Initially known as the Central Highlands, the Orange region centred on the slopes of Mount Canobolas, has long been an important orchard area producing apples, pears and cherries.
An experimental viticultural station was established at nearby Molong in the 1940s, but vines were first planted commercially in 1980. The climate is strongly influenced by, and largely dependent on, the region's elevation. The soils vary widely and are of fundamental importance in determining site selection. Orange is at the heart of one of the most beautiful and productive areas in NSW. Orange and its surrounding area are enjoying a growing reputation for rare and exotic produce thanks to its cool climate and rich volcanic soils. The produce ranges from stone fruits and sheep’s cheeses to fungi and grapes. Don't miss the local Farmer's Markets - a genuine drawcard for foodies! The region is home to many small premium operators and the main wine styles produced are Chardonnay, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot and Shiraz.
Orange has long been an important orchard area. Vines were first planted commercially in 1980.
The region is currently home to more than 30 wineries cellar doors.
Major vineyard development has slowed since 2000, due to restricted irrigation opportunities.
The climate has mild to warm mid-summer mean temperatures and cool to very cool nights during the growing season.
The undulating countryside is of fundamental importance in determining site selection as the soils vary widely.
Chardonnay is the most important wine produced.
Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot varieties are of medium weight and body, with fine tannins.
Shiraz is the most widely planted variety.
Boutique wineries dominate this youthful wine region.
High altitude imparts unique characteristics
The climate is strongly influenced by, and largely dependent on, elevation. Overall, mild to warm midsummer mean temperatures, seldom rising above 32°C (90°F), are offset by cool to very cool nights during the growing season. The rainfall predominates in winter and spring, while the three driest months are February, March and April, making supplementary irrigation highly desirable. Wind is both friend and foe. On the one hand it helps to reduce the major threat of spring frosts. On the other hand, it interferes with fruit set on sensitive varieties such as Merlot. Other than spring frosts and climatic aberrations such as light snow in December, the major threat is from birds, which relish the grapes as an extension to their diet.
The undulating countryside is not only very attractive but is of fundamental importance in determining site selection. The soils vary widely, reflecting the different geological strata rock and fall into four main groups. The first are the well drained, friable, deep red-brown clays derived from basalt that are found near Mount Canobolas. Second are the deep red-brown, yellow-brown clay loams of mixed origin, including volcanic ash. Both these two soil groups promote considerable vigour. The third is a red-brown podzolic clay loam of medium vigour overlying a medium clay and shale base interspersed with gravel, which assists with drainage. Finally, there are patches of terra rossa associated with visible limestone at the lower elevations.
Chardonnay: Chardonnay is a very important wine for this region. The style is a neat balance between fleshy, rich, quick developing warm climate Chardonnay and the ultra fine, slow developing, citrus and cashew style of cooler climates. Melon, fig and nectarine flavours are set in a wine of medium weight and firm acidity, responding well to subtle use of oak and malolactic fermentation. Carefully made regional styles respond well to medium-term cellaring of four to five years.
Sauvignon Blanc: Intense tropical fruit flavours develop when grown at high elevation above 750 metres (2460.63 feet). The more vigorous soils also produce fruit with a herbaceous character that complements the strong fruit flavours.
Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot: Usually blended, but sometimes produced as single varietal wines, these wines leave no doubt that the Orange region has a temperate climate. The flavours run through the herbaceous and earthy spectrum with dark berry sweetness. They are of medium weight and body and have fine tannins. They can also be very effectively blended with wines from warmer regions such as Mudgee, the Hunter Valley and Cowra.
Shiraz: This is a recently planted variety showing true varietal flavours and exceptional colour. As in many other regions of Australia, Shiraz is the most widely planted variety in Orange.
Map Coordinates: 33º 15´S
Altitude: 600 - 900 metres (1968 - 2952 feet)
Heat degree days, October-April: 1200 - 1309 (cut off at 19ºC (66.2ºF) but otherwise not adjusted)
Growing season rainfall, October-April: 440 millimetres (17.3 inches)
Mean January temperature: 19.9ºC (67.8°F)
Relative humidity, October-April, 3 pm: Average 47%
Harvest: Mid March - early May
David Swift, Printhie Wines, Orange, NSW
Printhie Wines in Orange is today run by David Swift and his brother Ed. They returned to the family property, using their skills and imagination to help create a dynamic wine company that is now one of the leading wine producers of the region.
"Printhie makes full use of the varying growing conditions that exist in the Orange region according to altitude and aspect. On the Printhie property, which is at lower altitude (630 metres), varieties that will perform best on the gentle north facing slopes have been planted. These include Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Pinot Gris. The other varieties that the team at Printhie work with, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and Pinot Noir are all sourced from higher altitude vineyards (900 metres to 1,100 metres) where they perform at their optimum, ripening slowly and producing grapes of intense flavour and mouth-watering acid structures,” David says.
“This philosophy allows us to work with our winemaker Drew Tuckwell to produce a range of wines that are a true reflection of the cool growing conditions in Orange.
“Drew thinks that this is a very exciting region to be making wine. There is a natural intensity, a freshness to the grapes. This is reflected in the style of the wine when the right grape variety is grown in the right vineyard site. Our wines are not weighed down by over-ripe fruit and heavy oak.
“At Printhie we are constantly striving to improve wine quality. Part of the fun and creativity of making wine is always developing your viticulture, harvest timing, fermentation management, oak treatments and the like, and we do this every year. If we succeed, the real reward is the enjoyment we bring to the people who drink our wines."