Wine country by bike
Cycle and sample six wine regions with these rides compiled by Simon Vincett.
There’s no better way to appreciate the terroir of a wine region than by riding undulating roads among the vines themselves, viewing the contours of the fields, noting the dryness of the soil and feeling the influence of the climate. And no better way to prime your taste buds to try the local vintages.
All routes here are between 25 and 45 kilometres, giving you time to enjoy the wineries you visit. Due to the regional locations of wine areas, these routes are described from a base where you can park your car, ride from and return to.
Two of these routes travel on rail trails and all include some dirt road riding, so you’re better off without skinny road-bike tyres. Being country roads, there are the odd steep little uphill sections along the way.
Make a weekend of these rides by staying overnight. All of these wine regions offer accommodation options.
Remember, don’t drink and ride. It’s OK to spit!
44.5km loop on sealed road and rail trail
Base: Margaret River WA, 268km south of Perth
You’ll enjoy, as the vines do, the cooling effect of sea breezes in this otherwise warm growing region. The gravelly soils produce fine dry-grown cabernets and merlots, intense chardonnays and lovely fresh blends of semillon and sauvignon blanc.
This pleasantly flat loop uses the Busselton to Flinders Bay Rail Trail and from Margaret River there’s also the 7km 10 Mile Brook trail you can ride as a picnic side trip.
29km circuit on sealed road and dirt road.
Base: Ballandean, QLD, 237km south-west of Brisbane, 227km west of Ballina
Eight hundred metres above sea level, high away from the humidity of south-east Queensland, the Granite Belt region has cool winters, a long cool ripening and a similar soil structure to France’s southern Burgundy region.
Many producers have planted unusual grape varietals. Sample these specifically with the Strange Bird Alternative Wine Trail tour. See http://www.granitebeltwinecountry.com.au for details.
Despite the landscape of massive granite boulders repeated endlessly all around you, this is quite a flat circuit, particularly if you skip the turnoff along Eukey Rd to avoid 150m of uphill riding.
36.5km circuit on sealed road and dirt road.
Base: Pokolbin, NSW, 161km north of Sydney, 60km west of Newcastle
Despite being warm, prone to drought in the growing season and humidity during vintage, the Hunter Valley can produce stunning, fruit-driven semillons and chardonnays and spicy, dry shirazes. Its proximity to Sydney has enabled a blockbuster tourism industry to develop.
Roads can be busy here and the wines are numerous, so spit more than you swallow and take care mixing with the traffic. You can hire bikes from Grapemobile Bicycle Hire, which includes a map and complimentary tasting at Pokolbin Brothers Wines. See www.grapemobile.com.au for details.
Mt Pleasant and Lake’s Folly are two stalwarts of winemaking in this area.
36.5km circuit on sealed road, dirt road and rail trail.
Base: McLaren Vale, SA, 43km south of Adelaide
With such a Mediterranean climate and atmosphere, there’s hardly a more gastronomically exciting region to tour than McLaren Vale. Wines show a generosity of fruit flavour, making the region’s famously voluptuous cabernet sauvignons and shirazes, and tropical white styles.
The riding is gently undulating without much overall climbing. A bit of dirt road to negotiate along the way makes it seem a more in-depth exploration of the area.
Coriole Vineyard has fine Sangiovese and Italian varieties, in addition to the region’s standard types. It’s a packed region and in McLaren Vale town you’ll also find Haselgrove, Tatachilla and the McLaren Vale III Assoc vineyards.
27km out and back on sealed road.
Base: Coldstream Hills winery, VIC, 55km east of Melbourne
31 Maddens Lane, Gruyere. From Coldstream, head east on Killara Rd, turn left on to Medhurst Rd, then right on to Maddens Lane.
With a fluctuating climate, different vintages of this region can vary from fruity to dry, making every visit a voyage of discovery. Of course this means riders must also be prepared for any weather!
Chardonnay is the region’s main claim to fame, but other whites are also interesting. Pinot noir is a red to try, as well as cabernet merlot blends from warmer vintages, but the coolness of the climate triumphs in creating fine sparkling chardonnay and pinot noir.
This ride begins at Coldstream Hills because this vineyard was developed by leading wine critic James Halliday at the birth of the current wave of Yarra Valley viticulture.
36.5km circuit on sealed road.
Base: Marion’s Vineyard, Tasmania, 32.5km northwest of Launceston
335 Deviot Road, Deviot. From Launceston, take West Tamar Highway until Lanena, then turn right on to Gravelly Beach Road and continue on to Deviot Road.
The lofty gastronomic reputation of Tasmania enables boutique wineries to indulge their passion and entice visitors to sample and support their efforts.
This cool-climate region delivers complex, citrus chardonnay but also fine wines in an array of interesting white styles. Reds peak with pinot noir and the sparkling chardonnay and pinot noir blends are notable.
There are a few hills in this part of the world but the views are worth it. Marion’s Vineyard is both a convenient starting place for this ride and quirky example of the possibilities available from a boutique producer. You will also pass Rosevears Estate, Stoney Rise winery and Silk Hill Winery on the way from Launceston to the beginning of this ride.
Holm Oak vineyard is well worth the effort to reach with this ride.
For more information about Australia’s wine regions, consult Australian Wine Maps from vW Maps. Authored by some of Australia’s leading wine writers, the maps chart the diverse combinations of climate, country and culture that make each of Australia’s wines taste unique. $14.95 from www.australianwinemaps.com.
Vineyard locations provided by VineFinders.
Please don’t drink and ride. It’s OK to spit.
Tip – Australia post is your friend
Whether you’re touring for days on end or day tripping in a wine region it’s useful to remember that the postal system can save you a lot of carting. Rather than carting weeks worth of food across the Nullarbor, you can post stuff ahead to roadhouses. When you’re tempted at cellar doors on a day’s ride between vineyards, ask the proprietors to post your selection home to you. What a wonderful souvenir!
This post was for day 26 of Ride On‘s June riding challenge.