While official recognition was provided in 1996, family vineyards have been planted in the region since the first European settlers in the 1840s. Italian migrant families moving into the region a hundred years later in the 1940s then commenced the first commercial wine production in the region.
The first contemporary vineyard plantings were pioneered in the late 1980s - inspiring an entirely new generation of wine growers and winemakers to flock to the region.
The Orange region now has over 80 vineyards, with around 40 cellar doors, and is regarded as one of the finest cool regions in Australia.
“Orange is currently gaining significant traction with its reputation as *the* cool climate region of New South Wales, with a distinct and elevated terroir producing elegant and sophisticated wines,” says David Crawley, President of the Orange Region Vignerons Association (ORVA).
“Not only is it emerging into the national consciousness as one of Australia’s finest wine regions, but it is also on the cusp of stepping onto the world stage as an aspirational food and wine destination.”
One of the world’s leading winemakers calls the region home. Former head winemaker for Rosemount Wines, Philip Shaw, established his own vineyard and label in Orange in 1989 after searching Australia for years to find the best possible site in an emerging wine-growing region.
The charm and the strength of the Orange region lies in its close-knit community of high-quality and family-owned boutique wineries and cellar doors. The altitude also plays a key role.
From a recent batch of wines from Orange and surrounds, several aromatic whites impressed me.
There were rieslings from a new name to me; a producer named after one of the prettiest towns in Alsace: Colmar Estate. The 2015 Single Vineyard Riesling was expressive and delicious; floral, crisp and pure.
Another new name was Carillion, whose 2014 The Crystals Chardonnay, a single block wine, is elegant with cool-climate persistence.
The 2015 Panther's Patch Sauvignon Blanc has a decidedly odd label but makes up for that with its zingy, grassy freshness. It's made from fruit grown at 750m above sea level.
A more familiar name is Printhie, one of the original flagbearers, whose 2015 Sauvignon Blanc is engagingly aromatic and fruity, but with a zingy finish.
The third annual Taste Orange @ Watsons Bay festival event is on at Robertson Park in Watsons Bay on Sunday, May 22, with wineries including Angullong, Cargo Road, Gilbert by Simon Gilbert, Logan, Patina, Philip Shaw Wines, Patina and Ross Hill featured. Tickets cost $40.
Key Orange dates:
- Orange Wine Festival is coming up Friday 14 to Sunday 30 October, 2016 and;
- Orange F.O.O.D Week will run from Friday 31 March to Sunday 9 April, 2017