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Digital Subscriptions > National Geographic Traveller (UK) > October 2018 > AGAINST ALL ODDS

AGAINST ALL ODDS

JUST INLAND FROM THE GREAT OCEAN ROAD IS AN ALTERNATIVE ROUTE THAT WINDS THROUGH AUSTRALIA’S WINE COUNTRY. HERE, DESPITE A LACK OF NATIVE GRAPES, LOW RAINFALL, STUBBORN SOIL AND THE THREAT OF FOREST FIRES, DETERMINED PIONEERS HAVE PAVED THE WAY FOR A NEW CROP OF SPIRITED WINEMAKERS WHO ARE TAKING THE WORLD OF VITICULTURE BY STORM

Australia’s Great Ocean Road is a stupendous coastal drive between Melbourne and Adelaide, but it is also the route most tourists take. Just inland is another, through wine country. Here, the land changes as you travel, becoming woodier or sandier, thrusting up bare mountains or tree-draped hills, and the wine changes with it.

The people, however, are consistently eccentric — after all, you don’t build a wine industry in a gargantuan country with no native grapes and very low rainfall by taking the logical, straightforward path. As if to prove my point, I meet two locals who transported an old train down from Queensland to create a restaurant that chugs around Swan Bay. The on-board chef plates up six courses of local produce with matched local wines as it rattles through the landscape. One winemaker tells me he treads his grapes by foot (as if making wine here weren’t hard enough); another has built a giant Rubik’s Cube-shaped building in his vineyard.

I eat at restaurants where they mill their own bread, or churn their own butter, or grow all their ingredients. Many people I encounter tell me they came to wine country hoping to remake their lives — as if planting themselves alongside a few vines could lead to a more fruitful existence. Or perhaps it’s the restless spirit of the early settlers who were forced to move here as convicts or as persecuted minorities, inhaled along with the menthol of eucalyptus that perfumes the air.

Below Melbourne, Port Phillip Bay curves like a pair of arms, as if the mainland had tried to hug Tasmania but missed. I take the western arm: Geelong and the Bellarine Peninsula. “You can’t call this a single wine region,” says Ray Nadeson, of Lethbridge Wines, half an hour north west of Geelong.

“There are too many soil variations. There’s limestone, basalt, granite, clay…”

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About National Geographic Traveller (UK)

We grab our binoculars and set out to discover the awe-inspiring wildlife of India, scouting out the likes of Bengal tigers, one-horned rhinos and snow leopards in some of the subcontinent’s most dramatic national parks. Elsewhere, we explore the winelands of southern Australia; cross the frozen frontier of the Antarctic Circle; and spend a long weekend in the city of Leeuwarden. Other highlights this issue include the Faroe Islands, Tel Aviv, Manhattan, Tokyo and Santiago, while our photo story takes in the fresh air and Alpine beauty of Switzerland.