Robert Oatley Vineyards is based in Mudgee, New South Wales, one of Australia’s oldest winegrowing regions.
Situated on the northwest slopes of the Great Dividing Range, adjacent to the picturesque Blue Mountains, Mudgee falls within the Central Ranges zone of New South Wales, which is in turn part of South Eastern Australia.
Located a three-and-a-half hour drive (261 km) north-west of Sydney, Mudgee has a burgeoning wine tourism industry, based around 40 cellar doors and 20 operational wineries. As the state’s third-largest wine region, Mudgee has around 2,700 hectares of vineyards – with almost 20% of this grown by the Oatley family alone.
Established in 1858 and surrounded by picturesque vines and gum trees on the banks of Pipeclay Creek, the Cellar Door of Robert Oatley Vineyards, ‘Craigmoor’, is Mudgee’s oldest winery and vineyard.
Nestled in the hills not far from Craigmoor lies the ‘Montrose’ vineyard – home to the region’s pre-eminent winery and the heart of the winemaking operation for Robert Oatley Vineyards. The family also holds seven major vineyards covering 500 hectares of Mudgee’s finest terroir.
Mudgee enjoys a vine-growth period with adequate rainfall and strong sunshine, but it’s the elevation – 500 m+ – that makes the difference. This altitude results in a longer, cooler ripening period than the nearest neighbouring wine region, the Hunter Valley, which although at the same latitude (32º) lacks Mudgee’s elevation. This gives Mudgee grapes a level of refinement and balance that enhances every wine.
Mudgee’s unique terroir can be attributed to the land’s formation through volcanic shifts. A line of weathered volcanoes known as the ‘Chain of Fire’ runs from northern Queensland to central Victoria, taking in the Coolah Tops National Park north of Mudgee. Evidence of this volcanic genesis can be found in the hills around Mudgee and in the deep, friable red clay-loam volcanic soils streaked with quartz and stone. These soils provide vines with a plentiful yet measured source of minerals and excellent drainage.
Much of the Mudgee grape-growing area is in the valley of the Cudgegong River. The valley is made up of rich alluvial flats and gently rolling slopes from the surrounding hills. ‘Mudgee’ is an English derivation of the local Wiradjuri aboriginal term ‘Moothi’, meaning ‘nest in the hills’.
From Mudgee, the highest peaks of the Great Dividing Range are just 20 km away. The elevation in Mudgee’s vineyards ranges from 450–1,080 m. This naturally moderates the hotter inland temperatures giving reliable summer weather with cool nights.
Summer and autumn days are very warm, with harvest four weeks behind the Hunter Valley, the closest other wine region. This relatively warm climate has led growers to favour the red varietals – predominantly Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. However, there has been some encouraging success, particularly at Montrose, with Italian red varietals. Reflecting both the climate and world wine drinking habits, Chardonnay is Mudgee’s most widely planted white varietal.