From the tasting team

Jane Faulkner on the Macedon Ranges

By Jane Faulkner

19 Jun, 2023

Tasting Team member Jane Faulkner looks at the producers defining the Macedon Ranges wine region.

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There are many wine regions blessed with beautiful, wild landscapes, but one in Victoria lures thanks to its hilly undulations and dramatic granitic boulders. Any guesses? Yep, Macedon Ranges. The bonus is its proximity to Melbourne – just over an hour’s drive, give or take, up the Calder Freeway. 

Draw a rough circle on a map from Malmsbury to Lancefield down to Gisborne then across to Daylesford – taking in the Great Dividing Range – and the Cobaw Range will cover this smallish wine area, where vineyards soar up to 800 metres above sea level. It’s super-cool-climate territory and no wonder pinot noir and chardonnay are the current day heroes yet there’s diversity, too. 

The Macedon Ranges is home to established producers such as Granite Hills, Cobaw Ridge, Passing Clouds, Hanging Rock Winery, Bindi Wines and Curly Flat. Let’s start with the former.

Michael DhillonMichael Dhillon of Bindi Wines.

Granite Hills is famous for pristine riesling, including the flagship TOR made from fruit off the oldest blocks planted in 1971 and ’72. The name is an old English word for rocky outpost, apt because the vineyard is surrounded by granitic extrusions. 

Granite Hills was established by Gordon and Heather Knight in 1970, who planted shiraz, cabernet sauvignon and riesling. Today, their son Llew is continuing the tradition of making excellent wine, and incorporating other varieties such as grüner veltliner, pinot blanc and gamay – all buoyed natural acidity. 

Nearby is Cobaw Ridge, established in the early ‘80s by former nurses turned vignerons Alan and Nelly Cooper. Certified biodynamic, everything is crafted with care and by hand. While they make exceptional chardonnay and syrah, they are celebrated for an Italian variety – lagrein. Lagrein hails from the Alto Adige region; very much at home on the Cooper’s land. Unequivocally, Cobaw Ridge can lay claim to producing the best lagrein in Australia. 

Jane FaulknerJane Faulkner.

If driving up from Melbourne, the first winery of note is the revered Bindi at Gisborne, which has earned a reputation for producing some of the finest pinot noir and chardonnay. Miniscule quantities, majuscule quality. They are wines of place. Made by owner/producer, Michael Dhillon, his Bindi Quartz Chardonnay and Block 8 Pinot Noir especially are so distinctive, the site’s DNA is woven into the wines. It’s a joy to recognise and experience. 

One of the drawcards of the area is that it's dedicated to smaller growers and family businesses – devoid of corporates. Sure, no wine region remains static, certainly climate change paves the way for some acceleration in varietal diversity but people make a difference: newcomers make a mark.

Joshua CooperJosh Cooper of Joshua Cooper Wines.

Take Josh Cooper. He’s the son of Nelly and Alan from Cobaw Ridge. Such a talent, he could choose anywhere to make wine yet Macedon Ranges is home and he’s very much hands-on at the family winery, plus runs his eponymous label. 

In 2021, Josh bought 8ha in the Macedon Ranges on a site full of shale, mudstone, quartz and clay soils, perfect for high-density plantings of chardonnay and pinot noir, which he aims to start next year. Currently he sources fruit and his beguiling labels are from lino-cut prints designed by friend and artist Loique Allain, who is also a local vigneron with husband Chris Dilworth. Their label, Dilworth & Allain is another welcome addition.

There are others – Silent Way, Place of Changing Winds, Lyons Will Estate and more – all contributing to the quality that defines this unique region.