Centered around the town of Stanthorpe the Granite Belt has a long history of viticulture and winemaking and is one of the highest wine regions in Australia, with vineyards at more than 1000 metres above sea level. Many of the wineries are small to medium in size and family owned and managed. It is an ideal viticultural area with its cool winter, spring climate and distinctive grantic soils.
The Granite Belt is just over two hours drive inland from Brisbane, part of Queensland's high country. The region has many vineyards and orchards, a comprehensive calendar of events and stunning national parks which combine to make it a popular short break destination for wine tourism. The main wine styles include Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz though in recent years it has proved a successful producer of alternative varieties which have been marketed under the popular Strange Bird brand, Viognier and Verdelho.
Grapes were first planted in the Granite Belt in the 1870s, but it is within the past decade that the greatest strides have been achieved in recognition and commercial success.
The region is currently home to more than 40 wineries and vineyards.
Areas within the region rise to 1020 metres above sea level, making the vineyards among Australia’s highest.
The Granite Belt has the biggest area under vine in Queensland (530 hectares)
The Granite Belt Alternative Wine Trail (named “Strange Bird”) was launched late in 2007. Currently 20 wineries are listed, featuring 17 alternative wine grape varieties.
Nearly half of all Granite Belt winemakers have planted alternative grape varieties.
The Granite Belt is home to the Queensland College of Wine Tourism, a state-of-the-art wine training centre providing vocational training in viticulture/wine making, wine tourism, hospitality and business.
An altitude of more than 800 metres (2625 feet) on the eastern spine of the Great Dividing Range allows the Granite Belt to overcome the hurdles to producing premium quality wine that come from its subtropical climate. Sub zero winter nights, spring frosts, cold nights at the beginning and end of the season, relatively low humidity, peak summer temperatures moderated by sub-tropical monsoon influences and intermittent heavy late season rainfall all contribute to the unusual climate in the Granite Belt.
The Granite Belt, a massive granite intrusion approximately 200 million years old, is the northern most extension of the New England Tableland, a stepped plateau of hills and plains with elevations of between 600 and 1500 metres (1,968 to 4,921 feet) on Permian sedimentary rocks, intrusive granites and extensive Tertiary basalts. Rainfall, temperature and soils change with topography
The two principal soil types are a highly permeable, granite speckled sandy, grey-black soil and a light brownish grey, also speckled. Such soils are quite different to those encountered in most Australian wine regions, creating its particular terroir. The subsoils are bleached sand passing into clay at depth; while their drainage is good, the need for irrigation is increased. Most vines are trickle irrigated and have VSP trellising.
Verdelho: This variety appears to be well suited to the warmer days and cool night the region offers. Wines are often aromatic, with herbaceous and tropical fruit flavours.
Chardonnay: This variety performs well in the region. The wine tends to be soft but have pleasant and clear varietal character in a nectarine and melon spectrum. Many wineries produce both oaked and unoaked Chardonnay to good effect.
Viognier: Plantings of Viognier have increased rapidly over the past five years. These wines are often dry, with a fruity, citrus palate. Small quantities of Viognier may be added to Shiraz to give lightness, delicacy and perfume to the red wine.
Cabernet Sauvignon: Like Shiraz, this wine is full, dark and rich in flavour. Cassis, red berry and sweet fruit flavours predominate, attesting to the warm climate and the use of rich, vanillin oak.
Shiraz: This is the one consistently distinctive wine style of the region; dark in colour, strong in body, flavour and tannins. Above all else, is its redolent of spice when young, developing into a soft, sweet velvety fruit with time in bottle, reminiscent of the Shiraz from the Hunter Valley.
Map Coordinates: 28° 40' S
Altitude: 810 metres (2657 feet)
Heat degree days, October-April: 1602 (cut off at 19ºC (66.2ºF) but otherwise not adjusted)
Growing season rainfall, October-April: 519 millimetres (20.4 inches)
Mean January temperature: 20.6°C (69°F)
Relative humidity, October-April: 3 pm Average 53%
Harvest: End February - Mid April
Angelo Puglisi, Owner and Winemaker, Ballandean Estate Wines, Granite Belt, Queensland
Angelo Puglisi is considered the founder of the modern Queensland Wine Industry and in the past 76 years, his family business, Ballandean Estate Wines, has been at the forefront of developing and promoting the industry.
The first vintage at Ballandean Estate was made by Angelo’s grandfather, Salvatore Cardillo, in 1932. When Angelo and his wife Mary took over in 1968, they saw the potential to make wine commercially, replanting the vineyard with several varieties of wine grapes. These were the first wine grapes to be planted on the Granite Belt.
“Today Ballandean Estate produces some 18 styles of wine, from Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc to Shiraz, Methode Champenoise and Tawny Port. It has a national and international recognition for producing a quality range of wines and has operation embraced a range of modern growing, production and management techniques,” Angelo says.
“Our family's tireless efforts have ensured that the region's wine industry and associated tourism industry have prospered. We are committed to consistently producing high-quality wines and continuing to build a solid brand. All wines are estate grown and produced.
“My wife Mary and I are also committed to hosting charitable events at the winery. Opera in the Vineyard and Jazz in the Vineyard, held in partnership with the Rotary Club of Stanthorpe, have raised approximately $900,000 for Queensland charities.”