Last spring, we found ourselves in Australia for the Wine Media Conference held in the Hunter Valley. Well really, last fall for us in October, but it was spring in Australia and the Southern Hemisphere.
After the conference, we attended one of the sponsored post-conference tours to the Orange wine region. You might have seen our overview of this trip “2 days in Orange? Too little time for this beautiful Australian wine region!”
After arriving in the Orange region, our first stop was at Angullong Cellars in the village of Millthorpe. Our group was set up in the garden behind the historic bluestone stable that is now their tasting room and we were greeted with sparkling wine.
History of Angullong
Angullong was established in 1950. This family-owned wine company has vineyards on the southern lower slopes of Mount Canobolas. This ancient volcano is the highest point in the region. If you head west, everything gets lower and flatter out to West Australia. Ben told us the next highest peak to the west is in South Africa! The Angullong property has steep undulating hills that quickly descend to meet the Belubula River.
Ben & his brother James are the third generation of their family managing this property that at one point grew wheat and raised cattle and sheep. They still raise cattle in addition to growing wine grapes on the 5000-acre property.
Ben greeted us in the garden, welcomed us to Millthorpe, and filled us in on the Orange region.
The Orange Wine Region
The wine region is named for the city of Orange, and vineyards must be at a minimum of 600 meters (1968 feet) above sea level. They sit just west of the Blue Mountains. This area is considered “Central West New South Wales” or the “Central Ranges”.
Originally known for its orchards of apples and pears the region has now added wine grapes. Over the last 30 years or so around 30 vineyards have been planted in the area, of all sizes.
The region is known for having all 4 seasons. But at the time we were there, the region was in a drought. This is the drought that led to the horrible fires in January. They are in better shape than areas east of them, as we could attest to driving in from the Hunter Valley, where dams are empty, and lakes are dried up.
Currently the Orange region was green with blossoms on the trees and the bright green of trees just leafing out. Spring was in the air.
This is considered a cool climate region to the altitude. Most of Australia’s other cool climate regions are in maritime climates to the south.
They get a bit of snow. In fact, there had been snow on Mount Canobolas the previous weekend. It was brief, and high on the Mountain. Spring at this point had sprung with the vineyards in bud burst. During the summers temperatures can get to the high 30’s typically (100-102 degrees Fahrenheit).
With a long winter and late budburst, their growing season pushes into late summer and fall. The fruit ripens in late summer and then has a long slow ripening into fall that gives them better color in the reds and allows the grapes to retain their natural acidity as well as intensity of flavor.
The Angullong Vineyard
The Angullong vineyard straddles the Orange Region and the Central Ranges with vineyards from 550 meters to 650 meters (1800 to 2100 feet). The vineyard is about 30 km from Millthorpe in Panuara and is one of the larger vineyards in the area with 200 hectares (almost 500 acres) of vines.
The property is diverse with a good supply of water due to being on the Belubula River. They have a high-security water license that allows them to pump out of the river, which is a very fast-moving river.
While they have only had grapes here for 20 to 30 years, crops have been grown here much longer. Farmers say cereal crops have come forward almost a month (a day per year) over the past 30 years.
“As farmers in Australia, we are on the receiving end of the global damage.”
Ben Crossing, October 2019
Angullong Cellar Door in Millthorpe
They moved their tasting room into this old bluestone stable about 10 years ago.
Welcome to Country
At this point we stopped as Michael Newman gave us a First Nation welcome in the Wiradjuri tongue which he then translated to English.
He began by teaching us the greeting “Yamandhu marang” which translates roughly to “are you well?” He gave us a traditional Welcome to Country greeting. This begins with extending respect to the Wiradjuri elders as well as beyond to elders of other nations that call this area home.
He then spoke his welcome in the Wiradjuri tongue, then at the end translated for us.
“Ladies and gentlemen, young men, young women, and distinguished guests, First I want to pay my respects to Wiradjuri elders both past and present. By acknowledging that I pay my respects to other elders of other nations here today, I want you to remember, you are on Wiradjuri land today.
Our people lived and cared for this land for a long time. Our people have lived and danced for a long time on this land.
