Introducing Murray Darling
The first grape vines were planted in the 1880's, and though much of the historical Murray Darling wine production of the region focused on fortified wines, the region now enjoys a growing reputation for new-to-Australia grape varieties, particularly of Italian origin.
The Murray Darling wine region straddles the Murray River and covers territory between northwest Victoria and western New South Wales. Murray Darling wineries benefit from the bucolic setting and a burgeoning food scene that has expanded from the efforts of celebrated local chef Stefano de Pieri. Mildura is at the heart of the Murray Darling wine region and is also home to the increasingly important Australian Alternative Varieties Wine Show, an independent wine competition for new-to-Australia grape variety wines.
Where is Murray Darling?
Murray Darling is a large geographical area in the interior of southeastern Australia. Mildura is the central hub for the Murray Darling wine region and is well serviced by flights from Melbourne and Sydney. Though located in Victoria and New South Wales, access to Murray Darling wineries by car is closest to Adelaide with a drive of just over four hours. Major highways from Sydney and Melbourne also intersect in Mildura.
Murray Darling Climate
Though the Murray Darling wine region is considerable in size, general comments on climate can be made as the region enjoys a near identical weather influence between its western and eastern fringes. The climate is considered hot and dry, with low range humidity and extended sunshine hours. The climate of the Murray Darling is decidedly continental. Diurnal temperature ranges vary greatly, seeing hot days and cool nights.
The Murray Darling region is best known for its plantings on loam soils that support vigorous grape growth. The matrix of hot climate and vigorous production has seen the focus of the Murray Darling wineries on well-priced, easy-to-enjoy wines predominately produced from Chardonnay, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon grape varieties.
Unique Characteristics of Murray Darling
Murray Darling wines tend to be generous yet simple in flavours. Murray Darling Chardonnay is often bold in citrus and tropical fruit character, fleshier in texture and offering plenty of buttery, honeyed character with some maturation. Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon are considered high quality at a low price, with generous, soft, rich fruit character typically found.
The Murray Darling wine region is also increasingly known for ‘alternative varieties’, with many wineries now looking to Italian grape varieties, including Pinot Grigio, Lambrusco, Sangiovese, Vermentino, Nebbiolo, Barbera and Moscato. Murray Darling wineries have also embraced Viognier, Tempranillo, Grenache, Petit Verdot and Colombard as other grape varieties that may also be suited to the Murray Darling wine region conditions.
Wines to try from Murray Darling
The Murray Darling wine region oscillates between what it produces in greatest volume and what is increasingly an interesting ‘alternative varieties’ wine scene. The Italian influence on the lifestyle of the region has seen an increase in interest in Italian grape varieties, particularly brightly flavoured Vermentino, alongside Pinot Grigio, Sangiovese and Nebbiolo. These Italian varieties have been credited with being equally or better suited to the growing conditions, and are able to thrive in heat and low moisture environments.
Chardonnay is the most well-known white grape variety from the Murray Darling wine region. It is not only known for its generosity in flavour and aroma but also for its affordability.
There has been considerable planting of Shiraz in the Murray Darling wine region bolstered by its easy appeal and low to mid-range price points. The Murray Darling wines produced from Shiraz are typically soft, smooth, ripe fruited in aromas and flavours, and offer short term drinking prospect.
Must See Murray Darling Wineries
Murray Darling wineries alternate between big company and small boutique wineries. Recent years have seen an increase in smaller wineries, with the region expanding from a stable 15-or-so wine producers to around 30 at last count.
Deakin Estate, Trentham Estate and Zilzie Estate are arguably the most prominent of the larger scale wine producers, and are all known for quality wine at affordable prices. Trentham Estate are at the prominent forefront of wineries using alternative varieties, but other Murray River wineries to watch include:
- Nursery Ridge
- Stefano De Pieri
- Oak Valley Estate
The future of Murray Darling
The burgeoning interest in food and wine tourism will help increase the profile in the Murray Darling wine region. The scenic landscape and access to wealth of regional tourism options will be an additional drawcard to encourage the growing of the boutique wine scene.
Alternative varieties are also important for the Murray Darling wine region, with a breadth of grape options bolstering the profile of smaller wineries. The ability for Murray Darling wineries to grow a wide range of grape varieties utilising the natural warm, sunny climate of the region, is a benefit to all wine drinkers seeking interest yet accessible wine styles.