Canberra, Australian Capital Territory
hosted by Vince Heffernan

Introduction

Vince Heffernan is a wine lover living and working in Canberra. He has built a cellar under his new home in Nicholls where roughly 1,000 bottles are gracefully (hopefully) ageing. He drinks most of his wine at dinners with friends and at monthly tastings he attends. These are a Friday night group who run options evening once a month and a more structured tasting at a licensed club.

The Canberra Wine and Food Club is a private club with no paid staff (all done voluntarily) with a committment to excellent food and wine (but not in that order). Vince runs the tastings at the club using the clubs cellar to provide interesting tastings for 10 to 30 people every month.

Beyond that he attends trade tastings, as required, in Canberra and Sydney. The local wineries of Canberra offer a broad range of wines styles/types and quality.

While not professing to be a Canberra Wine expert Vince is willing to give you his (biased) opinion on what you are likely to encounter. It is a very worthwhile trip to the Canberra Wineries; particularly from Sydney as it is an easy drive with nothing but Freeway between Sydney and the Wineries!

Many make a weekend of it and visit the National Art Gallery take in a meal at one of Canberras many excellent restaurants and stay in great value (by Sydney/Melbourne standards) accommodation of all standards. A great escape!

He is 32 years old (although looks 40 on bad days!) is married and has two young children. He works for a small advertising company called Two Dogs Frolicking that services three property related companies including Independent Group Real Estate Agents.

He loves football, owns a racehorse (at the end of her career), and is involved in running a grazing property north of Canberra.

He can be contacted on 06 209 1544 during working hours or 06 242 9979 after hours or by email at vince@indgroup.com.au

Local Notes

The Canberra Wine region has grown and matured since its relatively recent birth in the 1970's. At that stage a couple of CSIRO scientists each decided to plant vines and grow grapes, neither aware that the other was also trying to make wine in this region. Dr Edgar Riek chose the foreshores of Lake George on the Federal Hwy between Goulburn and Canberra, Dr John Kirk was planting at Murumbateman on the Barton Hwy between Canberra and Yass. Both are still involved in their respective wineries ["Lake George Winery" and "Clonakilla"] but are in the twilight of their careers.

Dr Kirk looks likely to hand over to his winemaker son Tim who has recently built a home on the vineyard site. Edgar is still to resolve what he wishes to do (not be making wine next year if he gets his way I'd guess!). Both make some excellent wines. Edgars chardonnay ad pinot noir vary somewhat but at their best are excellent. His less frequently made Botrytis Semillon is one of the best in the country (the last vintage was the 1991). Clonakilla are famous for their shiraz which incorporates a small percentage of viognier in the Rhone tradition. This unique wine is well received and has gained acclaim from far and wide. Their riesling and bordeaux blend "Cabernet" are also well made wines worth seeking out.

Since the early days many wineries have been born. While early experimentation with grape varieties, inexperienced winemakers and young vines lead to many inconsistent wines, the region has consolidated to now produce consistent fault free wines of character and appeal. Such is the confidence in this area, that many large players in the Australian wine industry have moved to stake a claim in this region whose importance is growing. Not least of these is the huge Hardy organisation who have invested and reinvested in plant and production facilities in the area to process grapes purchased under contract. Meanwhile there are a number of wineries worthy of mention and that are well worth a special trip to visit.

"Brindabella Hills" is run by Dr Rodger Harris (another research scientist!). A wide variety of wines - I love their shiraz, while others argue for their Pinot Noir and Riesling and Chardonnay. The winery is located on the Northern edge of Canberra.

"Lark Hill" is run by Dr David Carpenter and his wife Sue. Their winery is situated on the escarpment that overlooks Bungendore to canberra's east. Their wines are gaining wide acclaim winning trophies and gold medals at a variety of shows around the country. The cab merlot shows that this region can make excellent red wines. The recent vintages are all outstanding. The Canberra Fizz is a bubbly that has also gained wide acclaim. Riesling and chardonnay a both good and consistently well made. Pinot Noir is the real prince with some superb wines, amongst the best in the country, being recently produced. At 860m it is one of the regions (and the countries) highest wineries.

"Helm's" is best known for its owners large handle bar moustache. Not true - while Ken was voted to the position of Mayor of Yass and is an outspoken advocate for small producers, his wines are also well known and loved. Recent help from contract winemaker Gerry Sissingh has seen the quality soar. Seek out their Riesling.

"Kyeema" while low in profile, Kyeema has been one of the "quiet achievers" of the industry and looks certain to increase it's profile based on some outstanding recent wines. The winemaker is Andrew McEwin (maybe better known for his work with Lester Jesberg and others at Winewise (an independent [no advertisements or endorsements] national wine magazine based in Canberra)), the two reds; a shiraz and cab merlot are worth finding. My knowledge of the other wines is a little skinny (?sorry)

"Jeir Creek" is run by Rob Howell. Rob has helped the winery grow in both production and its ability to cater to visitors. He is one of the few winemakers who encourage people to visit at vintage time. He states that that is when all the action is happening and therefore that is the best time to visit. Makes sense. His wines vary but with his vines getting older and Rob now full time, expect to see some fine wines under this label (you must visit the winery and you must try their botrytis semillon/sav blanc).