When most people look at a map of Australia and find Orange in central New South Wales, they tend to think hot, dry and flat. But it couldn’t be further from the truth. The hot, dry, flat presumption is fair enough I suppose. Sydney is on the coast and if you travel west over the Blue Mountains and then further inland, the mind starts to conjure up classical ‘outback’ images of Australia. However, this is where Orange differs.
Cool, wet and high
The geographical icon of Orange is Mount Canobolas. It rises to a height of 1,395 metres above sea level – one of the highest peaks in Australia outside the alpine areas. Locals like to boast that it is the highest peak at this latitude between South America and Africa but really there is not a lot of competition – just a lot of ocean. The vineyards in Orange are some of the highest in Australia with some sited up to 1,100 metres. What this region lacks in southerly latitude it makes up for in altitude. This has a significant impact on the climate of the region, making it much cooler and much wetter that surrounding regions. I like to explain it as a little bit of Tasmania in the middle of New South Wales.
Orange as a wine producing region is completely unique in the wine world. It is the only region that is defined by elevation above sea level (or altitude). The minimum elevation is 600 metres with the boundary being a continuous circle around the peak of Mount Canobolas. Achieving full grape ripeness is not often a problem associated with Australian viticulture. However, in Orange it is very important to match the appropriate grape variety to any individual vineyard site otherwise fully ripe grapes can be difficult to grow. This makes Orange an exciting region working on the margins of climate, all of which makes for exciting wines.
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