Little gems: Murrumbateman

By Halliday Promotion

26 Oct, 2023

The Canberra District's Murrumbateman is famed for its cool-climate wines, with riesling and shiraz thriving in the region. We get to know Clonakilla, Vineyard 1207, and Yarrh Wines.

Murrumbateman is cool-climate wine country. Dubbed the wine capital of the Canberra District, the region is home to boutique wineries with relaxed cellar doors and winery restaurants. If you're planning a weekend escape, look no further.

Not to be missed on your visit are Clonakilla, Vineyard 1207 and Yarrh Wines. Try Clonakilla's iconic shiraz viognier, which James Halliday says "...paved the way for numerous others but remains the icon." Vineyard 1207's ruby rich shiraz from the 2021 vintage, and Yarrh's signature riesling with citrus and spice. Get to know the wineries and their flagship wines below.


Eastern Vineyard

Winemaker Tim Kirk says: Dr John Kirk, an Australian government research scientist, began planting the Clonakilla vineyard at Murrumbateman just a 30-minute drive north of Canberra in 1971. In the beginning John planted a wide range of varieties to work out which were best suited to the Canberra District's cool climate. Riesling, shiraz and, later, viognier were in the mix, and over time it became clear that some really exciting wines could be produced. The shiraz viognier, our flagship wine, has drawn some pretty phenomenal reviews from critics the world over. 

H. What do you love about making wine in Canberra?
TK. If you love (as I do) the subtle and savoury intensity of cool-climate wines, our landscape and climate in Murrumbateman – in the Southern Tablelands of New South Wales – opens up a wealth of possibilities. We celebrate our warm summer days, cool nights, gentle slopes, refreshing evening breezes, complex red-brown clays and decomposed granitic subsoil. Our extended ripening season leads to the development of striking, complex aromas, crisp and natural acidity, and super fine tannins. 

H. How do you approach the winemaking process? 
TK. For over 30 years now we have pursued classic Burgundian and Rhône Valley methods such as the incorporation of whole bunches in the ferments (anywhere from zero to 50 per cent depending on the year). A cool start to fermentation allows for two to three days of pre-ferment maceration. Natural yeast ferments, and longer maceration times (generally around three weeks for the shiraz viognier), are employed. We co-ferment around 4–7 per cent viognier with the shiraz and mature the wine in high-quality, tight-grained, French oak barrels from a variety of coopers – around a third of them are new each year. 

Wine to try

Clonakilla 2022 Shiraz Viognier

2022 Clonakilla Shiraz Viognier

The 2022 vintage was a cool with gentle ripening progressing well into autumn. The cool season and longer ripening period have highlighted the intensity and quality of the spice elements in the wine. It is beautifully fragrant in classic Clonakilla style, with serious but fine tannins ensuring longevity in the cellar. 

Food pairing suggestion: Duck, of course, and serve the shiraz viognier in large Burgundy glasses to bring out the aromatics.

RRP $120 | Drink to 2035 | Shop this wine |

Vineyard 1207

Sunrise at Vineyard 1207

Winemaker Brett Waldock says: Vineyard 1207 stands as a true testament to a family-based enterprise, operating as a boutique winery. Every drop of our wines is lovingly hand-crafted, and pays homage to the unique terroir of the vineyard and the distinctiveness of the cool climate. At the heart of our winery lies an unwavering commitment to harmony with nature, as we strive to work in concert with the natural world, in our pursuit of crafting premium, cool-climate wines. We are dedicated to the art of winemaking that allows the vines to express their character in every glass. 

H. What do you love about making wine in Canberra?
BW. Canberra is a hidden gem, an undiscovered haven for cool-climate wine production. Much like the city itself, this wine region has many well-kept secrets. Nestled approximately 12 kilometres to the east of Murrumbateman, Vineyard 1207 graces the landscape with a north-east facing slope. The vineyard's elevation ranges from 600 to 660 metres above sea level – its soil a mosaic of shale and scrabbly mix. This unique combination breathes life into our wines, infusing them with exceptional and distinctive flavours that mirror our remarkable terroir. 

H. How do you approach the winemaking process?
BW. I am fully engaged with every facet of the winemaking process. I revel in the nuances of the art: the wonderful hues of the must, the intoxicating aroma of fermenting wine, the poetic flow of purple and ruby liquid emerging from the press, and, of course, the culmination of it all – the finished product. 

My winemaking ethos is rooted in the belief that a fine wine should not only delight the senses but also authentically mirror the distinct characteristics of the vineyard where the grapes are nurtured. Just as we adopt a gentle touch in our vineyard practices, we extend this philosophy to our winemaking. We always strive to intervene as little as possible, while remaining steadfast in our commitment to craft a superior product. Our approach to oak is no exception; we use oak judiciously to showcase the subtle qualities of premium, cool-climate red wines. 

Wine to try

Vineyard 1207 Bottleshot

2021 Vineyard 1207 Shiraz

Reflecting the cooler climatic conditions of the 2021 vintage this ruby, rich shiraz has subtle notes of white pepper and black forest cake cherries. Savour with your favourite cut of red meat or a cheese platter. Vineyard 1207 is dedicated to making the best wines possible whilst living in harmony with the abundance of our native fauna and flora. Our chemical use is minimised, and our farming techniques are environmentally friendly. 

Food pairing suggestion: Rib-eye steak, cooked medium-rare, paired with chat potatoes and green beans. Serve at 16–18 degrees.

RRP $30 | Drink to 2030 | Shop this

Yarrh Wines

Neil and Fiona in the vineyard

Winemaker Fiona Wholohan says: Yarrh Wines is located a 45-minute drive from Canberra or just 10 minutes from the rural village of Murrumbateman in the heart of the Canberra District wine region. All wines are made from our own vineyard and bottled on site, in our beautiful rammed earth and straw bale winery, nestled into a hill and providing spectacular panoramic views of the vineyard and the Yass River Valley. Established in 1997, we make a range of red and white wines that are authentic expressions of our vineyard, variety and vintage. Sustainable practices such as composting, mulching and limiting the use of artificial inputs create wines of great character. 

H. What do you love about making wine in Canberra?
FW. The Canberra region boasts an ideal blend of climatic advantages for growing wine. Daytime warmth aids ripening, while cooling breezes from the east help preserve acidity. I love the elegance and finesse this imparts on our wines.

H. How do you approach the winemaking process?
FW. My winemaking philosophy is simple – let the grapes speak for themselves. We carefully nurture the grapes through the winemaking process to allow them to express their vintage, location, and variety. This means I spend as much time in the vineyard with Neil, my husband and vineyard manager, as I do in the winery. I love being in the vineyard, and on a crisp, bright winter day Yarrh is a magical place.

Wine to try

Yarrh 2022 Riesling

2022 Yarrh Wines Riesling

An elegant and well-balanced wine. The citrus and spice work in harmony with just the right amount of acidity to cleanse the palate.

Food pairing suggestion: Pair the 2022 with oysters, pumpkin risotto or slices of cold porchetta. Best served chilled in your favourite wine glass. If it’s a really hot day, a cube of ice won’t go astray!

RRP $35 | Drink to 2030 | Shop this