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Sunrise Over The Ballandean Hills
Sunset Over The Ballandean Hills


The Granite Belt is as rugged as it is beautiful and mother nature in the region is dynamic to say the least. She can deliver lovely Winters where you get to enjoy fireplaces, red wine and locally crafted foods. Days can get quite warm in Summer but the evenings are pleasantly cool due to the high elevation. The colours of Spring and Autumn are spectacular and the national parks are a photographers paradise. Mother nature has another side to her personality and she can plunge you from nirvana to nadir via harsh frosts, ferocious hail storms, flooding downpours, severe droughts with accompanying fires and even snow.


Landscapes in winter can be somewhat sparse, many plants have defoliated and are dormant waiting for some warmth. Yes The Granite Belt offers significant challenges and significant rewards and, if you are a local wine producer, it helps to develop a resilience around learning how to work with the local conditions. The region is also an important food belt for Australia. I was recently told that for a 3 month period of the year The Granite Belt supplies 75% of red tomatoes to all of Australia. There are also quite high numbers for other fruits and vegetables. When nature throws a curve ball at The Granite Belt grocery shoppers all around Australia are likely to be paying more.

Wine is not the largest or the most important industry of The Granite Belt region but it is an important one and this web site is mostly about wine. The majority of the wineries are small, you may call them boutique. Many are owned by the people who grow the grapes and make the wine. The wine makers are dedicated and passionate, they have earned their status through intelligent tolerance of natures emotional impulses, through focused continual cycling in an experiential learning classroom that offers much if you are willing and through the application of unrelenting meticulous patience to their vineyards eccentricities. The Granite Belt wine makers who are also growers, and many of them who aren’t, have nurtured diligent relationships with their vines, they know each vine and how to respond to it’s needs. This has been an achievement requiring long hours in the vineyard and the winery and it has been developed over many years.

The relationship between wine maker and vines is based upon an intimate connection that sometimes requires them to do things which are necessary but difficult. In the three picture collage on this page the Cabernet Sauvignon vines, at the top, were all planted by hand using a shovel 20 years ago. The recent 2018/2019 drought has required very harsh pruning to assist the vines in negotiating their way through to a rain event. When you must do this you truly do surrender yourself and your vines to an intuitive trust based, in part, upon experience and, in other parts, on unbridled hope.

In the almost 3 decades I have been a frequent visitor to The Granite Belt some things have become undeniable. Twenty five to thirty years ago some Granite Belt wineries were capable of producing great wines, especially in very good vintages. There was a quite noticeable difference in quality, for me just a little to noticeable, across vintages. Now – 2019 – the consistency in quality across vintages has lifted and not just a little. Today most Granite Belt wineries are capable of producing very good wines in poor vintages and top shelf wines in good vintages. My personal theory about this is that the nuances and variability of The Granite Belt requires a longer apprenticeship than most/all other wine regions in Australia and this coupled with the influx of more vineyards and wine makers has seen a very happy outcome for wine consumers like myself. A third important factor in the ascending quality of the regions wines is vine age, the younger vineyards now have 20 year old vines, others have centurions.

The region now has many masterful wine makers borne of a sometimes testing but eventually rewarding apprenticeship. These people are capable of producing good wines anywhere, perhaps generalists is the word I’m looking for, but they are unequivocally Granite Belt Specialists. Personally I am very grateful. I remember a conversation a few years back with Tracey Smith from Cradle of Hills Vineyard at Sellicks in McLaren Vale. She told me that when herself and Paul were considering purchasing and developing a vineyard they contemplated The Granite Belt – Paul is a Brisbane local. However they decided that it’s too tough and demanding to make wine on The Granite Belt and they chose McLaren Vale instead. Ascending the positive curve of the experiential learning cycle may take longer on the Granite Belt and perhaps the rewards are even greater but only individual wine makers could really tell that story. Regardless The Granite Belt has now reached a level of development and expertise that deserves recognition as a premium Australian wine making region.

Regional Characteristics

You could correctly say that The Granite Belt is a young wine region but you would be correct only in the arena of naming. The Geographical Indicator (GI) was registered on 25th March, 2002, however wines were being made in this area many decades before the registration of a GI. The region is centered around the township of Stanthorpe and it is one of the highest GI’s in Australia with elevation ranging from around 700 to over 1000 metres. Growing season temperatures are similar to regions in Europe especially Northern Rhone and South West France. The soils are decomposed granite (Deco) and are very similar to those in the Hermitage appellation in Cotes du Rhone in France.

You could also say that experimental perspicacity is the local wine makers slogan, certainly it features in their behaviour. For a small region there is now a huge number of grape varieties grown and made into delicious wine. You will find a large number of both red and white varietal wines in addition to sparkling wines, fortifieds and muscats, a few even make cider. The willingness to experiment with different varietals has been part of the learning curve for the region and it has added diversity and choice, something for every palate. Experimentation hasn’t only been with varietals but also with wine making methodologies and processes. When you visit try to spend time with each wine maker at their cellar door and ask about how they make their wines, how they have experimented over time, what they have learned, what their current processes are as a result, their ongoing experimentation … and the like, it is interesting and you will discover a lot. In turn each wine maker is happy to share their journey with you and they do appreciate your interest.