Our land the Wiradjuri land is known as the land of the three rivers, the Lachlan, the Murrumbigee, and the Macquarie. You must respect and honor, all people, and all part of country.
Give honor, be respectful, polite, and patient with all, then the people will respect you. Hold fast to each other, empower the people, respect everything living, and growing. You look after the land and rivers and those land and rivers; they’ll look after you.
Ladies and Gentlemen, it’s wonderful to see that our footprints are side by side in the soil on Wiradjuri land, that indicates that our people are walking and talking together, so let’s work together to make everything good for all people.
So ladies and gentlemen my name is Michael Newman, I’m proud to be Wiradjuri, I’m proud to be on Wiradjuri land, I thank you very much and Welcome!”
Michael Newman, Proud Wiradjuri Man
We then moved into our welcome through dance. The indigenous dance troupe performed several dances.
Welcome Aboriginal Dance
The first dance symbolized the indigenous peoples first meeting with the settlers. Wary of these new people they would begin spears drawn, checking the new people’s energy, and seeing what kind of respect they had for the people and the land. The greeting went well, and the spear were stuck safely into the ground.
Dances to tell the story of a people
These dances told us about the history of the Aboriginal people, and welcomed and cleansed us. A fire was lit, in the traditional way and gum leaves were put on it to create the smoke which was used in a cleansing dance. The dancers used branches to wave the smoke out to cleanse the area and the people and sang out to the ancestors to join & bless us.
This is a reminder of how we are connected. The earth is the Mother, and the trees are part of the earth, so when the elders pass, they return to the earth and so they are part of the trees and these branches. This theme of being connected with the land continued. The next dance began on the ground to connect their souls to Mother. The dancers jumped up to draw in our energy and connect that to the earth, this earth that they then paint their bodies with. The earth and ochre, the original paint has been used by people around the world for thousands of years.
We move to a bit of creation story, To a dance symbolizing 4 animals that connect to their creation story. They begin with Goanna the ancient one (monitor lizard) who has been here since time began. They then move to the kangaroo, and the emu who both move forward, which is important, as these are two very different animals, but like all of us, they move forward together. Lastly the echidna who when confronted, digs in and stands his ground.
Mother Earth Dance
The next dance was introduced by reminding us of the drought. There are places in New South Wales that have been without water for over a year now. Rivers are empty, and while the country is always dry, none of the elders have ever seen the rivers run dry before. The rivers here are a life source and not just for the aboriginal people. Mother is suffering, her energy pulled out but not replenished.
This dance sends vibrations into her, to let her know that we are here, and mean her no harm. They then request a bit more energy of those of us there, pulling that back and returning it to Mother. Typically this dance is done on dirt (they were on grass here). The idea is that the dance kicks up dirt from Mother, uniting her with Father in the sky. This dance is their Mother Earth dance.
Personal stories through ancient dance
The last dance The Eagle gives respect to the dance troupe leader’s totem. It creates a spirit connection with his Grandfather, whose shares the eagle as his totem. He says that often when he dances it, his grandfather will call him and say he felt it.
These connections, to history and heritage are so important. These stories remind us that however different we are, we all move forward together.
Indigenous Cultural Adventures – and Bush Tucka
Gerald Power of Indigenous Cultural Adventures speaks next, they have set up a spread of bush tucka for us to enjoy.
Gerald introduces himself, beginning with his Mob. He is from far North Queensland the Djiru Mob with is from around the Whitsunday area and the Kanaka who were South Sea Islanders brought to Australia in the 1800s. He is part of the Vanuatu people as well as Aboriginal.
He explained that we were now going to tuck into some of the animals the dancers had portrayed. These are foods that the people on this land have consumed for over 60,000 years. They share their journey because the aboriginal history is not taught in the Australian system, so it must be shared by people like Michael Newman, the dancers like Luke and his family and Gerald with the food.
We tasted bites of Emu with Warrigal Pesto on Wombok, Emu Kofta w/smoke bush tucka dressing & Johnny Cakes, Crocodile with Lemon Myrtle Sweet Chili Sauce, and Kangaroo skewers with bush tomato relish and paired them with the wines.
