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Your 2022 Guide to the King Valley Wine Region VIC

Posted by David Laity on
Your 2022 Guide to the King Valley Wine Region VIC

A Snapshot of the King Valley Wine Region

The King Valley wine region is located in North-East Victoria, Australia. It's bordered by Wangaratta in the north, Myrrhee in the west, Myrtleford in the east and Cheshunt in the south. The region is known for its production of high-quality cool climate wines, made from a variety of grape varieties. The region is home to around 25 wineries, most of which are small family operations. The total vineyard area in the King Valley is 1800ha, representing half of all plantings in North East Victoria.

King Valley wineries have a long history of winemaking, with the first vines being planted there in the 1860s. The region's cool climate and fertile soils make it an ideal location for viticulture. Picturesque King Valley is also home to some of Australia's most dramatic scenery, with its rolling green hills and snow-capped peaks.

It's a very fertile valley - tobacco was grown here until the 1970s - and many of the Italian migrants who farmed the baccy as sharecroppers gradually transitioned into being the owners of vineyards and winemakers. To this day, throughout King Valley, and especially in the Milawa Gourmet Region, you'll find Italians, Italian descendants and other European immigrants and their families farming, growing grapes, making cheeses and traditional bread, running cooking classes and treating their customers to the famed Italian hospitality.

'old tobacco drying kilns in Myrtleford' - by denisbin - licenced under creative commons

King River - the river that gives the valley its name begins up high in the mountains of the Alpine National Park and runs the gamut from white water rapids to lapping at the banks of the vineyards that line the river further down. Perfect for swimming, kayaking or just having a picnic under a gum tree with some local food and a bottle of prosecco.

Many wine regions are popular tourist destinations, with visitors coming from all over the country to enjoy the food and scenery, but King Valley really is one of the prettiest places to find a winery in Victoria. The region is also home to some of the best ski resorts in Victoria, making it a popular destination for winter sports enthusiasts. Wangaratta is the main city of the area with just under 20,000 residents. It's a major country town in Victoria with regard to its food and wine industry.

Take Me There!

How to get to the King Valley Wineries

The valley is 117km from Albury, 280km from Melbourne, 460km from Canberra, and 665km from Sydney. Seems like a fair way from anywhere, but it is only 45km from Wangaratta which will take you about half an hour to drive around these parts.

How about a train ride from Melbourne to Wangaratta (a bit under three hours) and then you can take the bus (40 minutes) to right by the King Valley Primary School.

It's even cheaper to take the bus directly from the Southern Cross Bus Terminal, Melbourne to King Valley Primary School and the journey is about four and a half hours.

However, if you're not short on cash, why not fly from Moorabbin Airport, Melbourne directly to Brown Brothers vineyard for a luxury three course meal?

What are King Valley wines like?

An overview of King Valley wines

Italian varietals are what the valley is best known for. In fact, there's a greater concentration of wine styles here than in any of the other wine regions in Australia. If you're looking for something unusual, this region has got you covered. Add to this that the wineries are mostly family run affairs, means that you will receive as much love in the explanation of each variety as was put into the making of the wine.

Terroir - Soil and Climate

How do the soil and climate affect wine flavour in King Valley?

It's a cool climate area, sometimes described as continental. Thanks Wikipedia -

Continental climates exist where cold air masses infiltrate during the winter and warm air masses form in summer under conditions of high sun and long days. Places with continental climates are as a rule are either far from any moderating effect of oceans

The whole grape growing area of the valley is surrounded by rivers, mountains and foothills, and the altitude ranges from 155-860M. These higher altitude wineries are amongst the highest and coldest in the country. Warm days and cool nights.

photo by Sven Wilhelm - licenced under unsplash

Something out of the box?

Unusual wine varieties in King Valley

Too easy. The concentration of Italian varietals and an experimental attitude makes King Valley a road-less-travelled dream. Nero d'Avola, Sangiovese, Grecanico (Garganega) and Barbera are wine varieties you might not have tried before.

Grecanico

is the sixth most planted grape in Italy, forms the base of the white wine style, soave. It's straw yellow in colour, comes from a vigorous vine, has a medium body and a tangy acidity. It's also known as garganega and I had a great bottle of this on a night out recently. Beautifully crisp and minerally.

Nero d'Avola

is a Sicilian grape variety, dark in colour with intense aromas and flavours of black fruit, plums and prunes. It's like a Sicilian shiraz, on the dry side, and quite full-bodied. It only get cleared by Australian quarantine in 2001, but it's already planted in over 50 vineyards. It loves the sun and has lots of zippy tannins and a spicy palate.

Barbera

is a grape from the Piedmont region of northwest Italy, known for full-bodied, fruity wines with high acidity and soft tannins. This acidity keeps the wine 'juicy' and approachable even when the grape is grown in warmer climates. However, it can tend to overcrop in warm areas which can make the wine thin. It's the third most planted variety in Italy and it's a great wine to pair with many types of food.

The stars of the show

The top varietals of the King Valley wine region

It's not exactly easy to classify King Valley into well-known and little-known varietals. Of all Australia's wine regions, where chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon and shiraz reign supreme - despite how different the winemaking style and terroir may be - King Valley is perhaps the best known for the least known wine.