Leeanne Puglisi-Gangemi from Ballandean Estate addresses some of the wine varietals on the Granite Belt in the video ‘Along Queensland’s Strange Bird Wine Trail’. Strange Bird is a local concept developed by Peter McGlashan of Ridgemill Estate and Jim Barnes at Hidden Creek Wines.

You might ask what are the characteristics of Granite Belt Wines particularly given the regions unique terroir. As a general statement the wines tend to be more European in style particularly palate weight, local wine makers apply a gentle and delicate hand throughout the wine making process, they are not scared to let the regionality speak loudly through their products. In a very real sense they follow their skills, knowledge and intuition to allow the grapes to participate more in the decision making process, trends elsewhere may be entirely ignored as The Granite Belt conditions suggest something very different, perhaps Bespoke Granite Belt Wines is appropriate. Oak is a background support to the fruit, it is most unusual to find a Granite Belt wine loaded with lavish vanilla oak. Very cold vintages can produce white pepper in the red wines, especially Shiraz but a range of spices is usually evident in most vintages. You will often find black tea tannins in some reds, again especially but not only Shiraz. The Shiraz, Mourvedre, Cabernet Sauvignon, Durif and Malbec wines tend to medium bodied but loaded with complexity/interest. Alcohol tends to be lower in Granite Belt reds than in many other Australian GI wines. In outstanding vintages the palates of reds tend to be silky textured and glycerol like. I have sometimes encountered milk chocolate and liquorice together in Shiraz. Tannin management is now excellent, I’d be surprised if you ever encounter an over-extracted wine on The Granite Belt and certainly not an over-macerated one. The greatest feature of the red wines though is that they express filigree nuances – you have to spend time with the wines, they have much to reveal, they are interesting indeed but much more so when you are really paying attention. I have written elsewhere that if you come to The Granite Belt accompanied by preconceptions then you are more likely to experience your theory and you may miss the real thing.

Two varieties in particular tend to be in the upper spectrum of medium to full bodied. These are Tannat and Petit Verdot with an occasional quite powerful Merlot. Tannat is a variety that thrives on the Granite Belt. Local growers tell me that you just put it in the ground and almost take a holiday, it requires very little attention. Many wine makers are currently using Petit Verdot fruit from a vineyard further out west on the Texas Road. Here the fruit is often fuller bodied and the resultant wines are a very big mouthful of flavour. I believe that both Tannat and Petit Verdot have a happy future awaiting them as straight varietal wines and in blends.

An area of real interest on The Granite Belt is the development and proliferation of Italian, Spanish and other European varieties that are lighter and are spectacular food wines. There are enjoyable examples of Tempranillo – including joven styles – Nebbiolo, Barbera, Sangiovese and Nero D’Avola and some lovely ‘Rosso’ blends. One tiny vineyard makes a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Tannat, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc all from estate fruit. An exception to the lighter European varietals is Sagrantino, the grape of Montefalco. To my knowledge The Granite Belt has the only Sagrantino vineyard in Queensland and the varietal is something to be experienced although it usually needs time for the tannins to soften. Saperavi, the black ‘inky’ grape of Georgia, is another more recently planted variety that seems to appreciate the Granite Belt GI conditions. Two really good examples are now being made, one at Ballandean Estate and the other at Ridgemill Estate.

Many white wine varietals are also grown on The Granite Belt. Pinot Grigio is emerging as well suited and certainly is great drinking. The Granite Belt has always been capable of producing quality Chardonnays and you will encounter many of these. Verdelho has also found a home in the local GI and different styles are made, some are quite dry and driven by powerful fruit with very clean and crisp acidity. Others are a little more toward the sweeter spectrum containing around 9 – 10gms residual sugar, they could be termed ‘off dry’. You may find perhaps greater variability in the style of Verdelho made across vineyards than any other variety. Sauvignon Blanc is made in two different styles; one straight from the stainless steel tank and the other with some partial barrel fermentation. There are some very impressive examples of both styles. Two white varieties that have enjoyed growing in The Granite Belt in more recent times are Vermentino and Fiano, both are well suited and today are culminating in wines any vineyard in Australia would be proud of. Viognier also responds in the GI with fresh, clean and crisp wines. There are also some Shiraz/Viognier wines produced. In recent years I have encountered a Riesling made by Peter McGlashan at Ridgemill Estate which reminded me very much of the Clare Valley – there are some climatic similarities. I’d be very interested to see Riesling develop in the region as I suspect it would thrive and it’s the white white I enjoy above all others.

Lastly and something that may not be well known. The Granite Belt wine makers are a gregarious bunch, they often use each other as informal consultants. During blending and at other times they will get together and try each others wines. There is usually an emerging consensus in which individual strengths are highlighted and areas less strong are modified or nullified. The outcome is a changed wine that, while essentially made by the one wine maker, has benefited by wider input. So for consumers, when you purchase a local wine you are also buying a product that has been strengthened by wider local expertise – a collaborative wine!