On the trail of wine and food

Checking out the Qvevri vessels.

The Granite Belt is Australia’s highest wine country region, sitting 900 metres above sea level, with a vast countryside, working farms and quintessential towns like Ballandean, Applethorpe and Stanthorpe, to visit along the way.

In just a few hours from the Gold Coast and Brisbane you can be indulging in some of the finest wine, made right here in sunny Queensland.

There are over forty vineyards to tour and taste in the Granite Belt, along with an array of eateries threaded with local produce from the surrounding farms these include ‘Bent Road’ in Ballandean, where you can learn all about the ancient Qvevri wine technique, that dates backs over eight thousand years to West Georgia, Europe.

Enthusiastic winemaker and co-owner Glen Robert is all about making low intervention, natural wines, from the ground up. With a background in science, Glen blends wines from the age-old technique.

Bent Road was established a couple of decades ago, and the talented team have been slowly, but surely marinating some of the country’s most unique wines, made with the ceramic vessels. The Qvevri vessels are filled with the juiciest local grapes and stored underground, where the fermentation process and magic happens.

The rich soil and solid granite base, result is an organic, flavour with hints of citrus and spices, and an earthiness that lingers on the palate.

Glen says he lets the terroir and grapes do the talking- coupled with varieties under the label “Petit La Mort’ (meaning the ecstatic moment after intimacy) and a decadent tasting room-Bent Rd has wine tongues talking across the country.

For a slow, country style lunch head to Jam Works, just down the road from the vineyard.

The farm to table eatery and produce store has been passed down through the family and showcases artisans from across the region. Home style cooking at its finest, with large meals and a range of boozy jams, marmalades and pickles to take home.

There are plenty of places to rest your weary, wine tasting heads, such as Ridgemill Estate, a traditional style vineyard, that specialises in Tempranillo, Albarino and Saperavi. The modern cabins are built to capture the natural surrounds, as you watch the sun set over the mountains, while sipping on an award-winning Tempranillo.

Ridgemill’s roots are deeply embedded in Spanish heritage, from the predecessors who hailed from Spain. The current owners Martin and Michelle Cooper have kept the European tradition alive, producing some of the best Albarino this side of the border.

As the sun rises over the estate, walk the property and feed the friendly goats, then sample the array of wines at the colourful tasting room, with a commanding bull sculpture at the entrance- you’ll know you’re in country Queensland.

Head to Eastern Colour, for a ‘pick your own’ farm experience, the owners, the Baronio family originate from Italy, and have been growing apples since the 1930’s. Part of the charm of the Granite Belt comes from the migrant population who brought wine making and farming skills with them.

Pick and take home some of the juiciest Royal Galas from the thriving apple orchard and indulge in the sweetest, strawberries from the fruit tunnels-built to withstand the elements. The region also hosts the popular ‘Apple and Grape Festival’ held every two years to celebrate the harvest season.

Visit established wineries like Heritage Estate, Ballandean Estate and Balancing Heart- under the guidance of local winemaker Mike Hayes, an expert in his field. New kids on the wine block, such as ‘Art of Krupinski’ and ‘Dear Vincent’ are making unique European and natural varieties- ‘hot off the press’ the team at ‘Dear Vincent’ are reinvigorating the old Ballandean Tavern as we speak.

The Granite Belt is a destination firmly on the nations wine map, producing fine drops in the Queensland sunshine. Visit the array of vineyards, tasting rooms and farm gates or jump on a ‘Savour Tasting Trail’ that guides you along the way.

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