Australia is a country that unashamedly loves its grapes, and it’s a passion that is evident across the more than 60 unique wine regions. But if you’re in the dark about the Aussie wine scene or simply want to know which regions to visit on your next trip to Australia, how do you know which one is the best?
While there’s no definitive answer – it obviously depends on personal taste and preferences – we’ve rounded up a couple of sites that are guaranteed to impress no matter what varietals or vintages you prefer. Whether it’s a much loved, highly respected destination like South Australia’s Barossa Valley, or an up-and-comer like Queensland’s Granite Belt, we promise there’s not a bad tipple to be sipped at any of these stunning locations.
The Most Well Known Wine Regions
Consider the destinations below as perhaps the core four wine regions of Australia. These regions are renowned around the world and are among the first that come to mind when you think of pre-eminent Australian wine destinations. These regions are a must for most oenophiles and boast some of the most acclaimed cellar doors in the country, as well as excellent restaurants, farmers’ markets, boutique producers and more.
Hunter Valley, NSW
As Australia’s oldest wine region – and arguably its most famous – there is no way we could exclude the acclaimed Hunter Valley from this list. Located less than 3.5 hours from Sydney by car, the Hunter was established way back in the early 19th century, when viticulturist John Busby arrived in the country with more than 20,000 vine cuttings from Europe. A rich sémillon and earthy shiraz are the must-try styles here, and if we had to pick one Hunter Valley winery to spend a relaxing afternoon at, it would be Audrey Wilkinson for the breathtaking views across Broken Back Range.
Yarra Valley, VIC
Less than an hours’ drive from Melbourne you’ll find the Yarra Valley, the official birthplace of Victoria’s wine industry. This fertile land is home to more than 80 wineries – a fascinating mix of old-school pioneers who first helped establish the region, and a new breed of innovative growers doing incredible, boundary-pushing work. While the cool climate creates the perfect conditions for an impressive selection of grapes, the Yarra Valley is best known for its pinot noir, chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon. Those with a penchant for bubbles won’t be able to go past the delightful sparkling at Domaine Chandon. The food in the Yarra Valley is just as good as the grapes, with hatted restaurants and relaxed eateries serving up mouth-watering meals.
Margaret River, WA
Just because Margaret River happens to be one of the most geographically isolated wine regions in the world, doesn’t mean striking it from your list of destinations to visit. In just 50 years or so this remote slice of coastal heaven, around 280 kilometres south of Perth, has developed into a renowned producer of premium varietals such as chardonnay and sauvignon blanc. It now boasts more than 200 vineyards across its six sub-regions (Yallingup, Karridale, Wilyabrup, Treeton, Carbunup and Wallcliffe), and also plays host to an exciting line-up of gourmet food and wine festivals that are well worth planning your next trip around.
When it comes to South Australian wine regions, there is none more iconic, or well respected, than the mighty Barossa. You’ll find all the big names in wine here – including Penfolds, Wolf Blass and Jacob’s Creek – plus a group of smaller, more boutique-style makers who are quietly building a name for themselves. The wine of choice in the Barossa is a big, bold shiraz, but the area is also a prolific producer of fortified wines. Don’t miss the chance to visit Seppeltsfield, where you can have a sip of the Para Vintage Tawny of your birth year, direct from the barrel.
Other Australian Wine Regions To Visit
Granite Belt, QLD
Queensland is more likely to conjure up thoughts of warm, sunny weather and white-sand beaches rather than rows of grape-covered vines and cosy cellar doors, but the burgeoning wine region in the Granite Belt district is about to change all of that. This unexpectedly cool-climate area, which is centred around the rural hub of Stanthorpe, is a three-hour drive from Brisbane, and sits at about 1,500 metres above sea level. It’s this high altitude, combined with deep, sandy soils that make it the ideal breeding ground for shiraz, merlot and cab sav, plus white varietals like viognier and verdelho.
Tamar Valley, TAS
Could this be one of the most underrated wine regions in all of Australia? We sure think so. Tasmania’s Tamar Valley is a lush, bountiful realm producing some of the state’s best vintages – in fact, the valley currently produces 40 per cent of the Apple Isle’s premium quality wine. The chilly growing conditions mean that pinot noir and chardonnay grapes thrive here, but it’s the crisp rieslings, aromatic whites and lively sparklings that really steal the show. And if you need a little break from the wine, be sure to check out the local cideries.
Often overshadowed by the busier and more popular Hunter Valley, the Mudgee wine region is finally claiming some of the spotlight. Located in the central west of New South Wales, and with a viticulture history that stretches back to 1858, it’s a charming, welcoming area where many of the cellar doors are family-run and owned. The winemakers of Mudgee are passionate folk, and on top of attempting to perfect the classics like shiraz and chardonnay, many have been working hard to produce a more diverse assortment, including tempranillo, sangiovese, pinot grigio and vermentino.
King Valley, VIC
Welcome to the home of bubbles. Out of all the Australian wine regions, you might be surprised to discover that the King Valley was the first to make a premium quality sparkling prosecco – a bright and zesty drop that pairs perfectly with antipasto and seafood. Often referred to as ‘Little Italy’, a homage to the Italian migrant families who first planted vines in the area (and continue to do so to this day), the variance in elevation means the King Valley can also produce varietals the likes of nebbiolo, sangiovese, pinot gris and barbera. Plus, where there’s Italian wine there’s Italian food, and the many incredible restaurants do not disappoint.
McLaren Vale, SA
Another wine region with a strong Mediterranean influence is South Australia’s McLaren Vale, one of the state’s oldest and most revered grape-growing areas. Nestled between the Mount Lofty Ranges and the beaches of Gulf St Vincent, the warm climate lends itself to reds such as grenache, shiraz and tempranillo, and whites like fiano and vermentino. You’re spoiled for choice when it comes to vineyards to visit, especially considering more than one third of the cellar doors offer local produce as part of the tasting. One you don’t want to miss though is d’Arenberg – a five-storey, Rubik’s Cube-shaped building set among the mourvèdre vines. It’s definitely one of the coolest wineries in Australia.
Canberra District, ACT
Introducing the new kid on the block: the Canberra District. This young wine region, which encompasses 140 vineyards and more than 30 cellar doors across the fringes of the Australian Capital Territory and rural New South Wales, is already leaving its mark on the industry. Warm, dry days and cold nights have created the ideal conditions for grape growing, and the standout wine of the Canberra District is a riesling, followed by a shiraz. But it’s the new generation of winemakers who are bringing styles like viognier and grüner veltliner to the forefront, winning over a lot of fans along the way and setting themselves up for a very bright future.
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Hero: Yarra Valley, Victoria. Credit: Balloon Rise | Hot air balloons at sunrise – Yarra Valley, V… | Flickr