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Your 2022 Guide to Stanthorpe Wineries - Granite Belt Wine Region QLD

Posted by David Laity on
Your 2022 Guide to Stanthorpe Wineries - Granite Belt Wine Region QLD

A Snapshot of the Granite Belt Wine Region

Queensland eh? You're looking for powdery beaches, coconut palms, white shoes, weird and wonderful wildlife, luxuriant resorts, shady verandahs ... you think Queensland, right?

But for wine? Not so much. And yet, there is a region located just over the border from NSW producing limited edition wines that James Halliday has said were "by far the best Verdelhos I have ever tasted."

It's also home to the Queensland College of Wine Tourism, located in Stanthorpe, which gives you an idea of its importance to the northern vinicultural industry of Oz.

Take a visit to the granite belt wine region and surprise yourself with distinct seasons, spring frosts, winter snow (yes, we're talking about Queensland), cute country towns and unique wines all within the subtropical climate belt of Australia.

photo by Arpad Czapp - licenced under unsplash

Unlike several other regions we've discussed in our other blogs, the main town of Stanthorpe within the Granite Belt gained its name from tin (Latin for tin and English for Town) rather than gold.

By 1874, it was the largest alluvial tin mine in Queensland. Many Chinese immigrated from the mainland and Taiwan to work the tin claims.

After the railway came to town, many German immigrants arrived and then returned soldiers were settled in the area to convalesce after the first world war.

Grapes were first planted here in the late nineteenth century, and the large number of European immigrants in the south of Queensland had the requisite skills to plant, harvest and produce the table wines of their respective backgrounds.

tin mining in 1880 - licenced under wikimedia commons

Wine Australia has the Granite Belt region at between 600-1300m. Vineyards at this altitude account for less than 1% of Australia's planting. Coupled with the variable weather and the relatively recent history (it was first listed as a GI - Geographical Indication in 2000, although grapes were first planted in the area by 1965) you'd think the area would be struggling to establish itself.

But it seems that adverse conditions sometimes breed exceptional results and this region is now becoming known for producing some of Australia's finest cool climate wines.

Take Me There

How to get to Stanthorpe Wineries

It's a bit over 220kms from Brisbane, a bit under 150kms from Toowoomba, around about 60kms from Tenterfield and a bit over 800m above sea level.

It's about three hours from driving both Brisbane and the Gold Coast.

There is an airport and a train, but they don't appear to be too regular. If you don't have a car, you can take the bus from Brisbane Station.

If you're staying on the Gold Coast, you'll have to head to Brisbane first to make your way over to Stanthorpe.

What are the Granite Belt Wines Like?

An overview of Granite Belt wines

The Granite Belt is considered to be a subtropical highland climate. The region has a dry cool season and an above average rainfall. The wines produced here are unique. They're not like the wines of the Hunter Valley, Margaret River, Adelaide Hills or King Valley and maker regions in Central Otago and they're certainly not like those from Chile, Spain, Europe or California.

We found that Granite Belt wines tend towards being floral, aromatic, delicate in body and flavour.

They don't tend to have the strong earthy tones that are often associated with wines from cooler climates. Most of the grape varieties are suited to this climate which makes it possible for wineries to offer a range of varietals throughout the year.

photo by Jenele Lugge - licenced under shutterstock

Terroir - Soil and Climate

How do the soil and climate affect wine flavour in the Granite Belt?

The climate and soil of the Granite Belt wine region is unique and perfect for growing a variety of grape varieties.

The region has a dry cool season and an above average rainfall, which makes it possible for wineries to offer a range of varietals throughout the year.

The soil is also well-suited for grape growth, tending towards acidic, free-draining and not overly fertile.

Stanthorpe's Seasons

The granite belt area is also known for its four distinct seasons, spring frosts, cool summer nights and the occasionally disastrous heavy rain during harvest. There's even occasional snow!

The wine region features late budburst, late harvest and cool growing season fruit profiles.

Something out of the box?

Looking for something unique?
Check out the Strangebird Alternative Wine Trail

The Granite Belt wine region is a brilliant destination to explore for unusual variety wine lovers. The Strangebird Alternative Variety Wine Trail is a very interesting initiative where the participating wineries must grow alternative varieties that are less than 1% of the total bearing vines in Australia. There are both reds and whites typically tasting of spice - Sagrantino (R), Nero d'Avola (R), Fiano (W), Viognier (W) etc.

A few of Stanthorpe wineries lesser known varieties

Some of the Granite Belt wineries grow grapes that can be drunk young, lean, minerally and elegant - Sylvaner (W), Petit Manseng (W) - aged into luscious aged wines with a velvety texture.