Sangiovese and prosecco are certainly way more popular now than a decade ago and Wine Victoria reports that "King Valley now leads the way as Australia's premier region for Sangiovese." In fact, sales are up 90% on 2020.

Sangiovese

Sangiovese is the main grape variety in central Italy's Chianti region. It makes wines that are medium- to full-bodied with ripe cherry, blackberry and raspberry flavours, often with earthy notes, though the tannins and acidity can be unpleasantly high. It works best in blends, under conditions that limit its vigour and harvest (low irrigation, pruning, infertile soils), or barrel aged to mellow the taste. Hannibal Lecter wouldn't mind a drop of this given his love for Chianti and fava beans.

Pinot Grigio

Pinot grigio is made from the same grape as pinot gris, but the taste is usually quite different. Grigio is Italian, versus gris for French, and the Italians prefer their Pinot grapes to be made into a more zippy, tangy style of wine than the French.

These wines are often best produced in more cool climate areas in Victoria. This accentuates the acidity and lovely minerally qualities that accompany the honeysuckle, melon, citrus like 'nose'. The world's best pinot grigio is grown at altitude, and King Valley fits the bill perfectly. Expect some pear, ginger, apricot or peach with a bit of zing and some lingering acidity. Lovely!

Prosecco

As for prosecco - my sister's favourite vino to share with friends on her 'prosecco decko' - it's pretty much become one of the premier regions in Victoria to discover this beauty if you haven't already. Production of prosecco rose 53% from 2020 which is a striking development for King Valley.

It's best known in Australia as a sweet, bubbly, summery drink, but the grape variety, glera, is certainly capable of becoming a more nuanced and sophisticated wine. Dal Zotto winemaker, Michael dal Zotto, says that "prosecco has lovely delicate characters. Where you grow it is really important in getting those delicate florals, nice citrus and crisp apple characters, lovely acidity and that little bit of sweetness."

It's nearly always made with glera grapes, but up to 15% of the blend can be from other varietals. It's typically made as either sparkling or semi sparkling, but can be found as 'still' wine - charmingly called tranquilo in Italian.

Prosecco, just like Champagne, can be made in a traditional method in the bottle, but is more often fermented in large tanks. There are variations in sweetness from brut, dry to extra-dry and it can be aged successfully, although it's usually drunk fresh.

Stellar Cellars

Some of the best wineries in the King Valley wine region

Politini Wines - specialises in Estate grown Italian and traditonal French varietals. Cooking classes, cellar door, accommodation.

Brown Brothers - the granddaddy of the valley. The Brown family represent four generations of winemaking. Their micro winery is called The Kindergarten and it's where you'll find unusual, innovative and single vineyard wines. Brown Brothers has an airfield, cellar door, restaurant and hosts events.

La Cantina - if Tuscan style stone cellar doors are your thang - look no further! Growing for Brown Brothers in 1980 while still growing tobacco, by 1995 they decided to focus exclusively on becoming producers of their own wine.

Dal Zotto Wines - down the southern end of the valley, Dal Zotto has almost 200 acres running right down to the river. It's a Halliday five star winery with eight of their wines having received 91 points or higher in the 2022 Wine Companion awards.

King River Estate - Platters of King Valley cheeses, wood-fired pizzas, home-made dumplings - you could almost skip the wine! It's one of the minimal intervention style wineries right across the road from the King River.

Gracebrook - one of the valley's earliest cellar doors, you can get lunch (lots of local food sourced here), coffee or have a tasting at their 130 year old stables.

Politini Wines - Politini features all estate grown Italian and French varietals in the upper part of the valley. You can stay there (see below), drink at the cellar door or enjoy yourself a cooking experience.

Need a nap after all the fun?

Best accomodation options

If you want to stay close to the King Valley wineries, try Milawa, Oxley, Moyhu, Myrrhee, King Valley, Whitfield or Cheshunt.

If you feel like combining a visit to the King Valley top wineries with some local tourism, you could stay in one of the lovely alpine towns of the area: Beechworth, Bright, Myrtleford or Porepunkah.

Here's a few options for accommodation.

At a winery?. How about Politini Wines? The guesthouse has two bedrooms and a deck for enjoying a glass or two that you can purchase directf rom the producers.

If you visit Acacia Cottages, you'll be staying in the middle of a working vineyard. It's a self contained house that can sleep 12 people. Pinot grigio on the deck overlooking the lake anybody?

Staying in Whitfield is extra convenient, so consider the Mountain View Hotel. Four fully refurbished units, lovely gardens and caters for functions. It's got a liquor licence, so don't miss the chance to grab a bottle of something local for a good price. Book here.

For one of many excellent camping opportunities, try Edi Cutting Reserve. It runs for 2km alongside the river. Or, Bennie's Camping area within the alpine park - it's down the south end of the valley.

photo by Etienne Maujean - licenced under Wikimedia commons

Why visit the King Valley in 2022?