Ben Crossing and the wines of Angullong
Vineyards in Orange are relatively young. 30 years ago when the vineyards were being planted, there were a lot of alternative varieties available, so the region is planted with more than Chardonnay, Cab, Shiraz and Merlot. Here you will find Vedelho, Pinot Grigio, Savignon Blanc, Tempranillo and Sagrantino among others.
When they started their vineyard, they contracted with some big wineries like Southcorp which is now Treasury. They sold grapes to them for the export market, but always had their own small vineyard with some alternate varieties.
2019 Angullong Sav Blanc
This is their biggest selling wine, and it leans a little riper in style to find more of those passion fruit notes. This is fresh and zesty $22 AUD
2019 Angullong Pinot Grigio
Pinot Grigio, or Pinot Gris, is being made into multiple styles in the Orange region. At Angullong they lean a bit more to the Italian style which is why they call it Pinot Grigio. They do several picks to get that acidity, then a few later to bring in the flavor. This wine has one a Trophy as well as several gold medals. . $22 AUD
2018 Angullong Chardonnay
Grown at the Angullong vineyard at about 600 meters, this Chardonnay is a modern wine with layers of citrus and stone fruit and balanced oak. $22 AUD
2018 Fossil Hill Chardonnay
From the higher altitude Balmoral vineyard which sits at 850-950 meters, this Chardonnay has some barrel fermentation with 20% new French oak. You get more citrus with the higher altitude compared to stone fruits in lower altitude vineyards. $26. AUD
2019 Fossil Hill Vermentino
Vermentino is one of the alternative varieties that you don’t see grown often in this area. Planted on a rocky ridge with lots of sun, its thick skin holds up to the exposure and sunburn, without getting too phenolic. It requires some major canopy management to prevent too much sun in these high altitudes where the UV is higher. They have been using kaolin the clay-based product which coats the grapes to protect from sunburn and coats the leaves, so they reflect the heat and keep the temperature of the vine lower. While this vermentino gets pretty ripe it still holds its acid and has notes of nectarine. $26 AUD
As we got into tasting the Sangiovese, Ben’s wife Heidi came around with cheese biscuits made by Ben’s mom.
2018 Fossil Hill Sangiovese
They originally planted sangiovese back in 1998 and keep planting a little bit more, because it is so successful. They moved to Brunello clones which have more fruit intensity and use original Sangiovese now mostly for their Rosé. This wine is still a harder sell. Aussie palates are tuned to Shiraz, and that is only beginning to change in the past 15 years or so as they see an increase in imported wines. $28 AUD
2017 Fossil Hill Barbera
This is just the 2nd vintage of Barbera made from vines they planted in 2010. Barbera is late ripening, but it has thick tannic skins. They are right on the margins for growing it here. Any cooler and it would not grow. This wine holds its acidity and is beginning to soften in the bottle. Ben suggests this wine would be great with a great big steak or perhaps some kangaroo. $28 AUD
2015 Crossing Reserve Shiraz
This Family Reserve is the highest of the 3 tiers of Shiraz they produce. This comes from barrel selections from low yielding vines that are dry grown. It is aged in first and second year oak, so it needs a little time. $48 AUD
Exports and the Australian Market
They export a bit to Germany, and they used to export to the UK, but since the Australian dollar and American dollar hit parity it’s hard to get things to the US. China is a big market for them.
There are pros and cons to the import market. While it exposes Australians to a wider variety of wines beyond, Cab, Merlot, Shiraz and Chard, it is still competition. It breaks Ben’s heart when he is in Sydney and see’s wine lists filled with imported wines.
Plan your visit to Angullong
After a wonderful afternoon, learning so much about the Wiradjuri culture and the wines of Angullong. We set off for our next adventure.
If you want to visit them, you can find them in Millthorpe, jusst 15 minutes from Orange. They are in the Old Bluestone Stables at the corner of Park and Victoria Streets. Be sure to call ahead for a booking. During these times of COVID appointments are necessary to keep their beautiful but small tasting room safe for everyone.
Phone: +02 6366 3444
You can also visit the Links below for more details on Angullong, the Orange Region and New South Wales.
Sources & Resources
For more on our Aussie Wine Adventure, check out these articles!