Five Lesser-Known Australian Wine Regions Frequented by Sommeliers
Not mentioned: Hunter Valley, Yarra Valley, Margaret River.
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Australia has some highly reputable wine regions producing top-notch whites and reds that give their European and American counterparts a run for their money. The Barossa, Hunter Valley, Margaret River — we all know and love these esteemed regions, but what about the lesser-known regions also killing it on the Australian viticulture scene? Unless you're a bona fide wine buff or a local of the region, we're assuming your Australian wine knowledge may not stretch past the ever-popular ones. So, we're here to broaden your knowledge of Australian wine. Here are five alternative wine regions in our fair country — may we suggest you tour them with a juicy red or crisp white (Australian, of course) in hand?
From pristine beaches and bountiful wine regions to alpine hideaways and bustling country towns, Australia has a wealth of places to explore at any time of year. We've partnered with Tourism Australia to help you plan your road trips, weekend detours and summer getaways so that when you're ready to hit the road you can Holiday Here This Year.
IF YOU LIKE THE HUNTER VALLEY: DISCOVER THE CANBERRA DISTRICT
Instead of heading three-ish hours north of Sydney to the historic Hunter Valley, why not use that time to head southeast to Canberra to discover a well-kept secret of award-winning wineries? Not just a region of politicians and government types, the Canberra District is also home to 140 vineyards, boasting a tight group of 40 wineries all within 35 minutes of the capital city. While in the Hunter you find savoury shiraz and dry semillon, in Canberra, wineries present their own take on shiraz by adding some spice — best represented by Clonakilla's shiraz viognier — and deliver dry whites in the form of touted crisp rieslings, like those from Helm Wines. Plus, these ACT wineries expand their offering to several other delicious cool-climate reds and whites including viognier, pinot noir and chardonnay. In early 2020, Samuel Leyshon from Mallaluka Wines was named in Young Gun of Wine's top 50 winemakers, so be sure to add his family-run boutique winery to your hit-list.
IF YOU LIKE THE YARRA VALLEY: DISCOVER THE KING VALLEY
The Yarra Valley is known and loved for its cooler-climate wines, celebrated vineyards and attractive sites that lure many visitors to the area. But off the beaten wine trail, northeast of the Yarra and away from the crowds, you'll find the 'Little Italy' of Australian wine production. King Valley is the epicentre of Italian farming and grape growing in Australia, and the resulting wine varieties, along with the surrounding Italian heritage, make the region a top spot to visit. Sangiovese and prosecco are the key players here, thanks to the strong Italian influence. With all this Italian epicurean culture around, it's incredibly easy to find a delicious meal to pair with these local wines. Take a trip down Prosecco Road and discover bubbles (and great eats) from the likes of Chrismont, with its cellar door and restaurant overlooking rolling vineyards, the famed Brown Brothers and its top-rated restaurant Patricia's Table, and Dal Zotto, run by Otto Dal Zotto, who first introduced prosecco to Australia.
IF YOU LIKE THE BAROSSA: DISCOVER THE RIVERLAND
With the largest collection of old vines in Australia, there's no doubt the prestigious Barossa is up there with the most impressive wine regions. But for those on the hunt for something edgy and truly different, neighbouring Riverland is one to watch. Think of Riverland as the hipster hub of Australian winemaking — it's known for organic drops and challenging those Aussie wine norms. Riverland growers and producers are working to change opinions on the region — it's long been associated with mediocre wines and bulk commercial sales. There's been a shift from your classic cabernet sauvignon, merlot, shiraz and chardonnay to lesser-known varieties, especially those that thrive in Riverland's warmer climate, like Sardinian vermentino, Sicilian nero d'avola and Abruzzan montepulciano. Along with alternative varieties, growers and producers have increased their organic output, quickly transforming the region into the place for organic viticulture. Leading the charge are wineries like small batch, handmade, vegan-friendly Delinquente (whose winemaker Con-Greg Grigoriou also made the Young Gun of Wine 2020 list), Whistling Kite with its award-winning montepulciano and Ricca Terra, which helped establish the Riverland Alternative Wine Group. It's time to jump on the Riverland bandwagon now, so you can say you were drinking its wines before it was cool.
IF YOU LIKE THE MARGARET RIVER: DISCOVER THE GREAT SOUTHERN
Founded in the 70s around the same time as neighbouring Margaret River, the Great Southern region has struggled to gain recognition like that of its celebrated sister region. It doesn't help that the region is pretty remote — and that it's massive — but you'd be a fool not to plan an adventure to the Great Southern, dubbed the most ideal wine-growing region in Western Australia. With many pockets of small, revered wineries producing some of the finest WA wines, not to mention visually stunning surrounds in every direction, the region is worth using up your precious annual leave for a proper visit. The Great Southern is so large that it's divided into sub-regions — Albany, Denmark, Frankland River, Mount Barker and Porongurup — with varied terroir allowing for a spectrum of wines. While its nearby sissy mainly grows bordeaux and chardonnay grapes, the Great Southern's repertoire extends to fantastic shiraz, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, riesling and a rare full-bodied sauvignon blanc. There's also a young but rich history in the region with the Great Southern vineyard pioneers still shining bright today, including Plantagenet Wines, Alkoomi, Galafrey and Forest Hill, the winery that planted the very first vineyard in the area.
IF YOU LIKE TASMANIA: DISCOVER TUMBARUMBA
Established only in the early 80s, Tumbarumba's vines are new kids on the block in comparison to Tasmania, a more established and sought-after sparkling wine region. But thanks to its cool climate and pure mountain air, the region produces some standout chardonnays (2016 was a good year) and pinot noirs — the two key grapes for good sparkling wines. Some oenophiles even go as far as drawing comparisons between the NSW region and France's Burgundy and Champagne. So, in case you haven't cottoned on, Tumbarumba is a region for those who love white, and especially those who love bubbles. However, there are still a few reds grabbing some much-deserved attention like Excelsior Peak's pinot noir. And though the fine Tumbarumba grapes are often sold to bigger wineries, there are still some producers keeping things local and opening their own cellar doors at the foot of the Snowy Mountains. Courabyra Wines is a favourite, winning best small cellar door in Gourmet Traveller Wine's 2019 awards. Tumbarumba, with Snowy Mountains peeking in the distance, gurgling streams and picturesque greenery, is a wine lover's fairy tale with crisp days, beautiful sights and remarkable wines.
Whether you're planning to travel for a couple of nights or a couple of weeks, Holiday Here This Year and you'll be supporting Australian businesses while you explore the best of our country's diverse landscapes and attractions.
Top image: Brown Brothers, King Valley
Published on May 14, 2020 by Quinn Connors