One of the common blends in a GSM is Malbec which is a red variety that has a dark purple colour, blackcurrant and dark berries on the palate and a hint of sweet fruit that ages into leather and secondary savoury flavours. As a varietel on it's own, it is a fascinating wine.

Unusual wine varieties - photoshopped by the author

Looking for something you've probably never seen before? Same grapes, same vintage, same winemaker - but two very different treatments. This will be one of the most fascinating drinking experiences you will ever have and its delivered to your door for only $39.95. Oak vs Amphora.

The stars of the show

The top varietals in Stanthorpe

It's gotta be cool climate shiraz. There are many vineyards growing a diverse range of Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Shiraz, Verdelho, Merlot and Viognier, but shiraz is the queen. The first modern vines planted here in 1965 were shiraz and the 2016 Boireann Winery Shiraz Viognier has received stellar reviews (95/100) and is ageing wonderfully.

There's a lingering acidity in these cool climate (thanks to the high altitude) shirazes that means less of a full flavoured, fruit forward style and more white pepper, silky tannins, and flavour characteristics of the local area "Cool climate Shiraz usually is far more representative of terroir than warm climate styles where the juicy fruit characters tend to lead the way."

Did you know?

Stanthorpe wineries have produced Queensland's best Cabernet Sauvignon

Having said all that, Queensland's best Cabernet Sauvignon has twice been awarded to this very particular part of south-east Queensland. There's not so much oak, not so much alcohol, but a lot of complexity and length in the palate. These types of cool climate cabernet often age very well.

Furthermore, the chardonnay of the Granite Belt is soft, has some lovely tropical fruit flavours. Wine Australia describes the chardonnay from Granit Belt as following: "The wine tends to be soft but have pleasant and clear varietal character in a nectarine and melon spectrum.

What to See and Do in the Granite Belt Wine Region

Like other cool climate regions, but with the added interest of sub tropical monsoon influences, the Granite Belt also grows a lot of stone fruit, has more than one million apple trees, has the obligatory historic villages and beautiful vineyards of Australia's most popular wine regions. .

Wine tourism is, unsurprisingly, the main drawcard of the Granite Belt - Wine Australia notes that there are more than 300 hectares of vineyard around Stanthorpe.

If you're looking for an excellent wine tasting, cellar door, vineyard or winery experience, all of the wineries below are producing excellent wine - check them out!

Stellar Cellars

Top Cellar Doors in the Granite Belt Wine Region

  • Boireann Winery - one of James Halliday's top 100 wineries of Australia. It's located 800 metres above sea level, ontop of aged granite soils. Get 'down to earth' during your wine tasting at Boireann Winery!
  • Pyramids Roads Wines - close to the Chocolate Shop, the winemaker has a magnificent beard. Enough said right? If that doesn't send you running there for your wine tastings, what will? Okay, okay, how about the fact these guys are growing around ten of the local top varieties - top wine tasting bang for your buck.
  • Tobin Wines - producing limited editions of each varietal each year. Has a cellar door where I'd like to try their Tobin Wines 2019 unoaked chardonnay.
  • Symphony Hill Wines - Rated 5 star winery by James Halliday with over 50 wines rated 4 stars or more for last 5 years. Only QLD winery to win gold medals for both red and white wines at Royal Sydney Wine Show and Royal Melbourne Wine Show and also a trophy at National Wine Show of Australia. Symphony Hill Wines has one of Australia's highest blocks of shiraz plantings.
  • Golden Grove Estate - known for the unknown. They have many of the Strange Bird varieties, like their 2021 Nero d'Avola, along with classics like their French oak 2021 Chardonnay. A cellar door you won't regret for the uniqueness of the drops!
  • Hidden Creek Wines - another good place to go for a Strange Birds wine tastings. They also have a cafe, a cellar door, cabins and picnic hampers for sale.
  • Sirromet Wines - it's a big and prestigious winery. At this cellar door, you can see events, winemaking, enjoy food on the Tuscan terrace, get yourself an education

Need A Nap After All The Fun?

Best accomodation options

Many wineries offer accomodation on the premises. Ridgemill Estate has luxury cabins, Azjure Studio Retreat is literally surrounded by wineries and was designed especially for couples, Just Red Wines grows only your darkly coloured favourites and is right by some of the famous granite boulders of the Granite Belt.

Unique Accomodation around Stanthorpe

There's the remarkable Girraween Environmental Lodge - highly awarded and a good balance between rustic and romantic. You can camp at both Girraween and Bald Rock National Park. If you choose a small village, you might get to stay in a cabin with a bottle of something with age, character and a delicious velvety texture to enjoy in front of a log fire during the winter time before popping out to catch some of the local attractions.

