Rutherglen is an historic wine growing area in Victoria that has been reinvigorated by a crop of bold young winemakers.
Winemaking has been a family tradition in Rutherglen since the 1850s and today fourth, fifth and sixth generation winemakers produce outstanding, award-winning wines. Vines came to Rutherglen along with the Gold Rush of the 1850s and today crisp whites, rich reds and world-famous fortified wines are produced with a unique regional character.
Rutherglen is the unchallenged capital of fortified wines in Australia, with many of its great wines recognised throughout the world. Grand brick buildings and wineries such as Fairfield, Mount Prior, All Saints and Gehrig Estate speak of the prosperity of the late Victorian era and the glory days of the 19th century. The crop of new, young winemakers respect the wonderful heritage of the region, and have added a new level of innovation, quality and excitement. The region is also home to a range of delicious local produce such as lamb, honey, cherries, nuts and preserves.
Winemaking has been a family tradition in Rutherglen since the 1850s.
The region is currently home to more than 20 wineries.
It remains the unchallenged capital of fortified wines in Australia, with Muscats/Muscadelle and Tokays/Topaque internationally recognised as some of the world's richest wines.
The region's climate is strongly Continental, with very hot summer days and cold nights.
Fortified wines are grown on a band of loam on the lower slopes of the gentle local hills.
The Rutherglen Brown Muscat (Brown Frontignac) is the region's most famous fortified wine variety.
Fortified Aged White wine is unique to this region. Nowhere else in the world is an aged, fortified wine produced from the Muscadelle grape.
Rutherglen Muscats & Tokays are classified in ascending order of quality as “Rutherglen”, “Classic”, and “Grand” or “Rare”.
The average age stipulations for the use of these descriptors are: for Rutherglen, two to five years old; for Classic, five to 12 years old; for Grand, 12 to 20 years old, and for Rare, 20 years or more.
The climate is strongly Continental, with very hot summer days and cold nights. The growing season can be threatened by the spring frosts, exacerbated by cold air blowing down from the mountains to the south, and the abrupt arrival of autumn rain. But when conditions are favourable, the exceptionally high sugar levels needed for fortified wines (and which power the full bodied red table wines) are attained.
The great fortified wines for which the region is famous are grown on a band of loam (locally called Rutherglen loam) on the lower slopes of the gentle local hills. This snakes its way around the centre and extends four kilometres (2.3 miles) to the east and five kilometres (3 miles) south of the town. It is shared by Morris, Chambers, Campbells and Stanton & Killeen, some of the leading producers of those wines. Another entirely different soil type is ‘"Black Dog fine sandy loam, which is found around wineries closer to the Murray River. These wineries include All Saints, Cofield and Pfeiffer.
Table Wines: Great examples of the innovative spirit of Rutherglen are the vast amount of varieties and styles within such a small region. Sparkling Shiraz a favourite, flavourful and long lived Riesling, Marsanne and Chardonnay, Sangiovese, and Gamay, impressive Shiraz and the iconic Durif attest to the successful application of modern winemaking and viticultural techniques learnt, developed and embraced over the years.
Muscat: Produced from the brown clone of Muscat à Petits Grains Rouge, more commonly known as Rutherglen Brown Muscat or Brown Frontignac, this is Rutherglen’s most famous fortified wine variety. Explosively rich and sweet, the finish of these wines is cleansing and does not cloy or seem as sweet as the plum pudding flavours of the mid palate suggest. A great winter aperitif and an after-dinner wine at any time of year.
Fortified Aged White: This wine is unique, for nowhere else in the world is an aged, fortified wine produced from the Muscadelle grape. It has an intense varietal aroma and flavour that is akin to a mixture of cold tea and fish oil (in the best possible sense). Toffee and butterscotch are also commonly used descriptors for a wine which has more grace and complexity than the all-powerful Muscat.
Map Coordinates: 36° 10´ S
Altitude: 170 metres (557 feet)
Heat degree days, October - April: 1770 (cut off at 19ºC (66.2ºF) but otherwise not adjusted)
Growing season rainfall October - April: 297 millimetres (11.7inches)
Mean January temperature: 22.3°C (72°F)
Relative humidity, October - April, 3 pm: Average 38%
Harvest: End February - early May
Howard & Christobelle Anderson, Winemakers, Anderson Winery, Rutherglen, Victoria
Howard Anderson says Anderson Cellar Block vineyard is planted on Rutherglen’s traditional Buckshot clay soil, which has produced some of the region’s best full bodied reds and fortifieds during 150 years of winemaking history. The high water-holding capacity of this soil allows the vines to be dry grown, so true site-specific character is expressed in the grapes.
"I first worked in Rutherglen in 1972 as winemaker for Seppelt and my love for the region and its rich wine styles grew over the following years, culminating when I started Anderson Winery & Vineyard in 1991,” Howard says. “My daughter, Christobelle, joined me in 2005 after completing an Honours degree in Oenology at Adelaide University, and working in Australia and France.
"All Anderson wines are made using gentle methods such as hand harvesting and basket pressing to conserve the quality of the grapes. The Cellar Block wines are rich, full bodied, and the pinnacle of each variety. These include the traditional Rutherglen varieties Durif and Shiraz, and the more unusual Petit Verdot, which also does exceptionally well. We have received both local and international awards and several wines and vintages scored 93-94 points from James Halliday."