The Beechworth GI wine region covers most of the elevated land surrounding the townships of Beechworth and Stanley, stretching northward through the settlement of Wooragee; westward to the edge of the Everton Hills and the lower open grazing land; and south to the escarpment above the Murmungee basin.
Significantly, the region occurs at the watershed of two drainage basins, the Ovens (including the King, Ovens, Buffalo and Buckland Rivers) and the Kiewa. The elevation and freestanding nature of the region means that water is shed in all directions of the compass.
The region consists primarily of two major base rock groups: Ordovician greywacke, sandstone, mudstone and shales; and Devonian granites and grandiorite.
The very old Ordovician rocks are derived from marine sediments, while the granites are of an intrusive igneous nature. Smaller, isolated areas of Permian glacial deposits occur in the north east of the region. The geography of the area is a direct result of either the intrusion upon the older mudstone forming harder metamorphic rock or the intrusions themselves.
The elevation of the area is a direct result of the placement of the intrusive harder rock surrounding the softer mudstone, which have not eroded to the extent to which they would have if the granites were absent.
Mt Stanley is the highest point within the region, with an elevation of 1,050m. Large tracts of rich agricultural and horticultural land surround the Stanley township between elevations of 700 and 800 metres. There are a small number of vineyards in this area producing Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Riesling.
Closer to the Beechworth township most of the arable land is between 500 and 650 metres, and derived primarily of mudstones. Outwash fans occur along many streams, and it was in these fans that many thousands of ounces of gold were found between the 1850’s and 1900. Numerous quartz reefs occur throughout the mudstone ranges between Beechworth and Stanley from whence the gold originated. While in this area most vineyards grow a range of varieties from Pinot Noir to Shiraz, Bordeaux varieties are most suited climatically.
To the west both the mudstone and granite soils decrease in elevation to the lowest point of approximately 280m at the western boundary of the region. In this area three different granites occur that are unique to the region – Golden Ball Adamelite, Everton Grandiorite Porphyrite and Golden Ball Silicified Quartz. Here the vineyards focus on the production of southern Rhone varieties.
To the north east of Beechworth in the Wooragee area a tract of rich Permian soils exist with associated colluvial outwashes; and is basically surrounded by granite. The elevation of this area is generally between 320 and 400m.
The fact that the region encompasses a single distinct massif of considerable elevation and does not include any significant streams makes it unique from surrounding grape growing districts, where vineyards are primarily found in the valley floor, such as in the King, Ovens or Kiewa Valleys, or at Rutherglen on the Riverine Plain. In all the above-mentioned districts the great majority of vineyards are found below an elevation of 350m.