Pizzini Wines, King Valley, Victoria © Pizzini Wines
Iconic Australian wines and where to try them
From earthy shiraz to crisp chardonnay, Australia has a style of wine to suit every palate.
By Lindy Alexander
Did you know Australia has more than 2,460 wineries in 65 wine regions throughout the country? From coastal vineyards and cool-climate estates to charming cellar doors cocooned in verdant valleys, each region produces a style and vintage you’re sure to love. Here are the most iconic Australian wines and the best places to try them.
Where: The Yarra Valley, a one-hour drive north-east of Melbourne.
Victoria’s oldest wine region has been bottling the good stuff since 1838, with Yarra Valley winemakers more recently embracing the resurgence in interest in a lighter, less oaky style of chardonnay. Floral and citrus notes are common in the chardonnays from this region and match well with white fish and seafood.
How to experience it: You can’t go wrong with a refreshing, zippy chardonnay from Yering Station in Yering.
Many of the Mornington Peninsula’s wineries also have excellent restaurants, such as Pt. Leo Estate and Willow Creek Vineyard.
Where: The Mornington Peninsula, a one-hour drive south of Melbourne.
Curling down around Port Phillip Bay, with French Island and Philip Island to the east, the scenic Mornington Peninsula is home to over 200 small-scale vineyards and more than 50 cellar doors. While pinot noir is traditionally big and bold, what makes the Peninsula’s pinots unique is the level of delicate restraint, which results in earthy yet elegant wines.
How to experience it: In Merricks, try Stonier Wines’ Merron’s Vineyard Pinot Noir – a single vineyard wine with vibrant aromas of cherry, cranberry and rose.
Where: The King Valley, a three-hour drive north-east of Melbourne.
In the foothills of Victoria’s Alpine National Park, the picturesque and history-steeped King Valley is home to generations of Italian migrants who brought with them their knowledge and passion for Mediterranean-inspired wines. Prosecco from the King Valley, once a bushranger hideout, is known for its fresh, crisp palate.
How to experience it: Five prosecco wineries have formed the King Valley Prosecco Road, a food and wine trail that takes in Dal Zotto, Brown Brothers, Chrismont, Pizzini, and Sam Miranda. Salute! (Cheers!)
Where: The Hunter Valley, a three-hour drive north of central Sydney.
Australia’s oldest wine region (with 150 cellar doors to discover), the Hunter Valley’s warm, humid climate produces outstanding semillons, known for their crisp, zesty profiles that pair perfectly with seafood. The variable climate means winemakers in these misty rolling hills are constantly evolving their techniques to pay homage to traditional styles of winemaking, but also exploring modern flavour profiles.
How to experience it: Tyrrell’s Wines – a vineyard and cellar door established in Pokolbin in 1858 where the semillon is a standout.
Where: The Barossa Valley, a one-hour drive north of Adelaide.
With more than 150 wineries and 80 cellar doors, the Barossa is one of Australia’s most famous wine-growing areas. Despite having a history of winemaking dating back to 1842, it wasn’t until the 1980s that the region began turning heads at home and abroad for its shiraz, which is known for being full-bodied with remarkable spiced, dark fruit flavours.
How to experience it: Penfolds Magill Estate is a must-visit for wine lovers. Look out for the 2018 Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz, a robust, generous bright-fruited traditional style wine.
The Coonawarra wine region on South Australia’s Limestone Coast is also known for its superb cabernet sauvignon. Try it at Bowen Estate.
Where: Margaret River, a three-hour drive south of Perth.
With around 200 wineries, this stunning coastal region dotted with idyllic beaches produces a quarter of Australia’s premium wines. While its cabernet sauvignon is often compared to Bordeaux, Margaret River cabernet sauvignon is heady with unique aromas like eucalyptus, currants and sea spray.
How to experience it: Using French oak barriques (wine barrels), the 2017 cabernet sauvignon from Moss Wood in Wilyabrup has a complex, toasty bouquet of plum, violet and cherries.
Where: McLaren Vale, a 45-minute drive south of Adelaide.
McLaren Vale is the iconic birthplace of South Australia’s wine industry and the region has more than 80 wineries. The water-cooled climate makes it Australia’s leading area for producing grenache – a medium-bodied red wine that relies on the purity of the fruit.
How to experience it: High on a hill overlooking McLaren Vale is d’Arenberg – one of South Australia’s most established and inventive wineries. Their Derelict Vineyard Grenache carries the classic flavours of blueberry, liquorice and spice. The striking on-site d’Arenberg Cube has tasting rooms, a wine museum and a restaurant.
Where: The Tamar Valley, a 30-minute drive north-west of Launceston.
Tasmania’s mild summers and long autumn days are ideal for cool-climate winemaking. The fertile land of the Tamar Valley, which stretches 60 kilometres (37 miles) north from Launceston to Bass Strait alongside the Tamar River, produces some of the world’s best sparkling wine. In recent years, Tasmanian sparkling has received numerous prestigious national and international awards. Taste and find out why.
How to experience it: Moores Hill in Sidmouth makes superb NV Sparkling Blanc de Noir, which is made and aged for seven years using traditional French methods.
Where: Canberra District wine region, a 30-minute drive north and northeast of central Canberra.
Encompassing the northern part of the Australian Capital Territory and a swath of wineries across the border in New South Wales (including the Yass Valley), the cool-climate Canberra District wine region is so well known for its riesling that each year it holds the largest single varietal wine show in the Southern Hemisphere. The brisk acidity, crisp palate and high aroma of its riesling ensure it is highly sought-after.
How to experience it: Helm Wines, in Murrumbateman, specialise in creating clean, fresh and citrusy wine – try the 2019 Helm Classic Dry Riesling.