A brief history of Grape Growing in Orange

Contemporary winemaking in Orange NSW is relatively new dating back to a small wave of producers planting wine grapes in the early 1980’s and a much larger wave at the turn of the millenium leading to over 1500 hectares of wine grapes presently grown in the Orange region.

There are a number of factors that have evolved enabling Orange to gain its reputation as a premium grape-growing region.

The high altitude cool climate of Orange produces wines with finesse and varietal purity.

The palate of the refined gentleman has changed from the rich port of the early South Australian settlers to an appreciation of fine dry table wine.

The path to refined dry table wine has necessarily wound its way through sweet Ben Ean Moselle, Chennin Blanc, Rhine Riesling, voluminous/buttery Chardonnay and big/alcoholic Shiraz. These wines are much cheaper to produce in warm climates with plenty of irrigation water but the wine consumer has become more discerning often looking across the pond to what the French are up to and Orange measures up well with this style.

Wine has become a story not just a liquid to quench thirst enabling boutique producers to lever into a larger arena. Vineyard visits have become more popular and the intimate Cellar Doors of Orange that usually don’t cater for large tour groups are prized amongst winery visitors.

The effect of climate change cannot be ignored and will no doubt favour Orange as a premium grape region.

There is more information in an excellent booklet titled Orange Region Terroir available from the Orange Visitors’ Centre. The following is an extract from the booklet that gives a brief overview of the grape growing history around Orange.

“The Orange region has a long history of grape growing since the town was gazetted in 1846. Early settlers established fruit orchards that often included table grapes. Black muscats were mainly grown by settlers of British or German descent … at a similar time to development of the Mudgee and Bathurst regions. Over 180ha of table grapes were cultivated by 1925-6 in mainly the Mt Canobolas, Nashdale and Borenore areas. Later a number of Italian families also came to the district to become orchardists and grape growers. Wines were made from these grapes for local sale and the D’Aquino family has continued such a business since the mid 1950s. Very little table grape production now occurs in the region due mostly to earlier varieties in drier, irrigated areas dominating the fresh market.”

“Winegrapes were planted at Molong in 1952 by the NSW Government Viticulturist Harry Manuel as an experimental vineyard. Cabernet sauvignon and Shiraz were planted under dryland conditions with success.”

“The modern Orange region wine industry was pioneered with early plantings in 1980-1 by the Fardells at Nashdale (Nashdale Vineyard) and the Bourkes at Millthorpe (Sons & Brothers). These vineyards were followed in 1983-5 by the Doyle (Bloodwood), Swanson (Cargo Road Wines) and Crawford (Forest Edge) families. Other early winegrape growers included Canobolas-Smith, Highland Heritage, Ibis and Philip Shaw Wines.”

Roughly half of the out-of-town visitors to Patina Cellar Door have never been to Orange before and they are loving it so if you haven’t made the trek to Orange yet… what’s your excuse? Pick your season, snow and log fires, spring blossoms and endless rolling green hills, summer fruit and beautiful gardens or the vibrant colours of autumn.

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