With lockdown loosening and businesses reopening across NSW, the hottest form of travel right now is the humble roadtrip. And like bees to the honeypot, we’re making a beeline for Australia’s wine regions.
Just 3.5 hours from Sydney (a more substantial eight hours from Melbourne), Orange is one of the country’s highest altitude winemaking regions. With more than 60 cool-climate vineyards and 40 cellar doors, its signature pours are chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and cabernet sauvignon, though local winemakers are gaining a reputation for their experiments with altitude and soil types, bringing traditional ‘filler’ wine varietals cabernet franc and cabernet merlo to the fore.
Essentials recently joined a tasting webinar with Louella Matthews, head sommelier at Bibo Wine Bar in Double Bay, Sydney. Louella started her hospitality career in Orange before moving to Sydney, managing over 4000 wines at Rockpool Bar & Grill. A certified sommelier, she also regularly judges on the Australian Wine Show circuit.
During the wine appreciation webinar, we tasted the Swift Cuvee NV #7 from Printhie Wines and 2017 Hill Park Chardonnay from Swinging Bridge. The Swift Cuvee is a single-vineyard blend of hand-harvested, whole bunch pressed chardonnay and pinot noir. Zesty, fresh and fragrant, it’s a fun way to kick off Friday quarantinis, it has a lovely soft mousse – rather than explosive bubbles – and just enough breadiness to offset the floral, slightly lemony palette. An absolute winner.
The long-cellaring Hill Park chardonnay is winemaker Tom Ward’s flagship wine from Swinging Bridge, and gives every reason why the ABC (Anything But Chardonnay) club is seriously missing out. Elegant with full body, there’s an unexpected, but delicious minerality to the wine that evens out any suggestion of an 80s-big-hair and-shoulder-pads chardonnay of yore. Structured and sophisticated, there was sadness when the bottle ended. Louella says chardonnay and cuvee work well with nutty foods: she suggests roasted hazelnuts or macadamias in a goat’s cheese ravioli with a burnt butter sauce.
Fancy a day out in Orange?
Lou’s perfect day starts with coffee at Good Eddy, then ‘the best croissants in Australia,’ stuffed with jamón and Comté from Racine Bakery before shopping on Main St. She suggests taking a look at Sonic, Belle Armoire, Angus Barrett and The White Place.
‘If you’re there on the second Saturday of the month, make time for the bountiful farmers’ markets,’ says the sommelier, ‘and make sure a visit to Second Mouse Cheese Co is on the cards.’ The day ends with dinner at Lolli Redini or Charred Kitchen & Bar, with its ‘incredible’ wine list, and a late-night drink in the Union Bank’s cosy wine bar, a favourite hang of local winemakers.
TIP: As an apple-growing district, it makes sense Orange is staking a claim as a cider house hotspot. Check out the offerings from Cherry Bird and Sacred Valley Beverages, while Acres Cyder and Borrodell Winery both have cellar doors in Orange.