Hilltops in the Southern region of New South Wales sits atop a large granite rock. This big rock is 150km long and 50km wide and blocks the westward flow of the Murrumbidgee River from Australia’s national capital, Canberra.
Over eons the rock has weathered to produce a layer of decomposed granite soil up to 15-metres deep. Dust storms from central Australia deposited red sand and clay onto this soil, especially on the leeward side of ridges. This event produced the distinctive red colour and clay layers in the soil.
The soils are deep and well drained, ideal for grapevines and the dominant winter rainfall usually ensures good soil moisture reserves for spring growth.
The rock is 500 to 600 metres above sea level and this ensures cool nights in summer and in autumn when the grapes are ripening.
A range of hills to the north protects the Hilltops region from northern sub-tropical summer storms resulting in cool, dry, sunny autumns.
Seams of gold lured prospectors to the region in the 1800s. The following century soldiers were recruited in the nearby town of Harden for the first Light Horse Brigade.
Peace prevailed after the Great War and soldiers returned to take up rural settlement blocks, many of them orchards. The locality of Prunevale was established to provide prunes destined to keep the British Empire 'regular'.
Subsequently, the Empire waned and the region's main centre, Young became the cherry capital of Australia. Prunevale now produces more grapes than prunes. While the predominant varieties are cabernet sauvignon and shiraz, this distinguished, elevated site is rapidly proving its capacity to produce exceptional quality Italian origin varietal wines.
'Brian Freeman - a former university wine science professor -
is doing remarkable things with his eclectic Hilltops vineyard.'
Huon Hooke, GOOD FOOD GUIDE 2008