Sunbury, near Melbourne, is one of Victoria's oldest wine regions, having produced wine since the 1860s. A wide variety of grapes successfully ripen here, consistently producing fruit-driven, premium wines of integrity supported by fine tannins and with a demonstrated capacity to age gracefully.
The cool dry climate produces elegant wines of intense varietal character. Historically the principal grape variety is Shiraz, but Chardonnay, Riesling, Semillon, Traminer, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and some Italian varieties also are grown. Sunbury is a town rich in cultural history and arguably the birthplace of international cricket's coveted trophy, The Ashes. The history of the Ashes records that when Australia won against England at The Oval in London 1882, The London Times announced the death of English cricket. The English team toured Australia shortly after this and played a social match at Rupertswood Oval in Sunbury. Tradition has it that after the game the bails were burnt and the Ashes presented to the English captain. Upon his death, his widow presented them to the Marylebone Cricket Club and today the urn remains in the MCC museum at Lord's. Sunbury is also the ideal starting point for a tour of the region. It is possible to meet the winemaker and taste at the cellar door of the numerous wineries in the region including two historic wineries, Goonawarra (1863) and Craiglee Vineyard (1864).
Sunbury has been producing wine since the 1860s.
Melbourne ’s closest wine region, just past Melbourne Airport.
The region is currently home to more than 10 wineries.
The region includes deep valleys, grasslands and rolling hills.
Sunbury produces consistent savoury/spicy Shiraz.
Principal varieties are Shiraz, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Soil is generally dark or free-draining sandy loam.
Low rainfall makes irrigation essential at many sites.
A cool, dry climate producing elegant wines.
The region is rich in preserved history.
Though appearing quite temperate, the climate during the growing season is influenced by the cooling winds that blow over the plain. The nearby Macedon Ranges to the north and the sea to the south also have a cooling influence. Rainfall, though comparatively small at 549 millimetres (33.5 inches), is slightly spring-summer dominant, October through April at 334 millimetres (20.4 inches). Irrigation is essential in most sites. One might expect spring frosts to be a major problem, but they are no more extreme here than in the Macedon Ranges and their existence simply reinforces the importance of appropriate site selection.
The soils are typically dark and, except on the old alluvial river terraces, not particularly fertile. Their depth and structure varies significantly from lower level plains to hillsides.
Chardonnay: As one would expect given the cool climate, the style is elegant with good natural acidity. With a touch of elegance, the resulting wines are not dissimilar to those of Geelong, a region with which Sunbury has much in common.
Semillon: Not widely grown, but shares a preference for warmer, drier vintages with Shiraz. It has produced one or two quite memorable wines that combine varietal flavour with satisfyingly full mouthfeel.
Shiraz: Without question, the Shiraz is the noblest grape for the region. It produces wines with a splendid array of black pepper, spice and black cherry aromas and flavours. As it is seldom more than medium bodied, the wine can be deceptively light, the alcohol level is rarely higher than 12.5° and the tannins are typically soft and fine.
Cabernet Franc: The more common variety in the region is Cabernet Sauvignon, but the performance of each variety suggests that in most vintages it is too cold for Cabernet Sauvignon and that Cabernet Franc (the red grape of the cool Loire Valley in France) is better suited here.
Map Coordinates: 37° 45S
Altitude: 275 metres (902 feet)
Heat degree days, October - April: 1478 (cut off at 19ºC (66.2ºF) but otherwise not adjusted)
Growing season rainfall, October - April: 334 millimetres (13 inches)
Mean January temperature: 19.2°C (66.5°F)
Harvest: Late March - early May
Patrick Carmody, Chief Executive, Craiglee, Sunbury, Victoria
Patrick Carmody takes seriously his role as steward of a special piece of Victoria’s viticultural heritage. The winery Craiglee was established in the mid 19th century in a spirit of adventure and optimism and, with a similar spirit of confidence in the resurgent Victorian wine industry, Patrick re-established the vineyard 100 years later.
"Craiglee wines are made only from estate-grown fruit, hand-picked from hand-pruned vines," Patrick says. "With minimal intervention, wines are crafted to produce elegant wines that will drink well over many years. All wines are carefully made to reflect the Craiglee terroir, and to reveal their own varietal characteristics.
"Craiglee holds an important position in the local wine region centred on Sunbury. In the past, this area contributed a large and significant part of Victoria’s viticultural production; today it grows fine table wines, which are available from cellar doors that range from traditional bluestone buildings to modern constructions.
"Craiglee vineyard continues to make an important contribution to the wine industry and lives on in the hands of a careful steward, as a symbol of the optimism and confidence of far sighted men."