Granite Belt Wine Region - Home of Strange Birds

My on the ground introduction into Australian boutique wineries, started in a region only Australians MIGHT have heard of. To me, this was an indication that I might be in for a treat, and to learn of a place where there could be true value. There are countless factors that go into the final cost of a wine, but being off the major commercial / consumer radar, along with high altitude / cool climate, and granitic soil are a few indications that you might find good quality-to-price-ratio (QPR). 


Delicacies paired with Granite Belt wines, QueenslandCollege of Wine Tourism
Local Old Vine, Queensland College of Wine Tourism

This is a unique place. Having endured the dryness of 4 years of drought, it made it an atypical time to visit, and the ravages were visible. The normal springtime green on the ground was missing, and the char from bushfires on the trees, were a graphic side effect of lack of rain. A strange time to learn about “Strange Birds.”

Girraween Conservation Reserve

Not A Strange Bird, but a wallaby

Strange Birds is the moniker Granite Belt gives to those varietal wines which make up less than 1% of all Australian wine. We are talking Fiano, Vermentino, Tannat, Malbec, Malvasia, Viognier, Silvaner, Durif, Nebbiolo, and even Saperavi, but the list goes on. Some you may know from other regions, but all are an infinitesimal drop of what’s produced in Australia. 

Our first stop on the Wine Media Conference last year was a James Halliday 5 Star Winery. 

The property is a converted Apple farm, and the farm store was converted to their cellar door (that’s tasting room, mates). We were treated to a piano reception at Heritage Estate upon our arrival, on a very impressive standup piano. 

This winery doesn’t fool around, they offer 38 varieties of wine, and we made a good dent sampling them. Everything from Fiano, (right after the piano, cheeky), to Sparkling Shiraz. Yep, they do the standard Australian varieties in this neck of the woods too. 

After tasting the slew of tasty wines, we sat down at their Queensland Government table, from the 1859 Parliament no less, for a lunch to match the impressive table. But that’s only if you are impressed with Delectable Duck Leg, whole grains, local asparagus and greens. When they poured their Moonshine Madness, (port like libation), as a finale, over the chocolate moose we all swooned. Oh, the grandeur of the scene! 

I was duly impressed with their 2018 Marsanne, fermented with wild yeast, and then treated, as in France, with French oak, giving it creaminess, (but not too much to hide the perfumed honeysuckle), and tropical fruit. The 2016 that I tasted, also gave hint to where this wine could go with more time in the bottle- it will develop nicely for another 5-10 years. Look for more apricot and nutty flavors to come. The duck was accompanied with their 2018 vintage of Shiraz and a Shiraz blend, both very good.

A must visit, if you are lucky enough to be in Granite Belt Wine Region early in the season, is Savina Lane Wines. From Italian ancestry, Brad Hutchings, pours passion and his agronomist background into his grapes, starting with the soil. Along with his wife Cheryl and their award winning winemaker, they pump out some serious bottles. Super generous with his knowledge, he is a delight to talk to. They sell out within a couple months in the spring, but if you get to the cellar door in time, be sure to ask Brad for his wine pairing seafood recipes. 

I was most impressed with their aromatic Petit Manseng- super citrusy on the palette, medium body, and the finish will get you ready for Asian food or seafood. He suggested sesame seared tuna, prawns with ginger or Asian slaw. Hungry yet? I am. 

For richer seafoods like scallops or mussels, a bottle of his Fiano would be more than fine, as you breathe in the jasmine, and it coats the mouth with a honeyed hazelnut note. 

His 2015 Graciano is excellent, and would pair marvelously with some heartier dishes like venison or roasted lamb, providing a spicy counterpoint and long puckery finish. 

           Brad and Cheryl Hutchings 


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