We're pretty excited to be featured in the latest Winestate Magazine! Read what Megan Blandford wrote in the Wine of the Year Awards Annual Edition 2021 of Winestate Magazine -
"It's a classic road trip, but it’s hard to imagine when driving the Great Alpine Road that the scenery used to look remarkably different in the shadows of the Victorian Alps. Once a picture of hard work on post-war tobacco fields, it’s now a bustling wine centre that’s both stunning and a testament to the innovation of those who have worked the land for decades.
The stories behind the local wineries are at the heart of discovering more about the evolution of this region.
Back in 1996, the Alpine Valleys were at the end of their tobacco growing years, and many of the region’s entrepreneurial families had replanted their farms with grapes. They knew they were onto something, and could clearly see their future as a thriving wine region. But, according to a group of seven grape growers and winemakers, there was one thing missing: the facilities to process the grapes locally.
This group of families put their heads together and created a processing facility, with a long-term vision of establishing their own label from the site. Within a couple of years they had done just that, releasing the firsts of the Tobacco Road range, a throwback to the former name of the road on which the winery sits (now the Great Alpine Road).
A future—which would soon be named Gapsted Wines—had begun. Fast-forward 25 years and Matt Fawcett, Gapsted Wines’ CEO and Chief Winemaker, reflects on the history of the winery. “We’re perceived as a larger wine company, but we are a family business,” he says of the founding families, most of whom are still involved with the winery, “and those family values always drive how we go forward.”
Those families also continue to lead the cultural influence in the extensive number of Italian varieties made at Gapsted, and for which the region as a whole has become known. But don’t expect to only find Italian wines on offer. “This region has been a pioneer in driving a great number of different varietals, and plenty of experimentation from people bringing grapes in from their heritage,” says Matt. “There are the Italian wines, but also a lot of different influences: we’ve got saperavi from Georgia, we’ve got pinot blanc which is French, we’ve got touriga which is Portuguese, and the list goes on.”
It certainly does. Gapsted Wines now make around 80 different wines over five labels: Tobacco Road, High Country, Ballerina Canopy, Hidden Story, and Limited Release. What ties them all together is the location of the fruit; they consider themselves specialists in “cool climate Victoria,” Matt says.
“Everything from our range is grown in Victoria, with most of our fruit from here in the north-east, including the Alpine Valleys, King Valley, Rutherglen and Beechworth.”
In particular, Gapsted Wines is known for their whites, sparkling, and medium-bodied reds. Matt explains, “Our pinot grigio is really savoury and fresh, with crisp apple tones, and our prosecco comes out of the King Valley and is doing really well. In our reds, the sangiovese is great, and so is the High Country Tempranillo which is such a wonderful, deep coloured wine with a lovely intensity and silkiness about it.”
They’re also a winery that thrives on innovation, as evidenced by their Limited Release range. “We have eight to a dozen wines in that range at any one time, and it varies each vintage, which is a great challenge for the winemakers,” says Matt. “It means we can play with different varieties before moving them into the core range. At the moment we have pinot blanc, saperavi, sparkling saperavi, sparkling pinot grigio rosé, fiano, and touriga.”
It’s the latter which has caught the eye—and the tastebuds—of Winestate. Gapsted’s Limited Release Alpine Valleys Vintage Touriga 2018 is featured in our Fortified Wine of the Year category. Matt says this wine is such a hit because of its difference from other tourigas, while still maintaining its authenticity for the varietal. “It’s concentrated, it’s blackberries and cherries, and lots of velvety, silky tannins. It’s so vibrant, so fresh and so loud that it pops out of the glass,” he says. “It’s only two years old, but we’ve designed it to be as good as you get out of those vintage Portuguese ports. It’s certainly unusual to see a cool climate fortified wine from this region, but it proves that we can do really interesting things out of cool climates.”
Gapsted Wines has had an interesting journey, from its early grape processing days in the 1990s, to the building of the cellar door in 2001, and the transition since then to become focused on their own labels.
It’s clear that Gapsted is a winery built on vision and an authenticity for heritage, with their eyes focused on an adventurous future all the while. It’s a true high country experience in the bottle, as well as in the winery where the tastes are somehow enhanced by the ambience of towering mountains, rosellas and kangaroos visiting, and a wander through the vineyard.
If you’re planning a visit, Matt hopes you’ll be amazed by the diversity of wines on offer. But it doesn’t end there: this is a location in which you can really feel part of the region’s natural beauty and Gapsted’s wine story. “We back directly onto the Stanley State Forest, and we look out towards Mt Buffalo, so it’s a beautiful vista,” says Matt. “The cellar door and the restaurant are five metres from the vines, so you feel immersed in the vineyard while enjoying a lovely outlook, beautiful food that’s sourced from around the region, and a range of wines from all over the valley.”
It’s this natural connection between the vineyard and the wine that is perhaps what has made Gapsted Wines a success for a quarter of a century—and counting."Our Limited Release 2018 Touriga is available online now!
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