Grape expectations for Gold Coast wines

(Australian Associated Press)

Gold Coast vineyards are toasting their increasing popularity among wine drinkers locally and overseas.

Wine lovers don’t need to travel to Europe to experience boutique varieties like Tempranillo or Verdelho, better known for coming from vineyards in Spain and Portugal.

Nestled in the hinterland of Queensland’s Gold Coast, a number of award-winning vineyards are producing these wines too.

And the Gold Coast-grown varieties of Verdelho, Tempranillo and Semillon are increasingly tantalising the Australian wine industry and wine lovers, creating a niche tourism market.

Queensland is still a fledgling player in the Australian wine industry, with about 70 commercial wineries compared to around 700 each in Victoria and South Australia, according to the Australian and New Zealand Wine Directory of 2017.

However, change could be fermenting.

One of the fastest growing wine regions in Queensland, the Gold Coast wine country encompasses the cooler climate of Mt Tamborine and Springbrook through to the milder climates of Albert River and Canungra Valley. The region allows a range of grape varieties to be grown.

Mike Hayes, from Ballandean in south-east Queensland’s Granite Belt, was recently named Winemaker of the Year by the Australian Society of Viticulture and Oenology. He has long been an advocate for alternative varieties of wine.

On the Gold Coast, Shane O’Reilly, managing director of O’Reilly’s Canungra Valley Vineyards and chair of the Queensland Tourism Industry Council – shares this view.

He says the future of Queensland’s wine industry lies in establishing these alternative wines.

“We’re not trying to compete against the shiraz, cabernet and chardonnay varieties here in Queensland,” he says.

“We’re trying to propagate wines that really suit our region, similar to the wines coming from other parts of Europe, like Portugal and Spain, where the climate is hotter and drier like ours.

“We’ve tried to establish our wines as a point of difference.”

This approach is succeeding for Mr O’Reilly and his vineyard, which recently won gold in the Tourism Wineries, Distilleries and Breweries category at the 2017 Queensland Tourism Awards.

Australia is among the top 10 global wine producers and exporters.

Wine Australia’s Export Report for 12 months to December 2017, shows that the Australian wine export market grew by 15 per cent to $2.56 billion (the highest level since the global financial crisis in 2008) and volume increased by eight per cent to 811 million litres. Premium wines are driving demand with the Export Report citing it had experienced the biggest growth.

According to the Queensland government most Queensland wine is sold domestically, but overseas exports to China, Japan, Taiwan, and the UK are increasing.

O’Reilly’s wines are catering to international interests. In the past four years, the company has shipped 15 containers — or 211,680 bottles — to Chinese clients.

Mount Nathan Winery owner Peter Gibson, who has been working with the Chinese market for ten years, believes Queensland’s market share is increasing.

“A lot more Queensland wineries are exporting than they did five years ago. It’s difficult to compete with commercial wineries so we rely on boutique fortified honey and port type wines rather than table wine products,” he says.

“Last year our sales to mainland China grew by 25 per cent. We have a warehouse in