BUILDING PROFILE: Just Red Wines owner Tony Hassall is ready to visit the Regional Flavours festival in Brisbane in July.
BUILDING PROFILE: Just Red Wines owner Tony Hassall is ready to visit the Regional Flavours festival in Brisbane in July. Elyse Wurm

Regional wine producers gaining great reputation in big city

WITHOUT the big budgets of huge wine producers, Granite Belt wine makers can struggle to build their reputations alongside other popular wine regions.

But with a growing number of talented wine makers and the quality of wine pouring from the region on the rise, our best kept secret is starting to be revealed.

Just Red Wines owner Tony Hassall has seen a shift in perception of Granite Belt wine over the last 15 years.

"It's been more viable in the last few years, it was tough because there was probably too many (wineries) for a while for the number of people,” Mr Hassall said.

"We're getting our name out there more, as well as getting more visitors but also selling more wine.”

Mr Hassall was formerly an accountant but completed a Master of Science and Agriculture to become a wine development officer at Applethorpe about 12 years ago.

Mr Hassall said the Granite Belt was ideal for making wine because of the cool climate and decomposing granite soil.

Having owned his own vineyard at Ballandean for about two decades, he's only been able to quit his day job and make it his full time gig for about five years.

"It's always hard to make a living because there's a lot of hobbyists worldwide, it tends to be a bit of a lifestyle for a lot of people,” he said.

Mr Hassall said excellent wine producers had moved to the region over the last couple of decades, which has helped improve the reputation of Granite Belt wine in Brisbane.

Now the primary visitors to his winery are those travelling from Brisbane, the Gold Coast and northern New South Wales.

Mr Hassall said selling directly to the consumer was crucial as many smaller producers could not afford to trade through distributors.

"When you're small, you can't really afford the wholesale mark up so it's difficult to become available in the markets,” he said.

"In Brisbane, you're not going to find many Granite Belt wines because we're all small and we can't really afford to get into those big chains.”

To boost awareness of his winery and the region in the cities, Mr Hassall has started attending events such as the Regional Flavours festival in Brisbane.

Attending for the past five years, Mr Hassall said many consumers were still learning about the region but were eager to visit after meeting the wine makers in the city.

"News travels fast and they're realising it's only two or three hours drive to come and see us,” he said. Winter remains the busiest tourism season for the wine makers on the Granite Belt.

But Mr Hassall said the next challenge was to draw people to the region all year round.

"We promoted the winter idea so well, they think the time to come to the Granite Belt is the winter,” he said.

"But what we try to promote is the cool summer nights (and) coming away to get away from the rat race and the humidity to enjoy the country atmosphere. That's our selling point, but it's still hard to break into the market.”

Mr Hassall said festivals such as Regional Flavours allowed producers to talk with consumers and promote the region as a tourism destination.

National parks, accommodation and cycling tours were all draw cards, he said.

"People can forget about you, we need to keep going down there,” Mr Hassall said.

About 15 wine producers from the Granite Belt will be attending the festival in July.

Regional Flavours will be taking place on July 21-22 at South Bank Parklands in Brisbane.

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