GRAPE VARIETIES OF THE SOUTH BURNETT
There are many varieties grown in the South Burnett, however there are of course a few that immediately spring to mind when you think of this region.
Verdelho, Viognier and Semillon are the three major white grape varieties, all of which have been chosen through years of trial and experimentation, because they are ideal in our climate. That said there are a few up and comers which warrant a mention and I envisage will warrant a paragraph of their own in the not to distant future. Mediterranean varieties such as Vermentino, Fiano and to a lesser extent Pinot Grigio and Arneis are beginning to make an appearance on the scene and it will be well worth keeping an eye out for them.
The red grapes of the South Burnett have been evolving in recent years and the emergence of new varieties such as Tempranillo, Sangiovese, Saperavi and Nebbiolo is way past the experimental stage, and these new varieties have made a firm foot hold in the region, perhaps even surpassing the traditional varieties of Shiraz, Merlot and Cabernet in terms of vineyard area and popularity, and new varieties are still being planted.
There are quality wines produced from all of these varieties and more, including reds, whites and rose’s that are beginning to grab the attention of the judges and public alike. The cooler nights of the South Burnett and early summer harvest season which occurs during the drier December – February period are proving ideal for the production of high quality, fruit forward and elegant wines.
Verdelho (“ver-del-oh”) is a white wine grape, originally from Portugal, which grows particularly well in the South Burnett.
Most South Burnett vineyards now produce Verdelhos and Verdelho blends. All of them have the distinctive citrus and tropical fruit flavours and aromas, and classic minerality that come from the distinct climate and terroir of the region. They are a perfect match with Queensland summers and seafood!
South Burnett Verdelhos have won many state and national wine show medals over the last decade, and they’ve begun to be perceived as one of the region’s “signature” wines, and potentially some of the best Verdelhos in Australia.
Viognier (“vee-on-yay”) is a green-skinned wine grape that is being grown in an increasing number of South Burnett vineyards. With amazing flavours such as stonefruit, tangerine, honeysuckle, rose, and even citrus and mineral notes in some of the more restrained versions, it is a must try variety from the region. It has the potential to be made in crisp, clean refreshing styles or bold, oaked versions with layers of texture and complexity.
South Burnett Viognier has begun to be recognised with some small producers in the region scoring medals and accolades from wine shows and wine writers such as James Halliday.
Semillon (“semi-yon”) is a high yielding thin-skinned wine grape that’s grown in several South Burnett vineyards.
South Burnett semillons generally have a golden yellow colour and distinct aromas of honey & pear with notes of citrus. They also age very well with some of the best examples aging up to 15 years. Depending on the style you choose they will pair with a wide variety of foods, however the generous acidity means seafood or high fat meats such as pork belly are always a winner with this regions Semillon.
South Burnett Semillons have won numerous awards since the mid-2000s. And they’re expected to win many more in the future as more aged examples of the variety gradually become available.
Tempranillo (“tem-pra-nee-yo”) is a black wine grape with a thick skin. It suits a wide range of climates and grows particularly well in the chalkier, limestone areas of the South Burnett where it ripens early and produces a rich, dark coloured wine.
Tempranillos of this region tend to be spicy with bright berry fruits and excellent tannins. They are a wonderful match with local South Burnett beef and lamb dishes!
Tempranillo has become and increasing popular variety with Australian consumers as it offers a full bodied and full flavoured red wine without being overly heavy.
Saperavi (“sap-er-ah-vee”) is black skinned wine grape with a naturally high acidity. It is a teinturier-type (or red-fleshed) grape variety native to Georgia, where it is used to make many of the country’s most well-known wines.
It’s thick skin and loose bunches make it particularly suitable for growing in the South Burnett where it has become a highly sort after variety, producing a full-bodied, rich, fruity wine with soft tannins.
Although relatively unknown to most Australian consumers it is an excellent red which can produce the ‘bigger’ styles of wines Australia has become renowed for.
Sangiovese (“san-geo-vay-say”) is a dark-skinned wine grape that is now grown in several South Burnett vineyards.
Sangiovese previously thought to be an “experimental” variety, was introduced into Australia in the 1960’s, and is now grown in many vineyards around Australia as well. It generally produces a light to medium bodied wine in this region, with plenty of savoury spice underlying cherry fruits.
The South Burnett’s sunny and dry climate seems to be ideal for the variety and many have seen the grape’s potential in the region with award winning examples now being made.
Shiraz (“sheer-az”) is a dark-skinned wine grape that’s widely grown in the South Burnett.
They are a staple of almost every vineyard and hence most South Burnett vineyards now produce shiraz and shiraz blends and examples from the region have been wining state and national medals since 2000.
Typically South Burnett shiraz has a full flavoured, slightly sweet and peppery taste and soft mouthfeel. It is a perfect wine match for the top quality beef and lamb produced in our region.
Nebbiolo (“neb-ee-o-low”) is a red grape with a lighter skin. Typically from the Piedmonte region in Italy it is renowed for its lighter coloured wines with a perfumed nose, earthy palate and distinct tannins.
South Burnett varietals tend to have delicate floral aromas with cherry fruits and softer tannins than their Italian counterparts. and the modern winemaking styles used are producing wines approachable at a much younger age.
Merlot (“mer-low”) is a dark, bluish skinned wine grape that’s widely grown in the South Burnett and was once thought to be the “go to grape” to plant in the region. South Burnett merlot is typically a soft, well-rounded red with bright fruit flavours.
Merlot’s name is thought to derive from the Occitan word for “young blackbird” (Occitan is an ancient language spoken in some parts of France, Italy and Spain). However whether this is a reference to the grape’s dark-blue colour or the fondness that birds have for the grape is unclear.