Breathtaking landscapes, premium cool climate wines, colourful food culture and striking seasonal contrasts distinguish the Alpine Valleys region. It is situated in the north-east of Victoria and its neighbours are the Beechworth and King Valley regions.
The long, moderate growing conditions produce high-quality grapes with intense fruit flavours and natural acidity. The region is one of the most visited regions in Australia, with many incorporating cellar door visits during skiing holidays to the Alps. The trail of friendly cellar doors allows visitors to experience the deep, seamless reds and crisp elegant whites, alongside the region’s bounty of local gourmet produce.
The Alpine Valley region is located in a pristine alpine environment, which includes the major ski fields in Victoria.
The region is currently home to around 10 wineries.
There are 500 hectares under vine in the Apline Valley.
Soils in the region have good structure, with above-average fertility.
The climatic conditions encourage a long, moderate growing period, producing high-quality grapes.
Chardonnay is produced for both sparkling and table wines.
Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz are produced at lower altitudes and Merlot at higher elevations.
There are increased plantings of Italian varietals, such as Sangiovese, Barbera, Nebbiolo and Marzemino.
Rainfall increases at higher elevation, however, average monthly temperatures fall n. Aspect and slope in this mountainous region also significantly affects the climate of individual vineyards. As with all alpine areas, the climate is strongly Continental, with spring frost the major viticultural hazard, followed by autumn frost prior to harvest. Site selection on hillsides with good airflow minimises the level of frost risk.
The soils in the four major valleys are all formed on river deposits from similar rocks – mostly granite from the Ordovician period. Although many different soil subtypes exist in the region, ranging from sandy loams to red-brown duplex soils, all have good structure. The common feature is above-average fertility, which promotes generally high yields which must be carefully controlled on some sites to ensure optimum quality.
Chardonnay: Produced for sparkling and table wine, the style depends in part on the altitude which it is grown. For use as a sparkling wine, the grapes will usually come from higher altitude vineyards. These wines are growing in reputation. Many producers have also produced consistently well-flavoured and structured still wines.
Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz: Full-bodied, earthy red wines are produced at lower altitudes. These wines can be rustic, savoury and full flavoured.
Merlot: This is a variety that is planted primarily in vineyards of higher elevation. The elevation gives these wines a sense of elegance and refinement.
Others: In common with its neighbour, King Valley, this region is increasing its plantings of interesting Italian varietals such as Sangiovese, Barbera, Nebbiolo and Marzemino.
Map coordinates: 36° 31'S
Altitude: 150 - 320 metres (492 - 1049 feet)
Heat degree days, October - April: 1482 (cut off at 19ºC (66.2ºF) but otherwise not adjusted)
Growing season rainfall, October - March: 425 millimetres (16.7 inches)
Mean January temperature: 21.3°C (70.3°F)
Relative humidity, October - April, 3 pm: Average 43%
Harvest: February - mid April
Ezio Minutello, Annapurna Estate, Alpine Valleys, Victoria
It seems Ezio Minutello has never been afraid of the unorthodox. As a young man he enrolled in a salvage diving course, which in itself is unremarkable until you consider that until then he had lived his life as a claustrophobe.
“Putting yourself below 60 feet of water and into a situation where you can’t see the hand in front of your face is definitely not the textbook approach, but it worked very well. Life has often taught me that the textbook shouldn't always be relied upon,” Ezio says.
It is a philosophy he has enthusiastically brought to his winemaking at his award-winning Annapurna Estate.
“The beauty of being a small winemaker is that I can take a gamble with my fruit, whereas the contract winemaker will invariably follow the textbook because he will have to justify his actions to a boss. Textbook winemaking does not work. The textbook gives you a formula to follow, but every year is different; each year the vines produce different fruit, they produce a different flavour compound spectrum, different colour.