The Bendigo wine region is intricate and fascinating. The town was built on wine and gold, but the city itself is built around prestige. The tall, British 18th century styled buildings tower over the wide roads and groomed gardens. Walking down main street kind of feels like you’re attending a victorian era garden party. But it isn’t all high tea and scones; the nightlife is known for its bluesy vibes, great bars, and quality theatre scene.
Just outside of town begins the winding roads entwined between rolling hills of vineyards. To say that the Bendigo wine region is beautiful is like saying Brad Pitt is good looking. The region is wine boner material.
If you’re thinking about planning a trip to Bendigo, but you’re on the fence, allow me to push you off. The best way to pick ‘where to wine’ is to understand the wine region, read up on the grape varietals, and know the top 5 wineries in the area!
Bendigo’s Land & Climate
The Bendigo wine region falls under the Central Victorian wine zone. It’s a 2-hour drive from Melbourne if you’re doing the speed limit; if you’re the kind of person that likes to jeopardise lives, then you could probably make it in an hour, but please don’t.
The area has a Mediterranean climate with warm days, cold temperatures at night, dry summers and wet winters. The region also has a lot of mesoclimates, generated by the differing altitudes. Some areas of the region reach up to 700 meters above sea level, allowing the wineries at that altitude a cooler-climate.
The soil variants consist of brown sandy loams and clay. The clay is essential for storing water in the dryer months. The darker clays are often reserved for the red grape varieties, and the sandier, lighter soils are reserved for the whites.
Grape Varietals in The Bendigo Region
Bendigo’s warmer climate and darker soils make a perfect growing environment for Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon. Shiraz takes up 41 % of the whole grape production coming out of the region, and Cab Sav at 18%.
The colour is a dark red, verging on purple, and the legs run thick down the side of your glass. A lot of shiraz coming out of the region make great cellar wines lasting many years. Consistent similarities of cherry and earthy spice are portrayed through the region’s Shiraz wines.
The Cabernet Sauvignon also has a darker colour on average. A contributing factor to the wine colour is the dark clay at the foundations of a lot of vineyards in the region. The region’s grapes have natural flavours of mint, eucalypt, smokey notes and black current.
Bendigo wine region is least known for its white grape varieties because of its warm, dry climate. Chardonnay is the most commonly cultivated white wine because it can be grown in nearly any environment and soil variety.
Bendigo’s Wine History
So apparent to the Victorian wine history’s tune, the region was founded on the premise of gold. A large number of European, pioneering settlers made their way to Bendigo in hopes of securing a few golden nuggets to send back to their nonnas and nannas back home.
In time, like all good things, the end of the gold rush was in sight. Locals turned to their vineyards that were once hobbies of the old country, as means of income selling their wine at the local markets and beyond.
The region’s first recorded vineyards belonged to Jean-Baptiste Loridan, Jacques Bladier and a German named Delscher; dating back to 1855.
In 1890 the land fell victim to the Phylloxera Aphid. The disease travelled to Victoria by boat from England. The Aphid made its way through almost every wine region in Victoria; smothering the burning success of the abundant region for nearly 70 years.
You can understand that in a region with quite a lot of wineries there are some better than others. We’re not going to make a list of the worst ones or anything, but we want to make sure you go to the best experience. So here’s our selection of the top vineyards in the region.
1. Balgownie Estate
Balgownie Estate isn’t just a winery; it’s more of an adult wine version of Dream Land. You could spend two weeks here and not get bored if you had the cash; this place is not for the faint walleted.
Balgownie is located seven kilometres west of Bendigo in the nook of Maiden Gully, overlooking the gorgeous Myer’s Creek. The grape varieties grown at the estate are Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Pinot noir, Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Viognier and Sangiovese.
Head winemaker Tony Winspear continues the Balgownie motivations, producing nothing but premium wines influenced by the renowned wines of Bordeaux.
Luxury Teepees lay nestled amongst the vineyards for guests staying overnight. There is even a houseboat cruise for the venturous spirits. The menu is seasonal, fresh and inspired by young, hard-working chefs. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are offered, which is quite uncommon for wineries but so useful when you want eggs with your Mimosa.
4.3 ⭐️ Google Review
4 ⭐️ Trip Advisor
2. Lynnevale Estate
Lynnevale Estate is alluring to say the least. The Estate sits proudly on one of the many rolling hills in Mandurang, overlooking its vineyards and lake. The onsite bed and breakfast has been rated highly by guests, and the staff are personal and uphold the reputation for being incredibly hospitable.
Lynnevale focuses predominantly on white wines which is a breath of fresh air in the heart of red wine country. The first vines on the premises were planted in 1999. The grapes are young, but the wines show modern complexities.
