Fertile soils, undulating green hills and crimson sunsets roll out the welcome mat in Queensland’s South Burnett region. It’s ready for you to explore. Roughly a two-hour drive west from the Sunshine Coast to Murgon and Kingaroy, embrace the rewarding journey to experience firsthand the pride and passion the locals have for their district.
Although it’s one of the smallest wine regions in Australia, a positive from the COVID lockdowns was that Queenslanders started to appreciate what was in their own backyard. The South Burnett was one such beneficiary with tourist numbers going up. Even an increased demand for real estate boomed as property was snapped up for holiday homes.
A region known for its beef, pork, grains, vegetables and citrus, the Burnett wine industry has gained some fabulous momentum over the past 25 years.
Perched 450-600 metres above sea level on the Great Dividing Range, Kingaroy is the most recognisable town in the region. Given the warm climate, Italian varieties have found a happy home – think vermentino, barbera, sangiovese, nebbiolo and most recently there has been great success with the Georgian variety saperavi. The Portuguese variety verdelho has been in region from its inception – its attractive tropical characters appealing to the Queensland lifestyle.
What was clear during my travels was the diversity across each winery visited. Every cellar door had its own niche, which made the experience even more memorable.
A trip to Kingsley Grove was ideal after some time on the road. Wood-fired pizzas are the speciality, and along with a generous pear and walnut salad, my belly was primed for the rest of the day. The Super Tuscan red blend pairs wonderfully with the food given its rich complexity, meaty vibe and fine spicy length. All wines are made on site with guests exhausting the supply of some stock – a clear sign that things are going well.
In a positive spin-off, Kingsley Grove works in partnership with Lick Ice Cream and together they have created four delicious ice-cold treats. I savoured every spoonful of the shiraz and raisin ice cream – delicious!
Not in a rush? Bring the caravan and stay a little longer on site for free.
Further up the road in Wooroolin, a call into the Farm 2 Fork Collective is a must. On the site of the town’s old bakery, this non-for-profit organisation is only open on Fridays and Saturdays. The brainchild of Roberta Schablon, her sheer desire to have a shop front for so many of the district’s small producers has exceeded expectations. A diverse range of jams, preserves, fresh fruit and vegetables, meat, wine, nuts, sweets and more bring a thriving community together in one place.
Wineries such as Lightning Tree, Taabinga Homestead and Hillsdale Estate are so small that they do not have a cellar door. Outlets such as these are important to get their brand out to the people. For more information, head to f2fcollective.org.au and check out the directory.
Back on the road and it’s time to head to Moffatdale – the area in which most wineries are located. A trip to Dusty Hill Vineyard ticks all the boxes for lovers of food and wine. With their own Irish pub, various accommodation options, plus large spaces for functions and weddings, you can arrive for the weekend and not need to leave.
The soon to open craft brewery and distillery soaks up breathtaking views of Lake Barambah. What’s not to like? To taste the wines you need to visit – they are not available in retail land and can only be purchased on site. The Grá Fíon shiraz viognier and the Grá Fíon Ssaperavi are standouts with a clever verdelho and viognier, plus a youthful fiano, showing promise. Dusty Hill is a place on the move.
Skip across the road to Clovely Estate – Queensland’s biggest with 450 acres under vine, plus an enormous number of olive trees in the ground as well. Established in 1996, 11 grape varieties are currently grown. The cellar door experience is impressive with a fabulous selection of platters to choose from – the kids can have their own with fairy bread and marshmallows!
Sink your teeth into a barrel-fermented chardonnay, a delicate barbera or even a muscular nebbiolo rosé. Sit back and enjoy the vista as the sun sets over the vineyard, and cap off your visit with a gin tasting. With four gins in the range, the four-step tasting experience is fascinating. Taste each gin neat, then add ice to taste again. Add tonic and then taste before finally adding the recommended garnish to complete the experience.
Each step provides a new insight and level of intrigue to heighten your senses. The gins produced include a dry London style, a savoury gin, a Thai-inspired gin and a Japanese-inspired gin. If that’s not enough, a triple-distilled vodka awaits your attention.
One more? Swing around the corner to Barambah Cellars, the home of Nuova Scuola. Meaning ‘new school’ in Italian, husband and wife team Stefano Radici and Sarah Boyce are at the helm of this establishment, which opened in 2018 with the focus on Mediterranean varieties.
Both having significant experience working with vintages across the world, they have settled to tend this humble block. Most recently planting 700 sangiovese vines, their attention to detail and clever blending showcases their impressive skills and vision for their brand.
A wonderful venue to sit on the balcony overlooking the valley, you can be forgiven for losing track of time while indulging in a platter or cheeseboard.
A trip to the region would not be complete if you didn’t swing by the Goomeri Bakery. Bursting with pastries and decadent sweets along with pies and breads, the secret is the imported flour from France. I may or may not have taken a few treats for the road…
If you don’t have a designated driver, or aren’t up for driving, and would prefer to take the passenger seat, be sure to check out The Vino Valet. The effervescent Kim O’Brien seized on the opportunity to commence the district’s only wine tour company, and what a package she has put together.
With pick-ups from the Sunshine Coast and Toowoomba, Kim will chauffeur you around in her 11-seat van for a day that includes brunch, lunch and wine tasting. Coupled with exclusive cellar door experiences and Kim’s knowledge of the region, it’s a great option.
In the meantime, you can get your South Burnett fix here on the Sunshine Coast – Sunshine Brewery at Kuluin has a handful of Burnett varieties available.
So, why not take time to explore your own backyard – you might be pleasantly surprised.
Steve Leszczynski is a wine writer, wine dinner host and MC. Apart from writing for his website QwineReviews.com, Steve contributes to Halliday Wine Companion Magazine, Vinomofo, Wine Business Magazine and Grapegrower Winemaker Magazine. Steve is a passionate supporter of the Queensland wine industry.