Orange Cool Climate Wines
The Orange Region
Orange has a long history of fruit growing - apples, cherries, stone fruit and of course grapes. Grapes have been grown in the Orange district since it was settled in the nineteenth century. The first commercial production of table grapes followed the arrival of the railway in 1877. By 1925, 450 acres (180 hectares) were planted to table grapes. The modern development of the wine industry in the Orange region began in the early 1980s and by the late 1990's there were 1350 hectares under vine.
The Orange wine region is defined as the area above 600m in the local government areas of Orange, Cabonne and Blayney and can be usefully described as a circle around Orange. The Orange region is good for grapegrowing and winemaking due to a combination of geology, soils, climate and temperature. Together these factors combine to produce grapes and wine of distinct flavours and colour. The climate perhaps plays the biggest part in giving Orange some distinct natural advantages - the cool temperatures during most of the growing season coupled with dry autumn conditions are ideal for grapegrowing.
Mount Canobolas, an important geological feature also plays its part, not only giving the district its rich basalt soils but also, because of its altitude, giving greater reliability to the rainfall. Overall the region has some excellent natural advantages. The climate and soils also influence the selection of varieties for planting. The region is planted to 60% red wine varieties and 40% white wine varieties - which says something about the region but also about what the national palate is drinking in the 21st century.
Of the red varieties in the Orange region, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon are the most widely planted with Merlot and Pinot Noir also gaining a following - Pinot Noir being particularly good at the higher altitude sites. The early planting of Shiraz in the region was limited but has expanded rapidly during the 1990's as the region proved itself as a quality Shiraz region. Time will tell which variety will become the "signature" red wine.
In the white varieties Chardonnay is most widely planted followed by Sauvignon Blanc and these two varieties dominate. Other white varieties gaining popularity include Pinot Gris and Riesling with smaller amounts of Marsanne, Gewurtztraminer, Semillon and the Italian variety Verdicchio. To date, the cool climate style of Chardonnay has attracted most wine show and media accolades but Orange's Sauvignon Blanc is proving to be well regarded, and is winning many accolades. In fact, Sauvignon Blanc may become the signature wine of the region.
In March 2009, wrote about Orange in the "Australian" newspaper: The unequivocally cool climate - vintage normally runs from mid-March to early May - has proved perfect for sauvignon blanc, riesling, gewurztraminer, pinot gris and chardonnay. But with appropriate site selection, impressive pinot noir, shiraz and cabernet sauvignon can be made; serious rosé come easily.
"The rash of sauvignon blanc trophies won by Angullong and Logan Wines (the latter using Orange-grown fruit) at this year's Sydney Royal Wine Show is but the tip of the iceberg: Word of Mouth, Belgravia, Mayfield and Brangayne of Orange all produced exceptionally good sauvignon blancs in 2008, and Hunter Valley winemakers have made Orange their first port of call for semillon (theirs) sauvignon blanc (Orange) blends.
Top-flight chardonnays are also numerous: it was this variety that so attracted Philip Shaw to the region. Mayfield, Printhie, Bloodwood, Millamolong and Canobolas Smith all have great examples. Riesling jostles with chardonnay, producing lovely wines with great purity and verve."
In this years's James Halliday's 2010 wine companion, 4 Orange vineyards scored 5 stars: Printhie, Word of Mouth, Bloodwood and Mayfield. Word of Mouth's Sauvignon Blanc was one of the seven highest scoring Sauvignon Blancs in the country, and Bloodwood's Riesling and Borrodell's "Wine Makers Daughter Orange Gewurztraminer" were among the varietal best.