The Adelaide Hills has a strong reputation as home to some of Australia’s most elegant cool climate wines. Displaying great finesse and varietal intensity in the glass, the folds and undulations of the Adelaide Hills create a wide range of micro-climates and as a consequence the vineyards tend to be small in area and often steep, meaning hand pruning and picking are a virtual necessity. The diversity of soil type and climate plays host to a range of grape varieties and wine styles. Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris and Grüner Veltliner find a natural home here, together with aromatic red varietals such as Pinot Noir.
The Clare Valley is one of Australia’s oldest wine regions, lying in the mid north of South Australia approximately 120km north of Adelaide. Within this idyllic, romantic terrain can be found some of the greatest names in Australian wine. Considered by many to offer the greatest concentration of premium Riesling in Australia, it is a cool-climate varietal-rich area capable of creating world-beating wines. Here, Riesling, Chardonnay, Fiano, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Tempranillo are cultivated to name but a few. Clare offers a delightfully modern take, retaining the freshness and structure of the Old World, but also adding a density and richness much more akin to the New. The best of both worlds? We think so!
Coonawarra is renowned as one of Australia’s finest wine regions and is particularly known for producing world class red wines especially Cabernet Sauvignon. Its secret lies in a magical marriage of rich red terra rossa soil, limestone, pure underground water and a long, cool ripening season for the grapes.
The Frankland River region in the south west of western Australia is the coolest and most remote wine-growing region in the country. Mediterranean in terms of its winter and spring rainfall, it has a continental influence with cold nights and warm days that create ideal conditions for growing quality wine grapes. Viticulture arrived here in the early 1970s and has flourished ever since. So very modern in its style and delivery, Frankland allows the full spectrum of cool climate aromatics and flavours to develop on the vine. Lending a delightfully Old World style to that of the New World, this region has so much to offer.
Geographe is an Australian wine region named after Geographe Bay in Western Australia. Located near the southern end of the state’s Indian Ocean coast, Geographe is wedged between the emerging Peel region and the famous Margaret River.
The seaside city of Bunbury is the hub of the Geographe region, and it is just south of here that prime viticulture area is found, cooled by the maritime influences of Geographe Bay. Further inland, the Collie river provides water resources for several Geographe wineries with vineyards scattered along the banks. Immediately to south is the Ferguson Valley, another of southern Western Australia’s emerging prime viticultural areas.
Geographe shares several similarities of its terroir with Margaret River. That being said, a lack of exposure to the cool waters of the Antartic Ocean to the south means that Geographe has a slightly hotter climate, leading to typically more powerful, fruit-driven wine styles. Summers are dry, with high rainfall throughout the winter creating high humidity levels forming a long growing season. Thankfully, these excessively warm temperatures are moderated by the sea breezes from the Indian Ocean to the west of which is much warmer than the neighbouring Antartic Ocean to the south.
The classic Geographe wines are, appropriately enough, the classic Western Australian wines. Fruity Cabernet Sauvignon (often blended with Merlot), gamey Shiraz, rich, citrusy Chardonnay, and grassy ‘SSB’ blends of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon make up the Geographe repertoire, with several wineries winning national and international awards for their wines every year.
At the heart of Western Australia’s rapidly developing wine industry, Geographe now supplies more than ten percent of the state’s total. The region’s annual crush has increased threefold over the past decade, with new plantings divided equally between the key varieties. Chardonnay remains king here, although it is now being challenged for surface area by Cabernet Sauvignon.
Regarded as one of the best-kept secrets in Australian viticulture, Langhorne Creek is one of Australia’s oldest and most significant wine regions. The area was founded on the broad flood plain influenced by the local Bremer and Angas Rivers and dominated by magnificent River Red Gums. Famed for the production of bold, intensely rich red varietals including Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Malbec, Langhorne Creek has also seen a great deal of success with Verdelho, Chardonnay and Fiano. From the region which produced the very first Jimmy Watson Trophy winner back in 1962, Langhorne Creek offers excellent value for money as the region is still largely undiscovered. But surely there is no time like the present?!
Since the first significant commercial planting of vines in 1967, the Margaret River wine region has built an international reputation as a true home of fine wine capable of achieving parity and more with the world’s best. It is hard to believe that just four decades ago Margaret River was better known for its various classic surf breaks, until scientists like Dr Gladstones identified it as a prime location for premium wine production. Highly regarded as a producer of powerful yet elegant Cabernet Sauvignon, the region has also forged a great reputation for its white wines notably Chardonnay and Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc blends. The region is a vibrant and popular wine destination for visitors from around the world.
About 15 miles due south of Adelaide in South Australia, McLaren Vale was one of South Australia’s first regions to be planted (in 1839); Tintara was the first commercial vineyard, planted in 1862. The red wine boom of the 1960s poured life into a multitude of small-to-medium sized wineries, mostly producing wines from Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon. In terms of terroir, the region is characterised by a predominantly warm, dry, temperate climate, despite the cooling presence of the Gulf of St Vincent. Good Shiraz and Cabernets tend to be a deep purple in colour, richly extracted with velvety, luxuriant dark berry, black pepper and chocolate flavours. Elsewhere in McLaren Vale, a raft of Italian varietals, both red and white, have been planted with some fantastic results.
