New World, Old Land
They might produce New World wines at Mount Majura Vineyard, but there’s nothing new about the patch of limestone and volcanic rock on which the vineyard sits. Dating back to the Silurian era of 430 million years ago, this piece of fertile ground was identified by Edgar Riek, a pioneer of the Canberra wine district, who predicted that this small patch of red soil facing the morning sun could produce unique wines.
The magic of this piece of land is not only the richness of the volcanic soil, but also the perfect East/North East positioning on this face of Mount Majura, which allows for a long growing season in which grapes are still being harvested through until May.
But the magic doesn’t stop there. Each vine is hand planted, hand pruned and hand trained. Each grape is hand picked and the team is sympathetic to the land, using barely any machinery, cutting weeds instead of using pesticides, taking water from a bore and operating from a solar passive cellar door.
The vines were planted in 1988, making Mount Majura the first vineyard within the ACT. The current owners, a group of enthusiasts, took over the running of the estate in the late 90s. The team, led by viticulturalist and winemaker Frank van de Loo, is small but passionate, producing Riesling, Chiraz and the signature wine, Tempranillo – widely acclaimed as Australia’s best.
The estate is heavily involved in the local scene, not only offering tours around the vineyard, structured tastings and winery tours, but also working collaboratively with other wine producers. They were recently involved in an end of vintage tasting in Gundaroo and a tasting at Hotel Realm for Canberrans. They’re regulars at the Forage, and we are fortunate that we’ll also be seeing them at EPIC in September for the Handmade Markets.
I asked Fergus McGhie, who is responsible for sales and marketing, what he loves most about Canberra and he didn’t pause long before settling on New Acton. Monster Bar & Grill is on the list, but the favourite has to be Močan & Green Grout, not only because of its inexpensive share plates, but also because it’s BYO!