If they thought the Hilltops region was all about the cherry, people had better start having a hard look in the bottle shops at the wines the region is producing, because they’re certainly making a splash on the national – no wait – international map.
Often referred to as a hidden gem, a recent trifecta of wine show wins is proving those well-drained, red granite, loam slopes are producing a range of ruby reds whose relatives can be found on long, lazy, sunny sojourns in Italy.
Except you don’t have to travel that far!
Brian Mullany is the newly-anointed president of Hilltops Wine and he says that increasingly winemakers are realising just how well suited the cool, elevated Hilltops terroir is for red grapes, especially Cabernet and Shiraz.
But, he says, more and more, judges are raising their glasses to the Italian reds coming out of the region.
Traditionally known for its stone fruit orchards, the undulating countryside bordered by the towns of Boorowa, Harden-Murrumburrah and Young plays host to over 600 hectares of vines.
Original vineyards date back to the mid-1970s when Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz were most widely planted but these days Hilltops vignerons have leaned toward establishing Italian varieties in their vineyards.
Prosecco, Pinot Grigio, Sangiovese and Nebbiolo and alternative varieties including Fiano, Corvina and Rondinella are beginning to win their way into the hearts and wine glasses of judges.
Just last month, NSW Wine announced the 2022 Wine Award Winners … among them several Hilltops Wine members.
In the land found on creeks peppered with gold, there was more of that in medal form for the locally-owned Young-based Grove Estate with their Grove Estate Rose 2022 and Grove Estate Nebbiolo Sommita 2019.
They were in good company, sharing the winning podium with several Hilltops Associates – who selectively source grapes from the region – the Southern Tablelands’ Corang Estate with their Cabernet Sauvignon 2021 and Hunter Valley-based Hungerford Hill Wines with their 2021 Tempranillo Graciano.
But if gold wasn’t enough, a tip of the NSW Wine Award hat to the Hilltops came through silver medals again for Hungerford Hill and Collector 2022 Fianos, Cassegrain and Mada 2022 rosés, Grove Estate The Italian 2021, Linear Shiraz 2021 and Grove Partner’s Cabernet Sauvignon 2021.
Hilltops Associates kept the Hilltops flag flying high with dual trophy wins at the 2022 Australian Highlands Wine Show, also in October.
The Best Cabernet Trophy was won by the already applauded Corang Estate Hilltops Cabernet Sauvignon 2022, while the Best Shiraz Trophy went to Hungerford Hill Hilltops Shiraz 2021.
But every year the vignerons of the NSW Hilltops celebrate the excellence of the wines of their region at the Hilltops Wine Show and the Wine of the Year is recognised by the award of the Peter Robertson Trophy.
Last week there was loud clapping for Hungerford Hill Hilltops Tempranillo 2022 which emerged the winner of the Peter Robertson Perpetual Trophy for Hilltops Wine of the Year 2022 and winner of the Best Hilltops Region Wine Trophy at the Canberra and Region Wine Show 2022 (CRWS).
More applause too for another Hilltops Associate wine, Allandale Pinot Gris 2022, that won the Pinot Gris Trophy.
Gold medals were awarded to Ballinaclash Ned Touriga Nacional 2022 and Moppity Lock & Key Shiraz 2021.
Moppity Vineyards was acknowledged as the CRWS Most Successful Exhibitor.
Between them the Hilltops contingent – comprising Hilltops vignerons and Hilltops Associates – have garnered over 20 gold and silver medals which, says Brian Mullany, is a solid endorsement of the region’s capacity to produce versatile top-quality wines.