Liquid Gold: Chambers Rosewood & Morris of Rutherglen
Rutherglen is home to 150 years of winemaking history. With a unique climate, skilled and experienced winemakers have been able to leave their mark on Australia’s wine heritage by creating celebrated wines. Lindsay Brown planted the first vines in the 1850s, and in the 1880s over 1200 were spread across the region. Many of its wineries began in the gold rush era, some of which are managed by fourth, fifth and sixth generation descendants. At this time, Rutherglen was producing approximately a third of all wine in Australia and its wines began to win prizes internationally. The region is now famed for its distinctive fortified wines.
The region has the same heat degree days summation as the Clare Valley in South Australia (1770), and the same sunshine hours as the Gold Coast in Queensland. This combination of great sunshine and weather allows many grape varieties to develop the full flavours for which Rutherglen wines are so sought-after. Cool nights, warm days and a normally long dry autumn allow Muscat and Muscadelle grapes to achieve high levels of sweetness and flavour. Soils are loam on the lower slopes of the gentle hills and fine sandy loam closer to the Murray River, with a predominantly heavy clay subsoil.
Historically, the east side produced denser, sweeter Muscats due to different soils and rainfall, resulting in riper grapes retaining higher levels of sugars. These yielded richer and denser wines. The west side produced slightly less sweet styles; vineyards located on sandy soils closer to the Murray River tended to produce lighter, more floral wines. As such, the Morris wines are quite distinct in style to Chambers. Their vineyards and winery are situated to the east of Rutherglen, where the climate is warmer and drier. Chambers, located to the northwest of the town, is in a cooler site, so the wines are more restrained and less sweet than those of Morris. Today, the producers are better able to control the style of the wines, but Morris remains in the ‘sweet and rich’ camp of Rutherglen, while Chambers are in the ‘drier’ camp.
As the 6th generation of the Chambers family to make wine at the Rosewood winery, Stephen took over the winemaking in 2001. This venerable winery, started in 1858 by William Chambers, is one of the most fabled in Rutherglen. Chambers make distinctive yet classical wines from their 50 hectares of vineyard. The wines, rich and unctuous on the palate yet zesty and balanced on the finish, mingle dried fruit characters with hints of rose petals. These are superb wines to sip on their own, with cheese or with a wide variety of desserts. They are a reminder that Rutherglen produces some of the greatest sweet wines in the world!
For over 155 years, the Morris family have earned their position as one of the most prominent winemaking families in Australia, with their name being synonymous with ‘Liqueur Muscat’ for many years. Today, David Morris, the fifth generation of the family to run the winery, ensures the Morris name remains one of Australia’s most respected. In 1859, George Francis Morris established a four hectare vineyard and winery near Rutherglen. By 1885, the plantings had grown to over 80 hectares, making Morris the largest wine producer in the Southern Hemisphere, but the region’s vines were crippled by the spread of phylloxera in 1890. Charles Hugh Morris, son of George, established a new vineyard close to the original plantings in 1897, selling his prize-winning horse to develop the winery. The show jumping horse on the label remains the company’s logo to this day.
No strangers to gold medals, trophies and top scores, both producers have been highly awarded over the years. Most recently, Morris’ Old Premium Rare Liqueur Rutherglen Muscat received the Fortified Wine Trophy at the International Wine Challenge 2019 and the Australian Fortified Trophy at the International Wine Challenge 2019. In May this year, Chambers Rosewood celebrated their inclusion in Matthew Jukes’ 100 Best Australian Wines report for the third year running; Matthew praising the “venerable” winery for their “legendary” wines.