“Tumbarumba” might sound like a winning trampoline trick you once did as a kid, but it is actually a wine region of New South Wales increasingly considered one of the hidden gems of the Australian wine scene. Situated halfway between Sydney and Melbourne, in the foothills of the Snowy Mountains, Tumbarumba’s cool, alpine climate and gritty, granite soils make the fruit from this region revered for sparkling wine production. But it is also fast gaining a reputation for still table wines, in particular Chardonnay.
While there is some speculation that grapes have been grown in the area on and off since white settlement, commercial vineyards were only planted in Tumbarumba in 1982. Ian Cowell, a senior winemaker for Lindeman’s, was actively looking for a region that was similar in climate to the Burgundy and Champagne regions of France to produce the sort of sparkling wine he wanted to make. His search brought him to Tumbarumba!
As so often happens with great ideas, the Minutello family had also arrived from Victoria at about the same time, looking for a place to grow grapes and raise cattle. They planted their vineyard in the same year as Cowell and are considered the Tumbarumba wine industry’s founding family. Today, we source grapes for Cassegrain, most notably chardonnay, from the Minutello family.
At present, the Tumbarumba region has around 300 hectares planted under vine – with most of that given over to the classic sparkling varieties of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir – with an annual crush of approximately 3000 tonnes across the area’s 20 family-owned vineyards. The elevations of the vineyards range from 300m to 843m above sea level.
Source: Visit NSW
In recent years, some of the biggest brand names in wine – Penfolds, De Bortoli and Hardy’s among them – have been trying to sure up their access to fruit from the Tumbarumba region. This has largely been driven by the ever-increasing numbers of awards and trophies wines coming from this region are snagging at Australian wine shows. Some recent examples include:
- Nick O’Leary 2019 Chardonnay – Trophy Winner for Best Chardonnay at the 2020 NSW Wine Awards
- McWilliams 2018 Single Vineyard Pinot Noir – Gold Medal, 2019 National Wine Show, Canberra
- De Bortoli 2019 Regional Classic Tumbarumba Chardonnay – Gold Medal, 2020 China Wine and Spirits Awards
Tumbarumba’s cool climate is determined by both its location adjacent to the New South Wales Snowy Mountains and its moderate to high elevation. It is surrounded by Kosciuszko National Park to the east and the Murray River and the Upper Murray valley to the south. It’s better-known (and much warmer!) NSW wine region cousin, the Riverina, lies to the west.
While Tumbarumba is officially a cool climate region it is not as cold as its geographic position may have you believe. In fact, it is similar in average daily temperature to Victoria’s famed Yarra Valley. However, it also has an ever-present threat of frost, very cold summer nights and a late start to the growing season. All this mean getting grapes to ripen here can be tricky.
Picking grapes early, and slightly underripe is ideal for sparkling wine production. When it comes to making the elegant, minerally white and light-bodied, fragrant red still wines the area is becoming known for, these obstacles make production challenging.
When everything goes right, however, the results are nothing short of outstanding. Here at Cassegrain, we love getting our hands on as much fruit as we can get from Tumbarumba when the vintage conditions allow. In fact, you will see it in some of our very best wines.
Wineries in the Tumbarumba region
Of the 20 vineyards in the region, only a handful produce their own wines. Some of the leading players include:
- Coppabella Wines
Coppabella takes its name from the original cattle station that occupied the area in the 1800’s. The Coppabella vineyard is the second largest in Tumbarumba and it is widely honoured as the source of some of Australia’s great Chardonnays – including Penfolds Yattarna. Still family owned and run, Coppabella is the only Halliday five-star rated winery in Tumbarumba.
- Courabyra Wines
Courabyra Wines was established in 1992 by Cathy and Brian Gairn. In 2014 they opened their eponymous Cellar Door and Restaurant on the property, which has received numerous accolades. Courabyra means ‘pleasant place, family gathering’ in the local indigenous language.
- Johansen Wines
Johansen Wines vineyards are located at 790 meters above sea level with 25 hectares of grapes shared over two vineyards: ‘Mountain View’ and ‘Glenburnie’. Varieties produced include Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Gamay, Pinot Noir and Merlot.
Cassegrain Wines to discover from Tumbarumba
The base for our popular sparkling wine is sourced from Tumbarumba, and you’ll frequently find fruit from this cool climate region going into our Reserve Chardonnay. Whether or not each vintage of the wines listed below contain Tumbarumba fruit depends on the year and what we’re looking to produce.
Rich, yet restrained with obvious mineral notes, our Reserve Chardonnay is a homage to the old world with an unmistakable Australian purity.
Late in May our 2019 Fromenteau Reserve Chardonnay picked up all of the major accolades at the 2021 Cairns Wine Show being named
- Champion Wine in Show
- Champion White in Show
- Best Chardonnay in Show
A beautifully balanced and elegant sparkling, with a crisp, dry lingering finish. The perfect accompaniment to any celebration.