With Australia getting back to normal, wine regions around Australia need your support more than ever. Here are 10 of the best regions to visit and some brands to enjoy.
The Barossa Valley is the unofficial Australian wine capital – home to brands like Penfolds, Jacob’s Creek, Yalumba and Wolf Blass that are sold around the globe. And the Barossa is just a one-hour drive north of Adelaide.
Penfolds Grange and Henschke Hill of Grace are regional icons but you can find plenty of value in red wines from smaller labels including Elderton, St Hallett, Teusner, Langmeil, Kalleske, Schild Estate, Ben Glaetzer, Thorn-Clarke and Two Hands.
This is a region that is about a lot more than just wine. It’s about the people, many of whose families have been farming the land for five or six generations. The Barossa Valley is dotted with old churches and cemeteries; and there are plenty of biking and walking trails through the vineyards. And it is also about gourmet foods like dill cucumbers, pickles and preserves, smoked and cured smallgoods (try mettwurst and lachschinken) and a range of German-style cakes and pastries.
Artisans of Barossa cellar door offers a quick snapshot of the region. The facility is shared by some of the region’s most talented winemakers. Nearby Seppeltsfield is home to the Seppeltsfield Cellar Door and Centennial Cellar, 1888 Gravity Cellar and Fino Restaurant. There’s also a design studio, cooperage and artisan knife maker. From 2022, Seppeltsfield will be home to a $50 million six-star hotel with 70 rooms (each with a private balcony).
Try: Traditional red favourites from Penfolds, funky offerings from Yelland and Papps and visit the atmospheric Yalumba cellars and cooperage.
Under four hours’ drive west of Sydney, this town has plenty of appeal as a weekend playground for city refugees. The region’s makers of cool-climate wines and ciders have enjoyed immense recent success.
Orange now has more than 80 vineyards with around 40 cellar doors. Top picks include de Salis Wines and Printhie (both of which have impressive ranges of sparkling wines). Patina, Brangayne, Philip Shaw Wines, Heifer Station, Colmar Estate, Angullong, Ross Hill and Small Acres Cyder are also worth a visit.
Try: Patina cellar door for hand-crafted wines and artworks; Philip Shaw for a bite to eat; and Heifer Station for a rustic experience.
The Macedon Ranges/Daylesford region has emerged as a key food and wine destination within easy reach of Melbourne.
Daylesford and next-door Hepburn Springs are alive with top-notch restaurants, vibrant country pubs, retreats, wine bars and up-market accommodation. Local names like Passing Clouds, Cobaw Ridge, Curly Flat and Bindi are among the highest-rated cool-climate wine producers in the country.
Pop into Wine and Country; a local bottle shop/wine bar where the list pairs local boutique offerings like Eastern Peake and Latta Vino (both made by the owner Jenny Latta’s husband Owen), along with an impressive selection of minimal-intervention wines and imports.
Try: Passing Clouds is a brilliant lunch venue with a restaurant that overlooks the working winery; pinot and chardonnays from Curly Flat and flinty rieslings from Knight’s Granite Hills.
The Tamar Valley
Tasmania‘s cool-climate chardonnays and pinot noirs have put Australia’s island state in the spotlight in recent years. But the region’s newfound notoriety is owed to its excellent sparkling wines; some of the best to be found outside of Champagne.
The Tamar Valley Wine Route is home to the largest concentration of cellar doors, all within an hour of Launceston. The boozy trail also also includes Pipers River and Relbia. At several cellar doors, visitors can taste wines made in tiny quantities that seldom make it to the mainland. Sinapius and Velo are among the best.
Try: the Josef Chromy cellar door is also home to an up-market restaurant that overlooks the vines and a picturesque lake; Clover Hill and Jansz are producers of some of Australia’s finest sparkling wines.
A few decades ago, Margaret River was better known for its surf breaks and laidback vibe than its fine wines. But today it’s home to several of the best producers in the country. Margaret River has become known for its chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon, as well as its semillon/sauvignon blanc blends. It produces fewer than 3% of all Australian wine but 25% at the premium end of the scale.
Big names include Leeuwin Estate, which hosts regular concerts on its lawns, biodynamic trendsetter Cullen, Cape Mentelle, Voyager Estate and Vasse Felix. There are several luxury resorts down the coast from Busselton and most visitors spend a few days here given it takes several hours to drive from Perth.
Try: Cape Lodge is a luxury resort with its own vineyard; Cullen produces fine wines and is home to a stellar restaurant; Knee Deep is one of the rising star producers.
The holiday hideaway of Melbourne’s movers and shakers is home to an ever-increasing number of top-notch Australian wine producers, resorts and eateries. The Mornington Peninsula, an easy drive from Melbourne, is one of the most popular wine destinations in the country, with over 50 cellar doors where chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot gris star.
Some of Australia’s most successful boutique producers can be found here, including Port Phillip Estate/Kooyong, Yabby Lake, Ocean Eight, Polperro/Even Keel, Ten Minutes by Tractor, Willow Creek and Paringa Estate, as well as big names owned by corporates, such as Stonier and T’Gallant.
Tuck’s Ridge, Eldridge Estate, Foxeys Hangout, Paradigm Hill, Crittenden Estate, Moorooduc Estate, Hurley Vineyard, Red Hill Estate and Quealy are among the other star producers.
Try: Point Leo Estate is home to tastings, eateries and a sculpture garden; Jackalope is a hotel, wining and dining complex adjacent to Willow Creek winery; Crittenden Estate is a perfect lunch destination.
Only a short drive from the suburban fringes of Melbourne, the Yarra offers a country experience with a dash of city sophistication. There are plenty of classy places to eat along with myriad cellar-door tasting facilities.
The Yarra has over 60 wineries with cellar doors and choices range from big names such as Domaine Chandon, Yering Station, Giant Steps, TarraWarra, Coldstream Hills and De Bortoli Yarra Valley. Smaller Australian wine producers in the region include Oakridge, Mandala, Hoddles Creek, Mac Forbes and Soumah.
While chardonnay and pinot noir have traditionally shone; shiraz and cabernet are also proving successful.
Try: Taste and lunch at Oakridge Wines; eat, drink in style at Levantine Hill; Four Pillars Distillery is a great option after you are all wined out.
More wineries worth a mention
A two-hour drive north of Adelaide, high in the Mount Lofty Ranges, the Clare Valley is often overshadowed by rival South Australian wine districts such as the Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale. But it is home to many of our best family-owned wineries and produces arguably Australia’s best dry rieslings as well as some of Australia’s best-value reds. Names to look out for include Grosset, Pikes, Mount Horrocks, Tim Adams, Jim Barry, Mitchell, O’Leary Walker and Rieslingfreak.
The Hunter Vallley has long been a popular weekend escape for Sydneysiders, famous for its savoury shirazes and stellar semillons. Warmer than many other wine regions, it enjoys its vintage soon after Christmas. The “must visit” names here include Brokenwood, Tyrrell’s, Hungerford Hill, Thomas Wines and Margan, but also make sure to taste wines from smaller producers including De Iuliis, Gundog Estate and Tinklers.
A small, quintessentially Australian town in north-east Victoria, Rutherglen is home to Australia’s most revered fortified wines; muscats and tokays. Several of the star wineries here, including All Saints and Morris, date back to the mid-19th-century. You can smell the history at producers like Campbells while younger producers like Scion and Anderson are a counterpoint to the tradition at Bullers, and Stanton and Killeen.