This February, I visited the Granite Belt wine region. The Granite Belt is a domestically premier, but internationally up-and-coming winemaking region in Queensland, Australia. It gets its name from its soil which is predominantly granite rocks and different from other areas in the Queensland. I visited as part of a Japanese contingent of the Granite Belt Wine School. The school is a new program which aims to introduce the world to the Granite Belt. See this later post for further details.
The trip was a perfect combination of tourism and education. We had tastings and tours at wineries (list at end of post). We also harvested and pressed grapes. Typical wine tourism.
At the same time, we visited the Queensland College of Wine Tourism where we attended a class by MW Mike Hayes. The class was about Mike’s research into viable varieties and clones for the area. We also visited the college’s experimental vineyards.
Mike’s presentation was thorough and insightful. However, my main take-away was that, the area needs to determine how to market itself. While Australia is a well-known wine making country with several well-known regions, the Granite Belt is still relatively unknown internationally.
In response, some wineries in the area have joined the initiative called Strange Birds. Strange Birds signifies how the region grows and makes wine from little known varieties. Indeed, I learned about and tasted several varieties I had never heard of before. One of my favorite discoveries was Sapevari, a Georgian variety.
The situation in the Granite Belt reminds me of what is happening in Nagano, Japan. Nagano is also emerging on the wine scene. It is also experimenting with different varieties and grape growing techniques. While that experimentation is important, it is important that Nagano wine producers figure out the elevator pitch for Nagano wine.
Here is the list of Granite Belt wineries we visited:
The Sirromet winery is located near Brisbane. But, its vineyards are in the Granite Belt. The winery has been expanding its sales overseas. It even directly supplies restaurants in Tokyo.