Forget France and Italy, Australia's wines more than stand up to the big boys of the industry and have fun while doing it.
By Sophie McComas for Australian Traveller
Australia’s landscape is as rich as a painter’s palette, undulating from luscious green valleys and salt-licked coastlines to mountainous terrains and dry, golden plains. This diversity is reflected in its vineyards too, each wine region (there are over 60 recognized in Australia) speaking volumes of its own terroir - the soil and surroundings which make it unique from the next.
Whether it’s a sprawling, manicured estate with a world-class restaurant, or a boutique tasting room (cellar door) with a chugging wood-fired pizza oven, Australia’s wineries offer wines filled with personality and passion.
Interested in some add-ons? Cellar doors are rounded out by craft breweries and distilleries, galleries, live music and enough cafes and restaurants to set you up for a gastronomic adventure to remember for a lifetime.
Tucked into the isolated southwest corner of Western Australia sits Margaret River, where visitors are spoiled with surf and sand, fabulous food (time your visit around the Western Australia Gourmet Escape in November) and Chardonnay that is rich, buttery and utterly unforgettable.
Margaret River is made up of six sub-regions; Wilyabrup, Yallingup, Karridale, Wallcliffe, Treeton and Carbunup, which are roughly defined by their differences in soil. To make sure you don't miss anything, follow the three-day Margaret River Wine Trail taking in experienes at the wineries of Vasse Felix, Leeuwin Esate and Voyager Estate and staying at Cape Lodge, one of Australia's most celebrated vineyard lodges.
Sheltered beaches, wind-swept bluffs, salty plains and rich soils make South Australia a one-stop shop for travellers, the best bit being that some of its most exciting wine regions are just a short 30-minute zoom from Adelaide, the state’s capital.
Rich Italian roots and a matching Mediterranean climate are on show in coastal McLaren Vale, where crisp white varieties such as Fiano and Vermentino sit alongside Australian classic reds, Shiraz and Grenache. Don’t miss Oliver’s Taranga Vineyard’s famous porchetta parties, or a visit to d’Arenberg’s famous arty Wine Cube which explores all the ways wine influences our senses, or a tour of Wirra Wirra's biodynamic vineyards.
Just outside the city lie the Adelaide Hills and Basket Range, ground zero for the experimental natural wine scene, where young winemakers use wild yeast and skin-contact fermentation to add texture and looseness to their production - check out Ochota Barrels. But there are the established greats to explore too, and you should indulge in a tour, tasting and lunch at Penfolds Magill Estate or linger at The Lane Vineyard's Chef's Table lunch.
No visit to South Australia is complete without swinging by the Barossa Valley, home to Australian culinary Maggie Beer, and a swathe of other top food producers. Head to some of the country's oldest estates such as Jacob's Creek and Henschke. Fill your suitcase with Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache and Shiraz, and drink your 'year of birth' vintage tawny at Seppeltsfield Wines.
Victoria’s wine regions may be smaller in size, but don’t underestimate their potential. Cool-climate Yarra Valley has many different grape varieties and it’s also close to Melbourne (about an hour’s drive). Stock up on vibrant sparkling at Domaine Chandon, silky Pinot Noir and Chardonnay at Oakridge.
The Mornington Peninsula’s rolling hills and ocean views are home to plush hotels, contemporary art collections and ultra-modern restaurants; Montalto has a 30-piece sculpture trail that winds its way among the vines.
The Hunter Valley pumps with tourists year-round, which can either be a bit claustrophobic, or a whole lot of fun depending on your outlook. Everyone from Shania Twain to Florence and the Machine light up stages at big-budget concerts in the area each summer, and there are golf courses and spas galore.
Aside from the entertainment, a visit to the Hunter is a chance to sample the wines of some of Australia’s big and oldest names, such as Tyrrell’s Wines, Brokenwood Wines, Mount Pleasant Wines and Tulloch Wines.
This is the region for Shiraz and Semillon - both of which evolve beautifully in the cellar, but on the other end of the spectrum, the smaller region of Mudgee, 162 miles northwest of Sydney, is ideal for those who prefer a slower pace as well as cool-climate Rieslings and fantastic food.
Tasmania's cool climate results in wines with crip brightness and elegance – especially sparkling and Pinot Noir.
For something unique, go fly fishing at Josef Chromy Winery, 2.5 hours' drive from Hobart.
In Queensland, the town of Stanthorpe is home to more than 40 wineries producing over 20 'Strange Birds', wines made from alternative grap varieties like Sylvaner, Nero D'Avola and Petit Verdot.
If you’re trundling through the vines near Hobart, point yourself towards a bar stool at Franklin in the heart of the city. Chef Analiese Gregory sources only the best hyper-local produce, seafood and whole beasts for her open kitchen - at the center of which is a hefty wood-fired Scotch oven. She pickles, ferments and makes her own cheese, too.
30 Argyle Street, Hobart, Tasmania
Lost in a Forest, Adelaide Hills
This temple to minimal-intervention wine owned by winemaker Taras Ochota is fittingly set inside an old church in the heart of the Hills. The best bottles from natural winemakers nearby are on pour, as well as a few favourites from across the globe. Hungry? Wood-fired pizzas span from classic margherita to the imaginative (think one topped with the flavors of Vietnamese banh mi). Check out Lost in a Forest.
1203 Greenhill Road, Uraidla, South Australia
d’Arenberg Cellar Door and Wine Cube
You’ll spot winemaker Chester Osborne’s shiny Wine Cube a mile away, looming over the Mourvedre vines at d’Arenberg. Inside, a vinous adventure awaits the senses. Explore the wine sensory room, virtual fermenter, art, and tasting bar, all complemented by views that stretch for miles over the McLaren Vale landscape.
Osborn Road, McLaren Vale, South Australia
Four Pillars Distillery, Yarra Valley
How about a palate cleanser in the form of handcrafted gin? Four Pillars Distillery is the place. Take a tour between the traditional copper stills or take a flight through their collection, including gins steeped with ruby red Yarra Valley shiraz grapes, Christmas pudding or Scandinavian-inspired botanicals.
2a Lilydale Road, Healesville, Victoria
Laura at Point Leo Estate, Mornington Peninsula
Pt Leo truly encapsulates the word “estate”. This $50 million winery, restaurant and sculpture park is jaw-dropping, with the glittering sea sitting visible just beyond the 50-acre property’s edge. Laura is an intimate fine dining option, with set menus of four, five or six courses of chef Phil Wood’s exceptional, intricate food available.
3649 Frankston-Flinders Road, Merricks, Victoria