You don’t need to travel to France or Italy for world-class wineries; Australia has wine-making clout to rival its European counterparts, with a range of acclaimed varietals and styles produced right across the country. A trip to any of these regions – be it by flight or car – will have you savouring fantastic food, incredible wine and gorgeous scenery. Plus you’ll be supporting local and small businesses at the same time. Here are just some of the best wine regions in Australia for you to explore when you’re next feeling like a gourmet getaway.
Wine Regions in South Australia
South Australia is home to some of the oldest and most famous vineyards in the country, including the world-renowned Barossa. Made up of both the Barossa and Eden Valleys, this region is a 50-minute drive from Adelaide and is home to more than 150 wineries and 90 cellar doors. Some of the winemaking heavyweights you can expect to find throughout the Barossa include Penfolds, Yalumba, Henschke, Jacob’s Creek and Hentley Farm. The main townships are Tanunda, Nuriootpa and Angaston, which are great places to learn about the region’s German influence and early history. Thanks to the area’s mild Mediterranean climate, the Barossa’s cabernet and shiraz have earned acclaim around the world and sampling these drops for yourself is just one of the many reasons it’s worth booking flights to Adelaide and then making the drive up. To fully experience all that Barossa has to offer, make sure you stay for at least a weekend.
If you’re renting a car and are looking to plan a day trip that doesn’t have you travelling too far from the city, then set your sights on a visit to the Adelaide Hills. It is about a 30-minute drive east out of the centre of Adelaide and covers the southern Mount Lofty Ranges. Unlike some other wine regions in South Australia, the elevated altitude of the Adelaide Hills helps distinguish the cool-climate varietals produced here – think pinot noir and chardonnay. However, as the climate varies throughout the Hills, other grapes – riesling, pinot gris, cabernet franc, merlot – also flourish here. Some of the cellar doors to put on your visit wish list include Shaw + Smith, Petaluma, and Bird In Hand. The region also boasts a unique blend of German and English heritage dating back more than 175 years. Take a walk along the main streets of Hahndorf or Stirling to appreciate this legacy.
Continue heading south from the Adelaide Hills, further into the Fleurieu Peninsula, and you’ll soon cross into McLaren Vale. This wine region of South Australia is touted as where the vines meet the sea, making it a pleasing destination for all types. Shiraz is McLaren Vale’s best-known style, however winemakers also produce stellar grenache and cabernet. Plus, there are a handful of Mediterranean grapes grown here too, including fiano, sangiovese and tempranillo. Many of McLaren Vale’s cellar doors are attached to award-winning restaurants and eateries, so tastings can be followed by lazy lunches or afternoon charcuterie platters while overlooking views of endless vineyard. Hop between the food and wine offerings at Alpha Box & Dice, Hardys Tintara, Zontes Footstep, and d’Arenberg with its emblamatic Cube.
Love big, bold red wines? Coonawarra is the South Australian wine region for you. The terra rossa of this region, located on the Limestone Coast towards the SA border with Victoria, is renowned for its production of award-winning cabernet sauvignon. These grapes have been grown in the Coonawarra for more than 120 years and these now mature vines are responsible for producing wines jam-packed with those distinctive cab sav characteristics: tannin, body and palate. There are more than 25 cellar doors to visit along the famed Coonawarra Strip – Bowen Estate, Brand’s Laira Coonawarra and Katnook Estate included.
Wine Regions in Victoria
It’s impossible to speak about wine regions in Victoria without mentioning the Yarra Valley. It’s the oldest growing region in the state, with the earliest-planted vines dating back to 1838, and it continues to produce some of the country’s best-loved wines. The Yarra Valley is about a 40-minute drive out of Melbourne, meaning it is a popular day trip destination for out-of-towners. However, it is equally as popular with Melburnians. Some of the varietals the Yarra Valley is known for include its widely celebrated chardonnay and pinot noir, and oenophiles can plan their visit around the cellar doors of Oakridge Wines, TarraWarra Estate and Yarra Yering. There are also a collection of boutique cellar doors that are open by appointment only. A handful of estates offer accommodation if you like the idea of spending a night or two in the Yarra Valley.
Rutherglen is situated between the Victorian Alps and the Murray River. This wine region is particularly known for its muscat and durif, and many of Rutherglen’s estates continue to be family operated. Stop off at the cellar doors of Stanton & Killeen, De Bortoli, Scion Wine or All Saints Estate, and choose to sit down to a lazy lunch or grazing platter at an estate-attached restaurant. The drive from Melbourne to Rutherglen comes in at about three hours, so a trip to this wine region of Victoria certainly warrants an overnight or weekend-long stay.
The Mornington Peninsula is one of the most popular wine regions of Victoria, especially since it is less than an hours’ drive away from Melbourne. There are more than 50 cellar doors scattered around the Peninsula, offering visitors the chance to sample superb pinot noir, chardonnay, shiraz, pinot gris and more. These cellar doors aren’t one-trick ponies however and many have stellar food credentials too, such as the acclaimed menus at Port Philip Estate, Pt. Leo Estate, Montalto, Paringa Estate, and Polperro. A few hours spent discovering the flavours of the Mornington Peninsula will quickly affirm why this region is such a gourmet powerhouse; it would be near impossible to not find something that pleases any palate.
If you love your wine with a little bit of fizz, make for Prosecco Road in the King Valley. This stretch, in Victoria’s High Country, is one of King Valley’s calling cards; a string of winemakers that each produce excellent prosecco. Even though the first prosecco vines were only planted in 2000, the King Valley has a strong Italian influence – from the landscape, which wouldn’t look out of place in Northern Italy, to the Mediterranean-inspired wines and cuisines produced by the region’s locals. Follow Prosecco Road to each of its cellar doors (Dal Zotto, Brown Brothers, Pizzini, Sam Miranda and Chrismont) and swing past some of the region’s other estates, before jumping across to neighbouring Milawa for even more gourmet treasures.
