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Wines of Australian Capital Territory

The Australian Capital Territory is administered by the Commonwealth of Australia to provide the Federal capital, Canberra, with a zone independent of the states that make up Australia. The ACT was originally carved out of NSW and includes the single wine region of Canberra District.

The area now occupied by the ACT was home to the Ngunnawal and Walgalu tribes. The name é─˛Canberraé─˘ is from the word Kanbarra and means é─˛meeting placeé─˘ and probably referred to corroborees held as the local tribes came together to collect the Bogong moths each season.

Europeans began to enter the region in the 1820s and by 1826 Joshua Moore had established a property he named Canberry. These early settlers have left a number of buildings around the ACT that have now been preserved, including Blundells' Cottage, built around 1860, the Campbell familyé─˘s house, named é─˛Duntrooné─˘, which is now used as the officers' mess of the Royal Military College, Duntroon, and St John the Baptist Church, built in 1845.

Before its incorporation into the ACT, the district was a quietly agricultural one. Its transformation into federal territory began when neither Melbourne nor Sydney would allow the other to become the new nationé─˘s capital. The other colonial capitals were non-contenders as they were too far from Sydney or Melbourne! The compromise reached, and written into the constitution, was that Melbourne would be allowed to be the temporary capital while the search went on for a permanent capital that was at least 100 miles from Sydney. The site of Canberra was chosen in 1908 and Walter Burley Griffin, after wining an international competition, began work based on his designs in 1913.

The federal government remained in Melbourne until 1927 before it officially moved to the new capital, Canberra. Many NSW politicians, such as Billy Hughes, felt that the Melbourne compromise was a mistake and that the advantage given to Victoria by these 27 years was too great. Perhaps he just didné─˘t like the long traveling time!

Canberraé─˘s growth was slow at first, with many government departments remaining in Melbourne until after WWII. Even that icon of Canberra today, Lake Burley Griffin, was open fields until 1963. But by the end of the 1960s, Canberra was well recognised as Australiaé─˘s capital and has been the site of numerous events of significance in Australian history, such as the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in 1972, the famous é─˛nothing will save the Governor-Generalé─˘ speech on the steps of what is now Old Parliament House in 1975, and the opening of the new Parliament House in 1988. In this same year, the ACT became self-governing, as opposed to being simply administered as a government department, and promptly elected the Labor Party under Australiaé─˘s first female head of government, Rosemary Follett.

Just outside the ACT itself, but part of the Canberra wine region is Yass, where vineyards were established in the 1860's. Todayé─˘s modern vineyards are also often outside the ACT, most being either near Murrumbateman, or around Lake George. These areas allow wine growers to take advantage of altitude, between 500m and 850m, as well as sea breezes. This is necessary due to the hot dry conditions, cold nights and frosts that generally prevail.

While Canberra is no long as dominated by the Commonwealth as it once was, all those well paid Commonwealth Public Service jobs make for a large number of well-educated people with high disposable incomes. This, combined with flexi-time, has created an idea tourist wine environment that the ACTé─˘s cool climate allows it to take full advantage of.

Nowadays, there are nearly 150 vineyards and over 30 cellar doors in and around Canberra and the ACT. Most of these are small, friendly, boutique-style wineries where you often get to meet the owner and can certainly enjoy good food and good scenery along with your good wine. One such is the Surveyors Hill Winery at Wallaroo (near Hall), or just 20 minutes from the centre of Canberra. Surveyors Hill Winery has a diverse range of wines, including Riesling, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Touriga and Pinot Noir.

Another outstanding vineyard is the Brindabella Hills vineyard established by Roger and Faye Harris in 1986, it is to be found some 25 km north west of Canberra. The Brindabella ranges provide many advantages in this climate, such as air drainage against frosts, where the long sunshine hours and cool nights allow full flavoured grapes to be grown. The Brindabella Hills vineyard has won many awards for its Chardonnay and Shiraz.

The ACT has many attractions, both within the City of Canberra and around its territory. One that is less well known is the Glenloch Cork Oak Plantation. Walter Burley Griffin had many ideas, many of which were never fully realised. One of these was that Canberra should be a self-sustaining city, and what does every city need? é─ý cork! To this end Walter Burley Griffin imported cork tree seeds from Spain and established a plantation of more than 9,000 cork trees (quercus suber). Visitors today can enjoy a walking trail that runs though the Cork plantation.

Other attractions of the ACT range from various national institutions such as the Australian Institute of Sport, the Parliament Houses Old and New, the Australian War Memorial, the National Gallery, the National Library, the National Archives and the National Science and Technology Centre, to more local attractions that include the Canberra Museum and Gallery, the Old Bus Depot Markets, the Bungendore Wood Works Gallery and the Cockington Green Gardens.

The ACT enjoys what in wine terms is known as a cool-climate, which means it also enjoys access to some of the most elegant and refreshing wines. In particular, white varieties such as Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Viognier do excellently. Many vineyards also produce great reds with Sangiovese and Tempranillo among those that show great promise.

Wine Regions of Australian Capital Territory, Australia