With a viticultural history that stretches back to 1858, Mudgee has played a key role in Australian viticultural history. Although primarily a producer of robust and deeply coloured red wines, Mudgee was the cradle in which a particularly good clone of Chardonnay lay unrecognised for more than 50 years.
This clone may have been a descendant of the Chardonnay introduced to Australia in 1832 by James Busby and become a key factor in Australia becoming known throughout the world as a top Chardonnay producer. The beautifully soft and intimate nature of much of the countryside around Mudgee is fashioned by the outer rim of hills which create the "nest ". The smaller hills within the perimeter give rise to a panorama of mini vistas with ever more valleys nesting in their midst. Only a four-hour drive from Sydney, Mudgee is popular for its wine, food, great outdoors and sophisticated accommodation. The main wine styles produced in the area include Chardonnay, Semillon, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, as well as many alternate varieties. Organic viticulture and winemaking is also very popular in Mudgee with around 6 certified organic producers, and many more expressing sustainable viticulture practices.
- Viticulture commenced in 1858.
- The region is currently home to about 50 wineries.
- Principal grape varieties are Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay.
- Mudgee predominantly produces robust, intensely coloured, ageworthy red wines.
- "Mudgee" is an aboriginal word meaning "nest in the hills".
- Soil is well drained sandy loam over clay subsoils.
- Irrigation is essential in most vineyards.
- Chief viticultural hazards are drought and frost.
- There are many organic and sustainable vineyards in Mudgee
- Mudgee can also produce excellent aromatic white varieties, such as Riesling and Pinot Gris
Situated on the western slopes of the Great Dividing Range, Mudgee has some of the highest vineyards in Australia, ranging from 450 – 1180m above sea level. Frosts and cold nights delay budburst; rainfall and humidity are low; sunshine hours are great; and irrigation is essential on some but the most favoured sites. The summer and autumn days are warm, and harvest is four weeks behind the Hunter because of Mudgees cooler climate and much higher altitude.
The brownish coloured soils are typical of those found through the majority of the wine regions of eastern Australia; slightly acidic or sandy loam over neutral clay subsoils, but both topsoil and subsoil have the advantage of being quite well drained. Some of the most favoured sites have shale, quartz and seabed sandstone.
Chardonnay: This is the predominant white from the region and is consistently good. The flavours are usually in the peach, melon, fig spectrum but often citrus and grapefruit characteristics emerge, particularly where the maker employs barrel-ferment techniques. The wines show their best varietal character in the second and third years but do go on to develop into rich and honeyed regional styles over a much longer timeframe.
Semillon: While this Semillon may live in the shadow of the Hunter, the styles can be similar, as is the capacity to age gloriously in bottle for up to 20 years. Mudgee Semillon can be picked at low sugar levels and display grassy, nutty characters with great length of flavour.
Riesling: Riesling has made a resurgence in Mudgee in recent years, with a few producers focusing on quality, single vineyard wines. Vin eyard site selection is paramount, with elevation and soil playing an important role. Off dry styles through to bone dry have great fruit intensity and purity, with citrus and orange blossom characters.
Cabernet Sauvignon: Possibly Mudgees Hero variety, usually as a 100% varietal but sometimes blended with Merlot or Shiraz. The wines have tremendous depth of colour and hold their purple-red hues for longer than those of the Hunter, turning brick red at seven to 10 years of age. The generous flavours reflect the warm climate; a melange of tastes of red berry, dark chocolate and, sometimes, eucalypt and peppermint. The tannins are almost invariably pronounced but are not excessively astringent, for they are balanced by the generosity of the fruit.
Shiraz: These wines can vary greatly in style, and the best can be seen as flagship Mudgee wines. Some older style Shiraz showed firm tannins, with strong earthy, tarry, leather characters. However the young winemakers of the region are recreating Shiraz and are much cleaner with lush fruit driven wines displaying berry fruits, spice and chocolate, with fine soft tannins, and great length. Shiraz is frequently blended with Cabernet Sauvignon, Viognier, almost always to very good effect.
Fortified Wines: A miscellany of styles is made, all with both local and tourist appeal.
Map Coordinates: 32° 36’S
Altitude: 450-600 metres (1476-1968 feet)
Heat degree days, October-April: 2050 (cut off at 19ºC (66.2ºF) but otherwise not adjusted)
Growing season rainfall, October-April: 360 millimetres (14 inches)
Mean January temperature: 22.9°C (73.2°F)
Relative humidity, October-April, 3 pm: Average 42%
Harvest: Late February - Late March
Lowe Wines is a small to medium sized winegrower from Mudgee in the Central Ranges of NSW. The vineyards, situated on Tinja Lane, were planted in 1995.
The Lowe winery is a certified organic facility and specialises in small batch winemaking using innovative techniques. The vineyards are untrellised, unirrigated and certified organic, producing lower yields of distinctively individual grapes.
In the winery vineyard (500 metres) Lowe uses competitive biology, aiming to be completely chemical free in dry years and using half the organic standard of copper and sulphur in wet years. The goal is to lift vine health through soil health and complexity, and combat disease through an active and competitive leaf surface biology, crowding out disease causing organisms.
Lowe has two Shiraz blocks in the vineyard. Both are organic, dry grown and untrellised and both show the distinctly different Mudgee terroir in their wines, even though there are only 15 metres apart.
David Lowe is also making range of wines made from the highest vineyard in the Mudgee region; the Nullo Mountain vineyard (1100 metres). This high country vineyard beautifully contrasts the red varieties from the Mudgee valley.
Nullo Mountain holds some of NSW’s most spectacular landscapes. There are savage sandstone escarpments dropping hundreds of metres into the Cudgegong River and agricultural country below on the Rylstone and Mudgee side and dense eucalyptus forests following down to the Wollemi Wilderness and Hunter Valley to the east.
The two sites, one at 1100 m and one at 500 m, make anything possible.