Virgin Hills was the creation of the eccentric Hungarian-born sculptor and restaurateur Tom Lazar. Arriving from Hungary via Paris in 1952, he found a country and a wine industry, very different to the one we know today.
Lazar was determined to change all that. He established the acclaimed Little Reata restaurant in Melbourne. Then in 1968, came his grand vision of Virgin Hills. Inspired, he bought 300 acres of rugged bushland high in the Macedon Ranges. Lazar saw an opportunity to expose Australian palates to something very different; black cherries.
After laborious clearing, the soil revealed itself to be quite poor for cherries.
Swiftly, Lazar had another grand vision. Decades before the term ‘cool-climate wine’ became popular, he abandoned the idea of a cherry orchard, planting Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Malbec, Merlot and Pinot Noir instead. He planned an Australian rival to the great Bordeaux wines he had grown to love in Paris. Lazar was prone to grand visions.
From its first vintage in 1973, Virgin Hills seemed like nothing more than a crazy idea.
Even with all the setbacks, Virgin Hills began to acquire cult status, making Virgin Hills one of the most sought after Australian wines.
Virgin Hills Estate is at Lauriston, 15km west of Kyneton Victoria in the Macedon Ranges. The altitude of the vineyard is 600 metres above sea level, making it one of Australia's highest vineyards.
The Virgin Hills vineyard is carved out of dense eucalyptus bushland. The soils classic profile is that of friable red/brown topsoil overlying medium red clay soil, which holds moisture in from winter rains. Underneath all these layers are decomposed silty sandstone, which allows for good through drainage, essential for premium fruit. The soil has a well-balanced structure allowing for deep root penetration, which the old unirrigated vines thrive on.
Planted by the original owner, Tom Lazar, in 1968. The vines are all dry grown. Winter rainfall fills the soil with water for the dry summer months.
Virgin Hills has always had a low grape yield (0.5 to 1.5 tonnes per acre), this is largely due to the tough climatic conditions and the dry-grown grapes.
Summer (Temps) 5°C to 30°C
Winter (Temps) -4°C to 12°C
Climatic Problems: By far the most challenging aspect of the high altitude vineyard is frost control. Frosts commonly appear in the vineyard in spring and even summer. For this reason, Virgin Hills was planted with a Northerly aspect, on a steep sloping hillside, providing maximum air drainage.
Budburst - October
Flowering - December
Fruitset - End December
Veraison - February
Harvest - April/May
Dormancy - May/September