The lowdown

So much to discover here. Festivals, historic towns, lakes, rivers, mountain ranges, cellar doors, lookouts, tree-lined avenues. I believe this area has some of the most picturesque towns in Victoria and every second winery in King Valley is family owned with lovely views. The Alpine National Park overlooks the valley and is a paradise for hiking in spring and summer and skiing in winter.

You're here for the vino though, no? Without further ado....

King Valley crushed almost 20,000 tonnes in 2021, an 84% increase year on year. This represented 7% of the total Victorian crush. The local star variety, prosecco performed exceptionally well... The National Vintage Report 2021 reports that :

"Prosecco showed the strongest growth, increasing by over 50 per cent compared with 2020 and by over 100 per cent (more than double) compared with the 5-year average."

Fancy a bevy while visiting?

Beer, wine and cider in the King Valley Region

La Cantina had their 2018 saperavi listed as an International Judge’s Wines to Watch for 2020. This varietal is a deep red in colour, has some astringency and ages well. It's originally from the country of Georgia and is one of the most widely planted varietals there.

Wine and Dine tours will take you to craft breweries, wineries, restaurants and can help sort out your accommodation as well.

Speaking of craft breweries, King River Brewery is a must stop for the beer lovers with an extensive selection of seasonal 'brewed in-house' beers to enjoy amongst a sprawling beer garden and alfresco dining area.

Tasting paddle

photo by Laslie Brienza - licenced under shutterstock

Nagambie Wine Tours offers a full or half day option and you'll be taking in some stunning scenery in between your drinking destinations.

The Winery Walkabout is Victoria's oldest wine festival. It's on the 11th of June, 2022, and expect a good crowd. There are 18 wineries featured this year.

How about some good tunes and good times?

La Dolce Vita festival, in November2022, will have prosecco cocktails, homemade gnocchi, and live music! Mount Hotham. In fact, it pretty much hits all of the boxes for activities in the valley.

The Wangaratta Festival of Jazz and Blues is on November 28th - 30th and then Mount Hotham hosts more of a punk n rock vibe in January 2023 with their cool summer festival.

Wangaratta jazz and blues festival in Nov: Fri 28th - Sun 30th

Bringing Granny and the kids?

Family Friendly things to do in King Valley

The Easter weekend celebration at Brown Brothers sounds fun. Kids activities, live music and plenty of the good stuff. Not bad for $20. Book here.

Sam Miranda winery has a kid's menu, a cubby house, free range chooks and a welcoming to children attitude.

Prosecco Road is the perfect location for getting more familiar with this rising star of the Australian wine industry. You can pedal along the road, learn how to make the bubbles yourself, and enjoy the best of the varietal on this trail shared between Brown Brothers, Sam Miranda, Dal Zotto, Pizzini and Chrismont wineries.

Geeking Out?

Quirky and clever things to do in the King Valley wine region

Visit what's said to be one of Australia's most haunted places on the Beechworth Asylum Ghost Tours.

Call by Corryong and visit the Man from Snowy River Museum and learn the story of Jack Riley. Jack was the legendary horse­man who migrated from Ireland to Australia as a 13-year-old in 1851.

Feeling Artistic?

Arts, Culture and Entertainment in the King Valley

The annual King Valley Art Retreat runs from April 5 - 10. Get some master tips on making great art while enjoying home cooked food and a glass or two.

The King Valley Art Show has more than 400 artists exhibiting over Cup Day weekend.

Looking for Something Sporty?

Active events and outdoor sports in the King Valley

Not exactly sporty, but how about touring King River in a cadillac. Try Cadillac Tours for a classic way to get around.

There's the 2022 Transmoto 8-Hour at Wangaratta in September. It's staged on a "3000-acre private property that’s situated between Wangaratta and Bright; a property that boasts a mouthwatering combination of bush trails, technical hills and undulating grasstrack."

The King River hosts an array of activities from bird watching to white water rafting when the snow melt begins

photo by Jackalope West - licenced under unsplash

Once the warm weather, hopefully, begins again at the end of October, you can run (or watch others run) up four peaks in one day at the Bright Alpine Climb.

photo by David Marcu - licenced under unsplash

The Wrap

We've hope you've enjoyed this run down of the King Valley wine region and some of the incredible wineries and activities it has on offer. We will be regularly updating this page and greatly welcome any input you can offer. And if you go ahead and visit Margaret River, we hope you love it as much as we do.

Cheers

The team at Goodwill Wine

Who is Goodwill Wine?

Goodwill Wine is Australia's only certified social enterprise wine company.

What's that you ask?

We are a wine company with soul. While other wine companies are focussed on maximising their profit, we are focused on maximising our impact. We do this by donating half our profits to Australian charity. Better still, when you buy, you get to tell us where the money goes.

Our wines are every bit as good as our competitions - in fact hundreds of five star reviews would indicate better (see below) and thanks to Australian's choosing to buy their wine ethically, we have been able to donate almost half a million dollars to date.

So why would we do this?

Our founder, David Laity lost most of what he owned in the Black Saturday bushfires. Thanks to the generosity of fellow Australians, he was given the chance to start again and so he made it his mission to pay forward the help he received.

You can read his story here

Looking for a wine that helps save the world, one bottle at a time?

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