The newly renovated High Country Victoria Porepunkah Hotel, situated near Bright Victoria, is unique in that it proudly serves wines that are only produced within the Porepunkah postcode of 3740. On pour are local boutique producers: Billy Button, Mayford, Ringer Reef and others, eight wineries in total, including wines produced by hotel co-owner Janelle Marsden’s Feathertop Winery. The section provides a comprehensive tasting opportunity of ultra-local, microclimate wines, many award-winning, traditional or alternative varietal wines from within the 3740 alpine valleys region.
Essentials’ Jamie Durrant dropped into the Punka Pub to sample three of the best, plus one highly commended extra drop.
2021 Feathertop Friulano
Feathertop is one of the first and very scenic vineyards you’ll see en route to Porepunkah (if travelling from Wangaratta). It’s impossible to miss its steep sloping hillside with rows of vines that begin beside the Murray to Mountains Rail Trail, adjacent to the Great Alpine Road and flow up to the forested hillside crest. Plantings of 30 grape varietals are onsite, having been first established in 1988 by the Boynton family. It was the first winery in the Alpine Valleys. While the Boynton’s are still the owners, Nick Toy has now been appointed chief winemaker.
While an extensive range of traditional varietals is grown, the winery has continued a passion for developing alternate varietal wines such as Savagnin, Tempranillo and Vermentino, plus Friulano, a white varietal that is believed to have originated in the Veneto region of Italy; it is another excellent example. The 2021 Feathertop Friulano is a light and fragrant, instantly appealing wine, a little like a Sauvignon Blanc; however, its added depth of flavour and a range of pleasing aromatic complexities makes it a great food wine. A nose of ripe pears and lemon zest offer a fantastic summery appeal. Delicate touches of almond and spice notes broaden its palate weight. Some fresh grassy/savoury notes make it a wonderful wine to pair with complex Milawa cheeses (blue or washed rind) or a serving of lightly spiced prawn dumplings topped with coriander leaf, available from the Punka Pub’s dining menu.
Perfectly versatile, this is a perfect white wine for cooler months, boasting a complex mouthfeel and aromatics if only lightly chilled. It additionally makes an impressive, easy-drinking silly season or warmer climate aperitif. I could think of no better experience than to sit outdoors at the Punka Pub, sipping this beauty and admiring the direct views to Mount Buffalo’s epic granite cliff faces on an extended summer’s afternoon.
Feathertop is no longer open to the public, as it recently changed its business model to cater to an ever-growing list of wine club members and private booking requests. As a result, it is now available for intimate bookable experiences, including accommodation, private wine tastings, onsite picnics, weddings and celebrations. In addition, Punka Pub and Feathertop winery, both co-owned by local hospitality professional Janelle Marsden, offer Feathertop’s extensive range of estate-grown wines at the hotel’s bar.
Billy Button The Affable 2019 Barbera
Classic lifted cherry aromas complemented by subtle spiced elements – bay leaf, nutmeg and clove – offer a fantastic first impression. Hints of dark chocolate are also present upon pour.
An easy to drink and highly versatile food wine, Billy Button’s The Affable 2019 Barbera presents with a not-so-heavy mid-palate weight that allows for pairing with cheeses and charcuterie, pizza and light tomato-based pasta and lamb, or other lightly grilled meats. Perfect in warm weather.
Given its light aromatic touch, it also makes an intriguing by-the-fire cool climate aperitif. And best of all, it’s a varietal that’s grown extensively throughout the Alpine and King Valleys – an icon of the High Country region thanks to the Italian immigrant families of the 1950s; famous also for introducing Prosecco to Australia – think Pizzini and Dal Zotto families.
Award-winning winemaker Jo Marsh has produced a softly textured yet very juicy wine – it’s oh so cleverly crafted. It manages to strike a delicate balance between rich, optimally ripened fruit, gentle tannins and fresh, lively acidity. Its structure results in a pronounced cherry flavour lift within the front palate that shifts to a rounder mid-palate flavour profile of blackcurrant, prunes, chocolate, and spice. It is a seriously moreish wine that is a joyful drop that’s near impossible to pass up. We simply love it!
2017 Mayford Shiraz
One of High Country Victoria’s most exciting hidden wineries is Mayford. It’s also led by a female winemaker, Eleana Anderson. Eleana’s skill is rare in that she manages to produce such delicately crafted, medium-bodied red wines from her cool-climate vineyard, working with varietals such as Shiraz and Tempranillo, which are often better performers in warmer climates. Yet in every vintage, Mayford delivers the goods – the 2017 Mayford Shiraz is no exception.
Deep fruit flavours of spiced plums, dark bramble fruit and violets drive its impressive forest-like bouquet. The wine features a palate of blood plum and dark cherry, dark chocolate and spice. There’s a beautiful integration of chalky tannins that have been developed by 22 months of maturation in 70% seasoned and 39% new French barriques (for a large portion of the fruit), plus additional and time in bottle before release.
The fascinating thing about how Eleana constructs such a fabulous Shiraz is based on the blending complexity of 14 different clones of Shiraz planted, each working together as individual wines and later blended to produce a layered wine of detail and intrigue. It’s an incredible effort in production that takes small parcels of fruit, selectively hand-picked and vinified separately according to its clone and harvest date. Each ferment was chilled and cold-soaked before spontaneous fermentation by indigenous yeasts. Additionally, there was variation in the time of maturation and diversification in cooperage. In total, the level of complexity in production is immense, and the resulting wine is simply world-leading. A visit to the Punka pub for a hearty meal alongside this outstanding wine is worth the drive alone.
Highly Commended – 2019 Ringer Reef Merlot
Immediate savoury aromatics with sour cherry and slight herbaceous tones (cloves and sage) are underpinned with light bramble fruit and attractive charred characteristics – this is baseline Merlot!
An easy-drinking, lighter-styled red, the 2019 Ringer Reef Merlot is well suited to antipasto, salami and rich/hard cheeses, including aged cheddar and romano cheeses. Its palate is similar to a robust pinot noir with pronounced cherry and chocolate flavours. While not the most delicate wine from Ringer Reef’s collection, it’s a fabulous introduction to the closest winery to Porepunka. It’s worth noting that given its close proximity to the hotel and hillside elevated views, an additional wine tasting or a day two onsite picnic upon Ringer Reef’s sprawling lawns is well worth planning for.
Punka Pub House Wine
Feathertop Winery also makes the Pub’s own 3740 house wines, including a cheeky Rosé, a ‘Savi Sava’, ‘Chardy’, Shiraz and ‘Cab Sav’. Both the winery and pub carry a sense of fun by not taking the branding too seriously with the familiar colloquial labelling.
The Porepunkah Hotel (Punka Pub)
13 Nicholson Street, Porepunkah, Victoria
Tel 03 5756 2111