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Hi, my name is Peter Pacey and I enjoy wine. I’m not a viticulturist or vintner but I have lived on the land in my younger life and have grappled with the reward – disappointment cycle that nature visits upon farmers.“peter_liliana_aria

Writing wine tasting notes has been one of my pursuits for many years, I have often thought about developing some kind of wine blog but could never find the time. I visited The Granite Belt in August 2019, chiefly to attend a Mourvedre Vertical Tasting Dinner at Pyramids Road Winery. I have always enjoyed Mourvedre and some of the wines (2007 through 2018) were sublime. I tried other wines in the region and again was impressed. Added to this I attended the Magnificent Seven event at Victoria Park Golf Complex on 24th October where I was really impressed with all the producers. I guess, on this occasion the rapid accumulation of those experiences was too much for me, at any rate shortly after my return to Brisbane I began work on this wine blog.

Significantly, I have been visiting the Granite Belt in excess of 25 years and at least once for every one of those years. I have seen the regions wines develop in quality over that time. Originally there were only a small number of wineries and I personally enjoyed wines from only a selection of those. How this has changed over the years! I do drink wines from all Australian GI’s and some from France, Spain, Italy, Argentina and New Zealand. So I’m careful to inoculate myself against ‘cellar/regional palate’. That said I do have some emotional connection with The Granite Belt and this may or may not produce some bias. I do try to remain impartial.

I guess you could say I provide an almost unique consumer perspective on the region as I live elsewhere – in Brisbane – have developed a long familiarity, encountered wines across many vintages, seen local establishments come and go, enjoyed many chats with locals, especially wine makers over almost three decades, wondered at some local practices, educated many others opinionated against, but oddly not necessarily experienced with, Granite Belt wine … the list is long!

How I Came To Appreciate Granite Belt Wines

Note: What follows applies more to red wines as I do consume far more reds than whites.

Like many Australians in my generation my introduction to wine was via products from our southern vineyards, especially Barossa, Eden Valley, McLaren Vale and Coonawarra. In those days Barossa Shiraz was considered the pinnacle. These were classic warm climate wines with big ripe fruit and high alcohols. The strong fruit weight could handle more oak and often oak featured reasonably strongly. Today, at least as a general observation, wines from those regions have comparative lower alcohols, the fruit isn’t as ripe and the oak is somewhat more moderate. These warm climate wines, back then, and even now are capable of delivering a huge experience to your palate. You would expect, due to how our nervous systems function and the rules of habituation, that it wouldn’t be a simple task to truly appreciate wines with far more subtlety. I have spoken with quite a few winemakers who have spent time learning about wine making in Europe, most in France, and subsequently returned to Australia after an extended stay of 12 months or more. Many of these who grew up drinking our warm climate red wines tell a story of gradually coming to appreciate the European styles. One story was …

“we spent a year in France and made a firm decision to only drink French wine while we were there, it took us a good 6 months for our palates (and our heads) to truly appreciate French wine as there were many subtle nuances we were both unfamiliar with and also probably incapable of tasting due to years of exposure to mainly Australian warm climate wines. During the second half of the year our relationship with French wine was very different, it was one of genuine appreciation fuelled by a new found ability to truly taste and more accurately discern. When we finally returned to Australia we opened a Barossa Shiraz and it was like a bomb going off in our brains.”

It may be useful to note at this point that for every area, or experience, of excitation our nervous systems lay down a surrounding area of inhibition and there is a functional relationship between these areas.

Unlike those winemakers I didn’t live in Europe for a year, apart from around 6 years of my life I have resided in Brisbane. I began travelling to The Granite Belt between 25 and 30 years ago and experienced similar difficulties with Granite Belt wines that the aforementioned winemakers have described with European wines. However, if I want to experience a wine region, The Granite Belt is far more accessible – a 2hr 45min drive – to me than our southern warm climate wine regions, so I found myself visiting the region at least once a year. These were only short stays usually no more than a week but on every occasion I was there I drank nothing other than Granite Belt wine and always purchased some to take home. I began to notice a lot of improvement across vineyards. At the same time, years ago, I began drinking some European wines particularly Italian Barbera, Nebbiolo and Sangiovese and Spanish Tempranillo and Monastrell. I also noticed that my palate was changing – most palates do over time. Aside other more subtle changes I was really enjoying savoury/sour aspects of wine far more than sweeter nuances. More recently I have become familiar with Spanish Mencia and Italian Mascalese/Capuccio.

Next there was an influx of new winemakers and vineyards to the region. These new winemakers were enthusiastic, not deterred from experimentation, and keen to learn about what Granite Belt terroir both truly meant and had to offer. The region experienced an almost exponential growth in number of wineries and quality of wine. Of course high quality wine was already being produced in the region but with less consistency and in fewer vineyards because vineyards were fewer. Coupled with this change the existing vines are now much older and even most of the young vines are two decades plus.

Climate change became another factor. Living in Brisbane I began to realise that there are fewer occurrences when I can drink and truly enjoy the bigger style red wines from our warm climate regions. Climate change is so impactful that people in southern states are also experiencing shortened yearly drinking windows for the bigger style red wines. For myself there is probably now only a few weeks in mid-winter when some of the bigger style southern wines and Western Cabernets are really suited to the local conditions. There are many lighter style warm climate wines being made today which have longer yearly drinking windows but the industry overall is still producing much bigger wines than many on The Granite Belt.

Fast forward to today – 31/12/2019 – and I drink wines from many different countries but the overwhelming majority are Australian and approximately one third of those are wines from The granite Belt. For me this is a complex synthesizing of all the preceding factors the outcome of which is that ‘drinking locally’ is a very good fit.