The restaurant peers fondly over the vineyard and has an Asian inspired decor and menu. Lynnevale Estate is a retreat to remember.
5.0 ⭐️ Google Review
4.5 ⭐️ Trip Advisor
3. Sandhurst Ridge Winery
Sandhurst truly is an oasis, a diamond in the rough, that’s not to say its surroundings are ‘the rough’, but this example of perfection is a gem.
Generations of Italian viticulture influence the winemaking at Sandhurst; The Greblo family migrated to Victoria, leaving Italy behind after World War 2. They launched Sandhurst Ridge Winery in 1989 and have been producing vino at the highest quality ever since.
The estate resembles that of a vineyard in Italy, with high brick cottages peeping over luscious green vines. The accommodation onsite takes shade from the surrounding evergreens, and the verandas spill out into the vineyard.
Sandhurst Ridge focuses on red wines with the exception of their Sauvignon Blanc which has an exciting flavour complexion with hints of tropical fruit, a glossy texture and notes of spice.
The winery has received five-stars from the James Halliday Wine Companion and it’s certainly an experience to tick of your to-do list.
5.0 ⭐️ Google Review
4.5 ⭐️ Trip Advisor
4. Harcourts Valley Vineyards
This institute is an example of hard work, creativity and diversity. They brew beer, ginger beer, mead as well as wine; they have even created a new alcoholic sparkling that’s made of 100 % Australian mangos.
Harcourts Valley Vineyard is the oldest vineyard in the shire, and it’s also the most decorated vineyard for its products with over 500 awards. It’s very easy to get wined out when the pallet starts to fade, and the grapes just taste like grapes, but there are so many different drinks to choose from when you visit it’s almost overwhelming.
The vineyard is a thirty-minute drive south of Bendigo, but the experience is well worth the trip.
4.7 ⭐️ Google Review
4.5 ⭐️ Trip Advisor
5. Sutton Grange Winery
Sutton Grange Winery was once known as a thoroughbred racing facility called Fairbanks which now titles their second wine label. The now, transformed establishment produces premium wines that are approachable fresh and fruit-driven. They have taken a ‘left of centre’ approach when it comes to grape varietal working with wines like Sangiovese, Syrah, Fiano and a good range of Rosés.
Sutton is one of the best wineries in Bendigo when it comes to offering tasting tours. There is an abundance of food packages to choose from that includes fresh tasting platters, cheeseboards and grazing plates all matched with wines crafted by chief winemaker Melanie Chester.
The Winery is only a twenty-five-minute drive from Bendigo by car, but the tricky thing is, you may need a wheelbarrow to get in your front door after a day of delicious food and hearty wine.
4.6 ⭐️ Google Review
4.5 ⭐️ Trip Advisor
The Top Things To Do in Bendigo
Look, wine isn’t the be-all and end-all in Bendigo, the town was built on a rich history that shines through to this very day portrayed by the people, the arts, the food and the yes the wine. But there are a few exact attraction you should partake in that we highly recommend.
Now you might be from Melbourne City and hop on trams every day of your life but have you ever watched a blues concert on one? The Bendigo Blues and Roots festival was cultivated by some local emerging artists that wanted the town (and beyond) to hear the talent that Bendigo was producing. The festival has become a massive part of the culture in Bendigo and has grown from being month-long to pretty much year-round. The Blues Tram is just one of the many gigs you can attend with every third laneway bellowing blues from the heart.
The Babylon Lounge and Garden Bar
It’s super important to know where to go after dark in a new town. It’s easy to stumble upon a bar you don’t know anything about, conned into sitting down, handed a sickly, sugary, margarita, a flat beer with no head, and you end up spending the whole time upset about your sticky elbows stuck to the table you’re sitting at. None of the above will happen at The Babylon Lounge. The place is decorated with hanging garden plants, wall climbers, innovative graffiti, and quirky stuff to look at in every direction. They have an epic selection of craft beers, and the fried chicken is all time. Make sure you check it out.
The Serpentine Canoe Trail
Alongside a heap of cool things to do in town, there are some riveting outdoor activities on the outskirts of the city. The Canoe Trail has levels of difficulty from beginner to advanced, with cheap hire and even lessons on offer. Paddling down a gentle river with great company, the breeze behind you and the sun above makes for a full day of fun.
Time to grab a friend and Visit Bendigo
Well, hopefully, you’ve learnt a little bit about the history, culture, wine and the hard-working people that make Bendigo tick; if you haven’t, then you’ve got problems, I give up. If you have, then we strongly suggest you take the plunge and start planning your wine trip to Bendigo.