In northeast Victoria, right on the border with New South Wales, you'll find long-established wine-growing families nestled next to innovative newcomers, traditional fortified wines rubbing shoulders with new grape varieties, and wonderful atmospheric old cellars juxtaposing slick new facilities. Whether you prefer the former or the latter is of little importance, because in Rutherglen it is best to get a taste for both.
Visiting some of the great fortified wine producers of Rutherglen, where grapes were first grown in the 1850s, is like taking a step back in time. Drop in to the cellars of Morris, All Saints, Buller Wines and Campbells and you can smell the history among the big old barrels storing ancient fortified wines. But while Rutherglen's reputation was built on its famous port-style wines, muscats and tokays (now known as topaques), it is also a go-ahead wine region with seveal producers thinking outside the square and producing innovative new wine styles - from 150-year-old wineries that are household names to newcomers like Scion, Valhalla and Simao & Co., all starting to forge their own reputations.
Most are family owned boutique operations where you'll almost certainly find assertive reds made from shiraz and durif (sometimes known as petite sirah) alongside the fortified gems. And some of the country's best sparkling reds are also found here. The new Experimentation is alive and well with wineries Stanton & Killeen (recently reinvigorated by new CEO Wendy Killeen) and Campbells trialling ranges of Spanish and Portuguese grape varieties, hoping they replicate the success enjoyed by the Rhone varietals of marsanne, roussanne and viognier, which have been championed by Rutherglen Estates - the region's largest producer.
New varietals include tempranillo, sangiovese and zinfandel. Among the new producers shining is Simao & Co., the brand of Simon Killeen (Simao is the Portuguese spelling of the name Simon). Born and bred in Rutherglcn, Killeen grew up in a winemaking family and after working in wineries and vineyards across Australia, France and Portugal, he returned home to create Simao · & Co. in 2014. He specialises in small-batch wines that represent the best of the region, working with grape varieties including rempranillo, sauvigno