Red earth and dry dusty paddocks with lone trees and a few sheep hanging around. The kind of country our pioneer landscape painters recreated on canvasses that hang in musty museums. Hard country, good people, knowledge of the land. All this comes together in the brick red farm country of Heathcote in central Victoria. And there's plenty of wine grape growing too.

Amongst it all the farmers turned to grapes. The old Cambrian soil lends a truly unique character to vineyard sites. Ancient dirt, as old as the hills, older in some cases, older than Uncle Bob with his one eye who rocks back and forth on the rocking chair slowly polishing his wine-opener. But it is a lot to do with this unique soil profile. The vines take on a unique, powerful, savoury character from the soils and excel at Shiraz growing. Shiraz is the mainstay of the region.

The region has been reinvigorating from the 1960s. Accolades for the wines came about with US wine critic revelations about the power and concentration of Shiraz wines, with significant input from local media about the uniqueness of the style. Heathcote isn't all about Shiraz however; it successfully grows a range of grapes, which have become a new focus for the boutique producers of the region. Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache and Cabernet Franc have been planted for some time but emerging varieties like Sangiovese, Tempranillo, Nebbiolo and Rhone white varieties have met with interest and success.

While big names and premium boutique wineries dot the Heathcote landscape, and undercurrent of excellent value, fruit driven varietal wines has been emerging. Producers are coming to terms with the changing palate of Australian drinkers, offering more restrained, finessed wines than the blockbusters of the 1990s and early 2000s. While Uncle Bob keeps one eye on his polished wine-opener, keep both your eyes on the latest developments from this exciting and diversifying region.

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