The Hilltops Vineyards Association AGM this week re-elected Brian Freeman, founder of FREEMAN Vineyards, as President. His report highlighted both the achievements and challenges of 2021 – characterful wines from the 2021 vintage, followed by an unusually wet autumn and winter impacting pruning work. New viticulture research was flagged as were plans for reinvigoration of regional Hilltops wine tourism when border and travel restrictions ease and Cellar Doors can again swing open wide.
Hilltops wines were featured recently in Gourmet Traveller and the Grapegrower & Winemaker – our region and its wines reaching more discerning wine lovers.
The Hilltops Region may constitute just 2% of NSW vineyards but according to sommelier Samantha Payne the region is nothing less than “small but mighty.” Punching enough weight to score a double-page spread in this month’s Australian Gourmet Traveller. Samantha’s Top 5 Picks include estate grown #FREEMANSecco2015 and #MoppityEscalierShiraz2014, and three wines crafted from Hilltops grapes by talented Canberra winemakers – Sam Leyshon Mallaluka Pet Nat, Nick Spencer Rosé and Bryan Martin’s Ravensworth Nebbiolo.
According to winemaker and viticulturist Brian Freeman, President of Hilltops Wine and founder of FREEMAN Vineyards, the key to the region’s special character is ‘an intensity of flavour’ found in all varieties.
Micro-climates also play a part. ‘The temperature and climate have very similar notes to Italy, making it perfect for slower ripening varieties like Nebbiolo, Sangiovese, Rondinella and Corvina.’
For Canberra based Nick Spencer, ‘It’s the one NSW region you go to if you want something interesting.’ And more winemakers are doing just that, sourcing and making exciting go-to wines. Hey wine explorers, next stop Hilltops?
Loud clapping deserved for the three NSW Hilltops wine companies that made the top tier grade in the just announced prestigious 2021 Real ReviewAUSTRALIAN TOP WINERIES collection. They are FREEMAN Vineyards, specialising in Italian inspired wines, Grove Estate that also features Nebbiolo in its portfolio and Moppity Vineyards.
Another indicator that the Hilltops cool climate region quietly punches above its weight! Visit us soon! www.hilltopswine.com.au
Fortunately the recent severe weather system largely skirted the NSW Hilltops Region. The white varieties had already been harvested, with vignerons reporting good quality and yields for pinot gris, chardonnay and prosecco.
And the earlier ripening reds like tempranillo were also already in the tank. Other red grapes had been picked for making rosés.
According to Hilltops Association President, Brian Freeman, the impact on the traditional workhorse Hilltops red varieties – shiraz and cabernet is yet to be fully assessed. But most of the shiraz crop had already been harvested.
‘ The thicker. tougher skinned varieties like cabernet and the later ripeners, notably the Italian varietals like sangiovese and nebbiolo, are now hanging out to dry under sunny skies and should prove resilient.’
‘The weather cell hovered over the region for three days but fortunately the region is as named, hilly with 18-metre deep granite loam soils that soak up water like a sponge. Vineyards can typically be accessed within four hours of a downpour. We should be back to harvest action in a day or so,’ commented Brian Freeman, proprietor of FREEMAN Vineyards.
In fact, the total region rainfall over the three-day period was about 100mms and while it halted harvesting, the rainfall is not expected to seriously impact the overall vintage.
Hilltops vignerons are among grape growers innovating to accommodate changing climate. And one white variety that is showing serious promise is Fiano [fee-ah-no] An immigrant from southern Italy, it is acknowledged as a versatile variety that likes the Hilltops region terroir and elevation.
The year is ending on a high for Ballinaclash. Yes, another trophy for the Ballinaclash Tom Cabernet Sauvignon 2019! This time at the 2020 ANZ Boutique Wine Show where it topped the jam-packed Cabernat Sauvignon class that attracted over 80 entries. Two other Hilltops cabernets from Moppity Vineyards garnered Silver Medals. Better than baubles on the Christmas tree…
Rhymes with piano…Fiano is a southern Italian grape variety that is tweaking curious wine palates, and inevitably those of innovative grape growers. A recent industry seminar focused on Fiano, and its impressive suitability to Australian terroir, especially in elevated regions like the NSW Hilltops. Small plantings already exist in the Hilltops and several wines made from the variety, which originally calls Puglia home, were tasted at the seminar.
They included Collector Wines Summer Swarm Fiano 2018, Grove Estate Fiano 2019 and Whitton Farm Fiano 2019. Other local NSW fianos tasted were Tumblong Hills Fiano 2019 and Linear Fiano 2019 (Gundagai).
The general consensus was that fiano is a relatively easy variety to grow and oenologically versatile, with the capacity to create a variety of styles from zingy aromatic young easy sipper wines to medium-weighted complex wines with straw notes and a palate frame similar to chardonnay.Watch this space…
The 2020 NSW Wine Awards have just been announced and Chair of Judges Dave Brookes has given the nod to the top quality of Hilltops Cabernet Sauvignon. The Riedel Trophy for Best Cabernet Sauvignon was awarded to Ballinaclash Tom Cabernet Sauvignon 2019, which also stood stall in the 2020 Hilltops Wine Awards where it won the Best Cabernet Trophy.
Consistent gold medals and trophies for Hilltops Cabernet Sauvignon highlight the realisation that this region’s cool climate elevated terroir is finally winning deserved acclaim for the traditional Australian red varieties – cabernet and shiraz. Expect to see ‘Hilltops Region’ on more wine labels in the future!