Australia is known throughout the world as a nation of beer drinkers, but in recent times it's come to prominence as a world-class wine producer.
With its fertile soils and diverse climates, Australia has the perfect conditions to create a wide range of wines. These include traditional varieties such as peppery shirazes and crisp chardonnays, and contemporary blends. All six states and both territories have thriving wine industries, although most of Australia's wineries are located in its south-eastern quarter.
South Australia, New South Wales, and Victoria are home to Australia's oldest wine regions. The Barossa Valley, Hunter Valley, and Yarra Valley were integral to the development of the modern day industry, and continue to produce some of Australia's finest wines today. These historical regions paved the way for newer wine regions around their states. Today wine buffs are savoring the exciting new wines from Mudgee and the Murrambidgee Valley in New South Wales, the Southern Vales and Riverland in South Australia, and Victoria's Rutherglen. At last count, Australia was thought to have around 60 recognized wine regions.
Taking a closer look at Australia's key wine regions allows you to truly appreciate the diversity of the nation's wine industry.
The most obvious starting place is the Barossa Valley, a contender for Australia's greatest wine destination. This region to the northeast east of South Australia's capital, Adelaide, is a leading producer of warm climate wines. The Valley's German heritage shines through in its production of fine rieslings. The Barossa is also renamed for its full bodied shirazes and cabernets. Penfolds, Jacob's Creek, and Wolf Blass are some of the largest wine labels based in the Barossa Valley.
The winemakers of the Hunter Valley may dispute the Barossa Valley's accolades. This sprawling region, located an hour north of Sydney in New South Wales, has just as much history and warm weather as its South Australian rival. The Valley's award-winning wineries and small boutiques produce zesty semillons and robust shirazes. Wyndham Estate Wines, McGuigan Cellars, and Robyn Drayton Wines are some of the Hunter Valley's historic wineries.
Australia's famed for its sunshine, but the country's wine regions reveal the true diversity of its climate. Victoria's Yarra Valley is an outstanding example of a cool-climate wine region. This area north of the state's capital, Melbourne, is blamed for its production of pinot noirs and pinot gris. Sample the region's trademarks at Yering Farm Wines, St Huberts Vineyards, and Bianchet Wines.
The Barossa is not the only wine region around Adelaide. Travelers with time to spare love to explore the wineries surrounding South Australia's capital. To the south east there's the Coonawarra, a cool climate region featuring unusual terra rossa soil. This helps the region produce earthy reds. Rich cabernet sauvignons and spicy shirazes are the Coonawarra's specialties. Award-winning labels like Wynns, Yalumba, and Penfolds have all established vineyards in the region to take advantage of its unique conditions.
To the north of Adelaide wine tourists will find the Clare Valley. This expansive cool climate area is actually made up of four interconnecting valleys: the Clare, the Polish River, Watervale, and Skillogallee. Here visitors will find an elegant range of white wines, including mellow rieslings, oaky chardonnays, and smooth semillons. Taylor's Wines, Annie's Lane, and the historic Sevenhill Cells are all proudly based in the Clare Valley.
The consumption of wine is entrenched in the Australian way of life, whether it's giving a bottle as a gift or sharing a couple of glasses with friends over a meal. And Australians enjoy sharing their wines with the world. You might expect Australia's isolation would deter many international wine tourists, but the lure of warm weather and affordable premium wines ensures many travelers make the trip "Down Under" every year.