Mount Barker is a small Australian wine sub-region at the heart of Great Southern, near the southern coastline of Western Australia. It is named after the small town at its centre, itself named after the nearby Mount Barker Hill five kilometres (3 miles) away.
There are a number of small, family-owned wineries here, but there is also growing interest from larger companies keen to add a unique ‘Mount Barker’ element to their wine portfolios. The area is generally held to be the birthplace of Western Australia’s modern wine industry in the 1960s.
The Mount Barker climate is of Mediterranean type, moderated by the mass of the Southern Ocean, just 50 kilometres (30 miles) away. Vineyards of the region are found planted at elevations of around 150 to 300 meters (500 to 1,000 feet) around the Mount Barker hill itself.
This altitude offers protection from the hot temperatures in the summer and frost protection in the spring. The regular sea breeze also offers heat relief and has certainly contributed to the style and quality of locally grown wines.
Mount Barker has only a relatively small output of wine every vintage, but is known for the high quality of its cool-climate varieties: Riesling, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Riesling is the white wine specialty here, with its crisp, citrusy style matched in few Australian regions outside Eden and Clare.
The cool nights and mineral soils are given credit for this fresh style – the former a relief after hot summer days, the latter a characteristic of the wider region best shown in the hills of neighbouring Porongurup.
Despite the current focus being on cool-climate styles of Riesling and Pinot Noir, the standard Australian favourites – Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Chardonnay – are also widely grown. Great Southern Shiraz often has a distinctly earthy, peppery, spiced cherry element, reminiscent of the northern Rhône.
In general, local winemakers tend to use less vanillin-imparting American oak than their opposite numbers in the east of Australia, which permits this style to shine through.
The Murray Darling wine region is an important but little known contributor to Australian wine. It comprises large tracts of irrigated land in the south-west corner of New South Wales and the north-west of Victoria. Australia’s two great rivers, the Murray and the Darling, converge just near Mildura and much of the surrounding land has been used for various irrigated crops since the 1890s. Here, a great deal of innovation and experimentation in the vineyard has paid huge dividends for educated and committed grape growers. Value can be found in abundance as can richly-flavoured, characterful wines – a fine selection of which are available here.
Orange is a wine region located west of Sydney in New South Wales. It has a wide range of elevation (between 376 to 1390m above sea level) which greatly effects the climate. Overall, mild to warm mean temperatures are offset by cool nights during the growing season.
The main varieties grown in the region are Shiraz, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon.
The Barossa is undoubtedly Australia’s best-known wine region, encapsulating the sub-regions of the sun-kissed Barossa Valley and the cool climate Eden Valley. Famed for its old vines and bold reds; and from Eden Valley some of Australia’s (and indeed the New World’s) greatest Riesling. Shiraz is the red variety synonymous with Barossa, with producers such as Henschke, Penfolds and St Hallet setting the standard for this varietal in Australia. With a strong European history, Barossa offers wines of concentration, affordability and varietal variation. With a move towards understanding the region’s distinct terroir, the Barossa Grounds project is an ongoing journey to investigate and articulate the diverse characteristics of the sub-regions or ‘parishes’ of the Barossa Valley and their influence on wine style, particularly Barossa Shiraz.
Western Australia is the largest State and spans the western third of the Australian continent, although the winemaking regions are almost entirely concentrated in the south-west and great southern land divisions of the State. Some regions are close to the Perth the State capital but most are located further south away from the metropolitan area. The regions include Blackwood Valley, Geographe, Great Southern, Peel, Pemberton, Manjimup, Margaret River and Swan District.
There is a history of wine production in Western Australia dating back to 1840 with the establishment of Sandalford in the Swan Valley region. The recognition of the fine wine possibilities started to be realised after the establishment of the Margaret River Region in 1967.
Three decades ago, Margaret River was better known for it’s various classic surf breaks but scientists like Dr. John Gladstones identified it as a prime location for premium wine production. This empirical perspective has driven the development of vineyards and wineries that have overcome the State’s geographic isolation and carved their mark around the world.
Margaret River has become known for its equally classic, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon to its unique Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc blends. The other regions also produce a diverse range of regionally distinct wines, from evocative Shiraz to a range of unique Cabernet Sauvignon blends.
Just east of Melbourne, in Victoria, is the wine region of Yarra Valley. It has one of the lowest mean January temperatures of the Victorian wine regions (18.9℃) and is one of the largest wine regions outside of Murray Darling – Swan Hill.
The Yarra Valley is a well-respected Australian wine region and at complete odds with the usual, hot and dry Shiraz-growing image of Australia, Yarra Valley is best known for its bright, complex wines made from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
One of Australia’s oldest and most celebrated wine regions, the earliest Yarra Valley vineyards were planted in 1838. Development continued apace for the next 50 years, so that by the 1880s wine production here was in full swing.