Fun fact: There are more apples grown in the Granite Belt then anywhere else in the country. But far more fun, if you ask me, are the impressive array of grapes grown here.
We’ve travelled by car about three-and-a-half hours south-west from Brisbane, through spectacular Queensland countryside, to spend a long weekend in the Granite Belt. Here, straddling the western flanks of the Great Diving Range, is where arid country gives way to picturesque hillsides lined with vineyards.
Despite being located in the Sunshine State, the Granite Belt’s high altitude makes for one of Australia’s coolest grape-growing climates. Its fertile soils – predominantly decomposed granite (hence the area’s name) – are ideal for viticulture. No wonder then that this under-the-radar wine region is home to more than 50 wineries producing an array of world-class and award-winning drops.
Visitors can sample mainstream varieties such as shiraz, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, chardonnay and riesling at cellar doors throughout the region. Or, delve into the Strange Bird Wine Trail, a local initiative championing wineries producing some of the lesser-known varieties, including barbera, sangiovese, malbec, tempranillo, Durif, nero d’Avola, nebbiolo and mourvèdre in reds; in whites, chenin blanc, fiano, gewürztraminer, savagnin, vermentino, verdelho, viognier and marsanne.
There are many fabulous accommodation options spread across the Granite Belt region, including cosy cabins, eco escapes, rustic farmhouses and lovely B&Bs, all perfect for a short break away in the country.
On your way through Stanthorpe, the centre of the region, pick up some goodies from local providores to take with you to your accommodation, starting with the Amiens Road country drive loop, which winds through orchards and yields a bounty of fresh delights to fill your esky or hamper.
You’ll find Heritage Estate’s quaint Church Cellar Door & Cafe around here, where you can pick up some James Halliday five-star-rated wines, or stop in at Summit Estate Wines to try their sparkling tempranillo.
Next, be sure to swing by Stanthorpe Cheese to stock up on their delectable farmhouse cheeses and condiments to match with your wine haul. Your first night in at your home-away-from-home with a little vino, something tasty and a picturesque view out over the vineyards will slow your pace and settle you in perfectly.
With so many wineries and some charming restaurants to visit in the region, you’ll need to set aside a few days to make the most of all of them.
Ballandean Estate is Queensland’s oldest family-owned and operated winery – in other words, they know what they’re doing here. Pop in and enjoy an afternoon of wine tasting, then do as we did and stay a little longer for a meal at The Barrelroom, one of the area’s finest restaurants.
Nearby, Hidden Creek Winery Cafe and Vineyard offers fully stocked picnic baskets (complete with picnic rug), so you can find a shady spot on the lawn by the lake’s edge for a slice of country-style wining and dining. While you’re there, try the wine flight – remarkably light and dangerously palatable, we brought more than a few bottles of their chardonnay and tempranillo home with us.
Carry on a little further up the road to find another of our personal favourites, Symphony Hill Wines, to enjoy a wine tasting inside their contemporary cellar door. If you’re visiting with a small group, as we were, the barrel room here is the place to be. Savour their Strange Bird wines such as the gewürztraminer (try saying that after a couple of glasses!), or their flagship reserve shiraz (it was served to the royal couple when they visited Brisbane in 2014 – and if it’s good enough for Will and Kate, well …)
Other notable wineries include Robert Channon Wines, headed up by local winemaking royalty Robert Channon, the ‘King of the verdelho’ (and equally renowned for excellent chardonnay); and Ravens Croft Wines Estate, where winemaker Mark Ravenscroft not only grows the grapes but often personally pours your glass at the cellar door. There’s also a plethora of impressive boutique wineries to explore, like Pyramids Road Wines, which borders the boulder-strewn landscape of Girraween National Park.
Our tip? Consider joining one of the local wine tours to mix and match their itineraries and make the most of the wineries and attractions of your choice, without having to organise a designated driver!
Words: Natalie Bannister | Images: Courtesy Queensland Tourism & Events