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24/10/2014

Gippsland: small region, big on diversity

By Stephanie Timotheou.

Victoria's Gippsland region covers 20 per cent of the state extending from Melbourne’s east to the NSW border and despite having one of the largest GIs, it’s one of the nation’s smallest wine producing regions.

Ken Eckersley, Wines of Gippsland chairman and owner of Nicholson River Winery, said Gippsland was part of the “table wine revival” in Australia from 1970 and enthusiasts planted vines from the beaches to the mountain valleys.

“Numbers have since halved from the 60 to 70 small vineyards that once sprawled over the pristine countryside,” Eckersley said. “Not only did they have to learn to grow the grapes and make the wine, but ultimately it came down to what would sell, no matter the obscure, beautiful place where it was grown.”

Only five of the remaining 30 wineries have more than five hectares of vineyards and most are within a two-hour drive from Melbourne, with the furthermost at Lakes Entrance – a four hour drive. Cellar door tourism is the region’s heartbeat, though Eckersley says survival has meant a drift to becoming function centres with vineyards attached.

Over the years, principal varieties have proved to be Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Shiraz with a maritime influence across the wine styles.

“They are light to medium bodied, lower in alcohol and richly flavoured,” Eckersley says.

“Two words sum up the typical local character: flavour and diversity. They are often talked about as desirable, but in fact are little understood. It’s these two qualities that Gippsland delivers in spades.”


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