That prosperity was savaged when the dreaded phylloxera louse decimated vineyards in 1875 leading to the death knell of the region's wine industry. That industry was reborn approximately a century later with plantings established in the historic Moorabool Valley sub-region of Geelong with the boutique family Moorabool Ridge winery itself established in 1990.
The winery's location low down in the corner of a bank of the fertile Moorabool River and its unique micro climate suited the planting of Semillon, a variety rare to this region of Victoria.
Semillon is a versatile white grape variety that has had a history of producing good wines over long periods. It has had a remarkable history in Europe and while not considered an alternative variety in Australia, we have somewhat undervalued that status. Moorabool Ridge owner Tim Harrop says "It is strange, it remains hard to sell to bottle shops, they say people do not buy Semillon, its poorly understood and there are few good examples of it. Pubs won't take it for the same reason."
He continues "I hoped we could produce something special that would save us from chasing the latest fashion in whites. Second I needed a variety I could blend with Chardonnay, would perform as a straight varietal and could produce a high quality late picked noble effected desert wine. Hence a range of market points with one variety."
According to Harrop many people were sceptical at first about both the choice of variety and the chances of selling both the grapes and the wines but opinion has changed as have the quality of grapes and wines.
Harrop reflects "Having to try my own produce I was a first surprised and then entranced by it. It is the red wine drinkers white. Why? It has complexity, depth and a complex changing character that is so typical of reds and seldom found in whites. It has become even more intense and complex as it has aged. I have sampled it with Hunter, SA and WA Semillons and it is heavier and more complex than all of them and I think that it must be the cooler climate and longer ripening season we have."