The Orange wine region is Australia’s highest, rising from about 600m to just over 1000m. This terrain offers the ideal environment for cool-climate wine-growing, with most vineyards being planted on the hillsides, greatly reducing the effects of the more extreme cold temperatures found in the valleys. With its relatively mild summer temperatures and cold winters, and, on average, more than nine hours’ sunshine daily during the growing season between October and April, Orange is also one of Australia’s sunniest cool-climate regions. Grape-harvesting time is highly dependent on a given vineyard’s elevation, with those at around 600m starting in February and running through to March or April in approximately weekly increments for each 100m increase in elevation.
Generally, rainfall in the Orange region is fairly uniform year-round, depending on the elevation and proximity to Mount Canobolas, with reliable winter rain allowing for good vine growth through spring and summer, before slowing as the autumn ripening season sets in. On the higher elevations, such as at Hill Park, cooler conditions and uniform annual rainfall allows for the majority of vineyards to thrive with minimal or no irrigation.
Dominating the surrounding terrain, Mount Canobolas’ ancient volcanic sediments are a major contributor the Orange region’s unique terroir. From the deep, free-draining basalt clay and silt that predominates between 800m and 1000m, to the lower slopes’ less fertile sedimentary soils at between 700m and 900m, the opportunity for growing grapes that express their singular terroir now sees some 1500ha under vine (and counting) across the region.
Tom Ward has long been a passionate advocate of Orange’s winegrowers and, since the early days of his time at Swinging Bridge, has sourced grapes from a number of premium blocks around the district, including premium Chardonnay from the 890m Balmoral block in Caldwell Lane and Pinot Noir from Wattleview (at 1070m) and Yuranigh Road (650m). But it is Swinging Bridge’s home vineyard, Hill Park, at an elevation of 890m, that Tom regards as his showcase, having already produced a number of award-winning wines from the vineyard before making it his home.
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