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Five Lesser-Known Australian Wine Regions Frequented by Sommeliers

Not mentioned: Hunter Valley, Yarra Valley, Margaret River.
By Quinn Connors
April 12, 2017

Five Lesser-Known Australian Wine Regions Frequented by Sommeliers

Not mentioned: Hunter Valley, Yarra Valley, Margaret River.
By Quinn Connors
April 12, 2017

in partnership with

The Barossa, Hunter Valley, Margaret River – 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. 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 Yarra, Hunter, Barossa, Margaret River and Tassie. Before Aussie Wine Month kicks off in May, we've partnered with Wine Australia 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.

Clonakilla Wines.


Instead of heading three-ish hours north of Sydney to the historic Hunter Valley, why not use that time to head south-east 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 33 wineries all within 35 minutes of the capital city. While in the Hunter you find savoury Shiraz and unique, dry Semillon, in Canberra, wineries present their own take on the savoury Shiraz by adding some spice — best represented by Clonakilla's iconic 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. Apparently 2015 was a record year for Canberra's Shiraz, so you'll want to make a stop at Clonakilla, as well as Mount Majura, to have a sip of their winning Shiraz before it disappears.

Wines of 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, north-east 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 varietals, 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 their top-rated restaurant, Patricia's Table, and Dal Zotto, run by Otto Dal Zotto, who first introduced Prosecco to Australia. Plan a trip to Italy for a fraction of the airfare and discover the King Valley in all its gourmet glory.

Delinquente Wines.


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 unique, edgy and truly different, neighbouring Riverland is one to watch. Think of Riverland as the hipster hub of Australian winemaking — it's organic, challenging those Aussie wine norms and it's about to start trending hard (you saw it here first). 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 varietals, 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, Whistling Kite with its award-winning Montepulciano and Ricca Terra Farms, who helped establish the Riverland Alternative Wine Group. It's time to jump on the Riverland bandwagon now, so you can say you were drinking their wines before they were cool.

Tourism Western Australia / Forest Hill Winery.


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 — eight times larger than Margaret River — but you'd be a fool to not plan an adventure to the Great Southern, dubbed the most ideal wine-growing region in West Australia. With many pockets of small, revered wineries producing some of the finest West Australian 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 — 150 x 100 km — 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 it's nearby sissy mainly grows Bordeaux and Chardonnay grapes, the Great Southern's repertoire extends to fantastic Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Riesling and unique, 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.


Established only in the early eighties, 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 ingredients for a good sparkling wine. 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, it took home the NSW Best Sparkling Wine 2015 award for their 2002 Courabyra "805". Tumbarumba, with Snowy Mountains peeking in the distance, gurgling streams and picturesque greenery, is a wine-lovers fairy tale with crisp days, beautiful sights and remarkable wines.

Celebrate all types of Australian wine by getting involved with Aussie Wine Month over May — there will be events and tasting opportunities all over the country.

Published on April 12, 2017 by Quinn Connors

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