Wine Regions in New South Wales
No matter if you’re planning a road trip from Sydney or are taking advantage of cheap flights from Sydney to Orange, this gorgeous regional city is definitely worth visiting. Orange is located about a three-and-a-half-hour drive from Sydney, in the Central Tablelands, and is full of fantastic, award-winning wineries. It is the region’s smattering of top-notch wineries (and eateries) that have earned it a burgeoning reputation as one of NSW’s best culinary hotspots. Patina is a family-owned estate that hosts exclusive wine-tasting experiences (bookings essential), or sample the cool-climate offerings at Brangayne of Orange. Other cellar doors in Orange to have on your radar include Printhie, Colmar Estate, Swinging Bridge and Cooks Lot.
The Hunter Valley is arguably the best-known wine region in New South Wales, if not Australia. Thanks in part to it being less than a two-hour drive from Sydney, the Hunter Valley is easily visited if you’re from interstate and are booking flights to Sydney. The signature wine of the Hunter Valley is its semillon, however winemakers in the area also produce excellent chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon, and verdelho. A hot air balloon ride over the vines is a popular Hunter Valley activity, but those who like to keep their feet on the ground can simply drive between stops – Audrey Wilkinson, Bimbadgen, Harkham Wines, Meerea Park Wines, and Tempus Two. The Hunter Valley isn’t short of magnificent eats either, so make a point to nab a table at the likes of The Church, Muse Restaurant, Margan Restaurant and The Cottage Scone.
The Canberra District covers an area that crosses the NSW/ACT border and has gone relatively under-the-radar for many Australian wine-drinkers. A new wave of winemakers has recently settled in the area, joining the ranks of seasoned growers, and producing an exceptional range of cool climate varietals, including viognier, pinot noir, riesling and more. Throughout the Canberra District, there are great small and boutique cellar doors to visit. Clonakilla is a family-run winery that is recognised for its limited quantity handcrafted wines; Four Winds Vineyard is the place for devouring wood-fired pizza while overlooking rows of vines; Lark Hill Biodynamic Winery produced Australia’s first gruner veltliner; and Shaw Wines is located less than 30 minutes’ drive from Canberra.
Wine Regions in Western Australia
Western Australia is home to one of Australia’s most iconic wine regions: Margaret River. While the first commercial vines were only planted in the late 1960s,Margaret River has been quick to make an impression on the world-wide wine industry. The area has several micro-climates, meaning that winemakers have flexibility to produce a range of styles: chardonnay, shiraz, cabernet sauvignon, riesling, and a multitude of blends. Make the Perth to Margaret River drive in about three hours and start mapping out your itinerary. Howard Park and Cape Mentelle should be high on the list, as should Leeuwin Estate, Cullen Wines, Vasse Felix and Lenton Brae. Exceptional cuisine goes hand-in-hand with Margaret River’s wine acclaim, and it’s worth booking a table in advance at your restaurant of choice. Given the distance of Margaret River from Perth, plan to spent a few days in the area to make the most of everything it has to experience.
The Swan Valley is only 25 minutes’ drive from Perth; a great destination if you want a delicious day out without venturing too far from the WA capital city. The region boasts more than 40 wineries, breweries and distilleries, and some of the highlights include Faber Vineyard, Mandoon Estate and Ugly Duckling Wines. The Swan Valley produces excellent examples of shiraz, grenache, verdelho and fortified muscat, plus some winemakers are also turning their hands to natural wines. So while the Swan Valley may not be the first that springs to mind when thinking about wine regions in Western Australia, its growing popularity and stellar offerings mean it might be time to add it to your list.
Wine Regions in Tasmania
The Tamar Valley is Tasmania’s top wine region. Located in the north-east of the Apple Isle, the Tamar Valley has more than 30 vineyards – and that count continues to grow. One of the best ways to get a taste of this wine region in Tasmania is to set out along the Tamar Valley Wine Trail. This route weaves between cellar doors and estates, such as Pipers Brook Vineyard, Penfolds, Josef Chromy Wines, and Dalrymple Vineyards. The grapes grown in the Tamar Valley go into elegant white styles like pinot gris, riesling and gewürztraminer. For the red wine drinker, the Tamar Valley delivers with award-winning pinot noir. Launceston is the closest big city to the Tamar Valley, however it is possible to drive from Hobart – about two-and-a-half-hours.
Wine Regions in Queensland
Queensland may be Australia’s Sunshine State and more frequently thought of for its coastal clout, but its wine scene is nothing to turn your nose up at. The Granite Belt in Southern Queensland is three hours’ drive from both Brisbane and the Gold Coast, and has the honour of being one of the only places in Queensland to experience four distinct seasons – a trait that serves the region’s vineyards well. The combination of cooler weather and granite-rich soils work to produce medium-bodied wines with varietals including cabernet sauvignon, barbera, and grenache shiraz mourvedre (GSM). There are almost 50 cellar doors around the Granite Belt, and Stanthorpe makes a great base if you want to explore the region over a couple of days.
South Burnett is one of the newest wine regions in Queensland, even though the first vines in the area were planted in the 1850s. Varietals grown and produced throughout South Burnett range from chardonnay and merlot, to sangiovese and verdelho. Those that make the drive west of Brisbane into the region can follow the South Burnett Wine Trail to become acquainted with the area’s cellar doors, vineyards and producers. The trail can be split into two sections (north and south), and some of its stops include Clovely Estate, Dusty Hill Winery, Taabinga Station and Barambah Cellars.