Nestled on the banks of the Murray River at the heart of a fertile agricultural region, Swan Hill was discovered and named in 1836 by the Surveyor-General of New South Wales, Major Thomas Mitchell, who had camped by the River Murray and spent a noisy night disturbed by flocks of black swans.
He observed, however, that the soil was rich and "capable of being easily irrigated by the river". His prophecy of irrigation ultimately came to pass, and by 1900 the production of Muscat and sultanas for dried fruit had commenced. The region's first winery, St Andrews, was built in 1930 by the Thomson family, and is still active. The region produces fruit-driven wines suitable for short to medium-term cellaring. Swan Hill is also well known for outdoor activities, particularly water-based sports along the Murray River, good food and wine and its rich pioneer history.
The region’s first winery was built in 1930 and is still operating.
The region is currently home to around 10 wineries.
Swan Hill is at the southern end of Victoria’s hot climate region.
Irrigation is essential.
The region straddles the Murray River.
Soil is red-brown loamy sand.
Much of the harvest is processed in adjacent regions.
Principal grape varieties Chardonnay, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon.
The region produces fruit driven wines suitable for short to medium-term cellaring.
Swan Hill is an undeniably hot region, though marginally cooler than Murray Darling and with a slightly higher annual rainfall. This gives Shiraz, for example, a budburst date five days later, a flowering date 11 days later and a ripening period eight days later. Some varieties of wine grapes in the Swan Hill region have a delayed harvest of up to two weeks compared to the Murray Darling.
Like the Murray Darling region to the north-west, this flat area straddles the Murray River and has red-brown loamy sands (calcareous earths), which range in pH from neutral to alkaline. This is a relatively arid region with soil structures of limestone, marine sands and clays associated with the Miocene sea overlain by lacustrine (from a lake), fluviatile (from a river) and aeolian (wind borne) deposits, which have built up over cycles of stable and unstable periods of history. They are more than 90 metres deep.
Chardonnay: This wine has a soft, melony, peachy easy-to-drink style to be consumed generally within two years of vintage or soon afterwards.
Shiraz: These are smooth, medium-bodied fruity reds are usually best drunk within two years. They represent excellent value for money.
Cabernet Sauvignon: The region produces Cabernet of great colour with an attractive mix of berry aromas and a medium-weight, berry-flavoured palate.
Map Coordinates: 35º 20´S
Altitude: 60-85 metres (197-279 feet)
Heat degree days, October - April: 2138 (cut off at 19ºC (66.2ºF) but otherwise not adjusted)
Growing season rainfall October - April: 178 millimetres (7 inches)
Mean January temperature: 23.6º C (74ºF)
Relative humidity, October - April, 3 pm: Average 35%
Harvest: February - mid March
Richard Buller, Buller Wines, Swan Hill, VIC
Richard Buller from Buller Wines says his family has been involved in the Swan Hill region since the 1930s when his grandfather was a buyer of wine grapes for his Rutherglen Winery. In 1951 he decided to establish a new winery at Beverford, just north of Swan Hill. His faith in the region has been justified as Swan Hill wines now provide the majority of the company’s revenue and are part of the export success story of Australian wine.
“I first came to Swan Hill in 1974 after learning ‘hands on’ winemaking from my father at Rutherglen. I have always believed that the combination of climate, soils and water at Swan Hill could reliably produce wines of world class. This has proved to be case many times in both table and fortified classes,” Richard says.
“In 1974, fortified wines were king and table wines were just starting to become popular. As the market has changed, so has our winery. Over the years I have installed modern winemaking facilities with refrigeration and stainless steel storage. Our company, which is still family owned, has its own vineyards at Beverford. We also buy grapes from more than 70 Swan Hill grape growers, many of whom have family links going back to my grandfather.
“While the bulk of our production at Swan Hill is table wine, I have still maintained an interest in fortified wines. I believe that with new markets opening up around the world, these marvellous Australian styles will find new adherents.”