The Heathcote Wine Region is located just a short distance to the north of the city of Melbourne, in the state of Victoria in Australia, nestled between Bendigo, Macedon Ranges and the Goulburn Valley.
The town of Heathcote was once a bustling gold mining and logging town, which brought a diverse mix of people of many different cultures and nationalities to the region. To the north of Heathcote, many immigrants looking to have a more settled life developed the land for grazing, cropping and even planted grape vines.
Henning Rathjen was one of the early German settlers to the Colbinabbin area, at the northern end of the Mount Camel Range in today's Heathcote wine region in the 1850s.
He planted one of the earliest vineyards in the region - unfortunately it was destroyed by phylloxera (the vine louse), and following this set back his land was used for other mixed agricultural purposes.
Several years later, in the bush to the north-east of Heathcote, Italian immigrants planted more grape vines, some of which still exist to this day. Today, there are around 40 wineries, and 70 vineyards in the Heathcote region, including descendants of those early settlers, once again growing grapes on the range overlooking Colbinabbin area.
Acknowledged as one of Australia’s wine icons, the Heathcote region is now famous for producing premium quality Shiraz wine. The sheer size of the region, results in variations in climate, geology and topography. The north is drier than the south and typically receives an average of 5-10mm less rain per month during the key vine growing season, which is typically from October through to April.
The region's southern vineyards experience cooler temperatures during the growing season. These can vary between 1.8 and 1.4 degrees Celsius lower, resulting in an extended growing season. This variation in temperature during the grape ripening period results in a wide spread of picking dates and subsequently the development of a range of different flavour profiles in the same varietal.
The Heathcote wine region is at elevations between 160m and 380m above sea-level, with the majority of the soil being Cambrian in origin, which is red and deep with excellent water retention. Some grape-growers do not irrigate their vines, aiming for smaller berry sizes, which are intensely rich in colour and flavour.
Heathcote wines are defined by their inky depth of colour and deep, dark, complex fruit profile. Voluptuous and well balanced, natural acid and firm tannins meld together in a way that does not dominate the fruit, but gives the wine great cellaring potential. Whilst the diverse ‘terroirs’ of Heathcote differ; they all produce high quality fruit - and can be credited with the well deserved recognition and demand for Heathcote wines the world over.