle shops, which he hoped will stock the Malbec soon.