Why Mildura Is a Grape-Growing, Wine-Producing Mecca
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Editor’s note: Here at The Local Rag we aim to be as transparent as possible when covering all of the amazing things to see and do around regional Australia. For this story, the author travelled to Mildura on invitation from Duxton Vineyards to find out more about its Rewild range.
When I think of Australia’s major wine-growing regions—and try to take my Victorian glasses off—I think of places like the Hunter Valley, Barossa Valley, Red Hill, and the Yarra Valley among others. As I mentioned recently, I’d never been to Mildura, but if you told me Mildura was one of the main grape-growing regions in the country, I probably would’ve done a double take.
It makes sense though. When I was a kid, I used to mainline sultanas, and for some reason, it’s always been fresh in my mind that those sultanas were grown in the northwest part of Victoria.
Being in Mildura, you can see why it all works so well. The climate is perfect, the sun shines almost all year round, and the rainfall is fairly predictable—except for the floods of 2022 of course. But, I am absolutely no expert, even after a thorough tour of the area and the winemaking process from the Duxton team.
Who better to explain it, than Tony Allen, Wine & Grape Commercial Manager at Duxton Vineyards.
What makes the Mildura region an ideal location for grape growing?
The Murray Darling Region around Mildura is renowned for its great weather. Summer is normally hot and dry which leads to fantastic conditions for growing wine grapes.
The Murray and Darling Rivers are the lifeblood of the region, these waterways support irrigation to the vines and produce good crops and great-quality wines.
How does the climate and soil in the region contribute to the quality of grapes grown in the region?
The region’s climate is typically favourable for growing grapes with low disease pressure. However, the region has been presented with some challenges in recent years due to an increase in unpredictable weather patterns. Abundant sunshine and minimal rainfall are essential for successful grape cultivation, with the Murray Darling region benefiting from both.
The soils of this area, ranging from rich brown and red loams to sandy compositions, are characteristic of the Murray River system and provide the ideal conditions for vigorous vine growth.
Are there any particular grape varieties that thrive in this area particularly, and why?
Most of your typical wine grape varieties grow well in the region, including Chardonnay, Shiraz, and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Additionally, we have found that certain Italian and Spanish grape varieties thrive in hot weather and continue to produce high-quality wines year on year; among them being Fiano, Vermentino, and Tempranillo.
How does the quality of grapes grown in Mildura compare to those grown in more well-known wine regions?
Crops are generally higher in the warmer climates. The combination of hot weather, abundant sunshine and irrigation from river systems enables grape growers to produce high yields from healthy vines.
Higher cropping levels can sometimes lead to less flavour concentration in the finished product, however, wines from the warmer regions are often more affordable and provide excellent value for money. We have seen the wine quality improve immensely in the last decade across the irrigated regions.
What unique challenges do grape growers in Mildura face, and how do they overcome them?
Given the warmer weather in the Mildura and Murray Darling region, our vineyards rely on the river systems for irrigation. However, delivering adequate water to the vines can be challenging. In times of drought, we prioritise water conservation and continually explore methods to decrease water consumption in the vineyard.
There are several other issues over the last couple of years that the industry has had to face, including tariffs on wine, increased freight costs, logistics issues and COVID. We are always looking for ways to innovate and overcome any challenges that we may be faced with.
How has the wine industry in Mildura and the Murray-Darling wine region evolved over the years?
Twenty to thirty years ago, the region made enormous amounts of cask wines from non-traditional wine varieties. The region then began re-working vineyards and planting varieties more synonymous with wine, such as Chardonnay and Shiraz; moving from cask wine to bottle quality.
With the development of new technologies in winemaking, Duxton Vineyards has been able to enhance the quality of our wines significantly while simultaneously reducing our carbon footprint. For example, at our Duxton Winery, we have changed out old equipment for more efficient technology such as bag presses, continuous flotation units, high solids centrifuge and cross-flow filters.
Are there any unique winemaking techniques or practices that are used specifically in the area?
Our winemaking team is constantly looking at ways to improve wine quality. We conduct numerous trials on various yeast strains, fining agents, oak and other additives that may ultimately yield a superior final product. Furthermore, we are constantly seeking ways to improve our methods both in the vineyard and cellar, from grading fruit in the vineyard through to the final blending decisions.
We implement various techniques which can improve the quality and consistency of our wines, such as drain-offs during red fermentations, hyper-oxidation of juice before fermentation, malolactic fermentation and careful control of fermentation temperatures.