Why visit Stanthorpe in 2022?

The lowdown

Here's one great reason - Cellar Doors are booming now that they have had a good rain - after a couple of years of drought. The various Granite Belt wineries and cellar doors have full dams - along with the warmer days of summer there are sure to be good harvests in 2022. What does a full dam mean? Wine tastings!

A new tourism initiative, the Vine and Shine trail, opened in November of 2020, so it hasn't had the easiest couple of years to get established. Visit this year and partake of the Strange Bird varieties, have some long lunches amongst the amazing scenery, drink some great wine and find your new favourite vineyard somewhere between Brisbane, the coast, the Scenic Rim and the Granite Belt.

Something to see while you're there?

Girraween National Park

Bald Rock is the largest granite monolith in Australia and the rocks around these parts are over 200 million years old.

Girraween National Park also has some pretty spectacular rocks along with a stunning wildflower season almost 800 different plants in flower!

And it's only one of the four national parks in the zone where Queensland borders northern New South Wales.

photo by CT Media - licenced under shutterstock

Fancy a bevvy while visiting?

Not exactly drinking, but after visiting the Murphy's Creek Chilli Festival at the end of March and the annual chilli harvest, you'll at least want to be guzzling milk, if not one of the fine brews available in Stanthorpe at the Granite Belt brewery There's also a Brewer's Day weekend every year and you can brew away to your heart's content and, if necessary, send your partner off to go wine tasting for the weekend while you play with the hops and yeast.

How about some good tunes and good times?

Live Music and Festivals in Stanthorpe

There'll be a big party at Sirromet Wines for their annual Vine Warp - local bands, DJs and a mass karaoke event.

Jumpers and Jazz is a Warwick festival where you can catch some smooth saxophone whilst admiring the local trees covered in knitted jumpers. Go on then!

The Granite Rockin Blues Festival at Jester Hill Winery in May sounds like it could be fun.

Opera Tenorus Dinner at Heritage Winery on October 8 features two of Australia’s beloved tenors, Roger Davy & Broadway star Adam Bartlett, You can book tickets here

Bringing Granny and the kids?

Family friendly things to do in Stanthorpe

If you're in the Granite Belt region over the summer, check out one of the local watering holes.

I'm going to go straight to the source and grab this quote from the website for the annual Hampton Festival - "A fun filled day of food, fun, art, music and children’s activities for your friends and family to enjoy. "

You can also visit a maze, or a Christmas Tree Farm, or a granite pyramid, or go fossicking for gold, or even visit the house where the author of Mary Poppins lived as a child.

Geeking Out?

Quirky and clever things to do in Stanthorpe

Go LARPing or just enjoy watching others dress up in armour and belt each other around the heads with historic swords at the Warwick Celtic Festival in March.

Or do a two day intensive winemaking course at the Queensland College of Wine Tourism where you'll be at the crossroads of hospitality, tourism, science and business.

Feeling Artistic?

Arts, Culture and Entertainment in Stanthorpe

Get two for the price of one with the Granite Belt Art Trail and Condamine Country Art Trail events coming this October. Make some art, check out some art, celebrate emerging from the dark days of winter and get your fill of art, wine and food.

Looking for Something Sporty?

Active events and outdoor sports in Stanthorpe

Sport in the Granite Belt is a fun mix of weird and wonderful. Polocrosse is a hybrid of netball and polo (?!) and there's a carnival in Warwick come May.

The Grunt & Grind Fest will fill your whole weekend with mountain biking and trail running in May. Starting from the brewhouse in Stanthorpe.

You'll be surrounded on all sides by national parks, mountains, boulders, rock climbing opportunities, bike riding, horse riding for those days when being in a vineyard isn't priority one.

The Wrap

We've hope you've enjoyed this run down of the Stanthorpe and Granite Ridge 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 the Yarra Valley, we hope you love it as much as we do.


The team at Goodwill Wine

Who is Goodwill Wine?

Thanks to the generosity of fellow Australians, I was given the chance to start again, and so I made it my mission to pay forward the help that I received.

I decided to begin a wine company and give back half of my profits.. and my customers got to choose who it went to.

My goal was simple: to reward the supporters of good causes with good wines, and I would do this by tapping into boutique parcels too small to be of interest to the large online wine companies.

While it is amazing the hands that life can deal us, it is even more amazing the goodwill that exists within us all.

I never imagined that ten years down the track this little business would have donated nearly half a million dollars to charity and the simple truth is, it only happened because people like you chose to help me when I needed it most. Thank you.

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