Four places to taste NSW’s best cool climate wines
Whether you’re a fan of sparkling, chardonnay or pinot noir, these four pockets of NSW showcase cool climate wines in full flavour.
The neat aisles of grapevines that characterise the Hunter Valley and Mudgee often steal the NSW wine spotlight. And for good reason – they deliver some of Australia’s most memorable vineyards and cellar doors. But venture beyond these regions and you’ll discover the elegant sparkling, chardonnay and pinot noir varietals that characterise the state’s cool climate regions, whether in Orange, the Southern Highlands, the Snowy Mountains and Hilltops, or the Canberra District.
The Orange region may only be 250km west of Sydney, but you’ll feel like you’ve been transported to another world when you arrive.
This postcard-perfect patch of countryside is all rolling hills and ravishing vines – the diverse terroir nurturing an equally distinct portfolio of wine styles. Shiraz, chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon are heroes, but visit any cellar door and it’s likely you will sip stellar merlot, sauvignon blanc, pinot noir and pinot gris, with prosecco plantings also increasingly popular.
Vineyards here dot the mineral-rich contours of extinct volcano Mt Canobolas, your backdrop when you arrive at Swinging Bridge. This elevated estate makes exceptional pinot noir and chardonnay, which you can savour with a cheese platter – ideally in the sun while sprawled on a picnic rug amid the vines. It’s a similar view at Hoosegg, where vintner Philip Shaw produces wines with whimsical names such as Magic Monkey Shiraz (a standout) and Sorry for the Slow Reply Rosé. Shaw took on the estate as a “retirement” project, handing over the reins of his original and pioneering Philip Shaw Wines to his sons, Daniel and Damien. The dreamy landscape on the brothers’ property revolves around a historic bluestone barn, where you can enjoy flights of Daniel’s heavily awarded wines. Or book in for harvest masterclasses and vintage dinners showcasing the work of some of the state’s top chefs.
If you can’t tear yourself away before nightfall – and who could blame you? – check in to one of the suites or cottages at Borrodell. This bucolic patch offers plenty of reasons to linger, from the forest of oak trees producing black Perigord truffles, to the wide selection of tipples, the usual varietals complemented by cherry port and heritage apple cider. Borrodell’s other draw is Sisters Rock Restaurant, which overlooks pinot noir vines and serves set-course meals that showcase regional produce, with Asian overtones.
Tumbarumba & Hilltops
On the western edge of the Snowy Mountains, Tumbarumba is surrounded by peaks that draw winter-sports enthusiasts in the cooler months and wine aficionados year-round.
The rich, granite soils nurture the region’s vines, and undulations of chardonnay, pinot noir, pinot gris and riesling cut a striking form across the countryside.
Chardonnay and sparkling wines are highlights, and you can savour bright, fresh interpretations at Courabyra Wines. Order a ploughman’s platter and a glass of bubbles on the balcony, or sit down to slow-cooked pork ribs and homemade pot pies in the restaurant. Find a bottle you fancy from the cellar door and later retire to Johansen Wines’ Glenburnie Cottage, replete with a cosy wood-burning fire and space to sleep six.
About two hours’ drive north, the Hilltops region is traditionally known for its cherries, but grapes also flourish here with the fruit transformed into cool climate wines you won’t forget in a hurry. These include the Italian-inspired vintages on offer at Freeman Vineyards, where (by appointment) you can sip creamy prosecco, rich and fruity nebbiolo and spicy sangiovese, among others.
From there, you’re within easy reach of Grove Estate Wines, where the cellar door’s intimacy is contrasted with the boldness of flavours in your glass. Settle in for a tasting flight paired with a gourmet platter, then take away your favourite bottles along with produce – think honey, jam and cheese – from local growers and makers.
Just a 90min drive south-west of Sydney, the Southern Highlands is known for its glorious seasonal gardens, charming historic towns and seriously tasty cool climate grapes.
This is the closest wine region to Australia’s largest city, and it delivers memorable experiences to quench almost every thirst. Begin your explorations outside Bowral at Centennial Vineyards, a vast estate specialising in sparkling vintages – eight await your sampling. We recommend choosing a standout then ordering a bottle over high tea in the restaurant.
Also in the neighbourhood is Tractorless Vineyard, which embraces biodynamic principles in the crafting of its specialty riesling, pinot gris and chardonnay varietals. Grab a table in the courtyard at The Mill in Bowral, where the new Tractorless tasting room also stocks ales from the Bowral Brewing Company, which means you can enjoy a guided wine, beer and cider flight.
Set your GPS for Berrima – the best-preserved Georgian village in Australia – to discover PepperGreen Estate, its cellar door and restaurant occupying a handsome, former antiques store. The Wine & Canapés experience here reveals the estate’s spectrum of grapes, your drinks paired with bites that express the Southern Highlands in a mouthful. Also on the outskirts of Berrima, the grand Georgian homestead and stables at Bendooley Estate are enveloped by manicured gardens and vines. Linger in seriously stylish cottages with lake views, then wander between the cellar door, farm-to-table restaurant and on-site Berkelouw Book Barn, packed to the rafters with rare and glossy tomes.
Sparkling, pinot gris and chardonnay are all on the menu at Artemis, but where this boutique winery really excels is in its pinot noir and spirits – the estate distils distinctive gin and rum. Perhaps the only thing better than a tasting by the fire in winter is pizza and mezze platters enjoyed on the lawn, overlooking the Mittagong countryside, when the weather warms.
While the Canberra District wine region is named for Australia’s capital, most of the grapes cultivated here are actually grown in NSW.
Three hours’ drive from Sydney, the towns surrounding the ACT – think Murrumbateman and Yass – are the gateway to more than 20 boutique vineyards, not least the pioneering Helm Wines. Ken Helm has been making outstanding riesling and cabernet sauvignon since 1973, welcoming visitors to his National Trust-listed cellar door with a wealth of knowledge. He has passed on his talent for winemaking to daughter Stephanie, who opened her own winery, The Vintner’s Daughter, and now takes home awards for her minimal-intervention, terroir-focused wines, including riesling, syrah, pinot noir and shiraz viognier.
Winemaking traditions have also been passed down through the generations at family-owned Clonakilla, where the brand’s collection of distinctive handcrafted wines finds competition only in the beauty of its pastoral setting. The Kirks are known for their small-batch shiraz viognier, chardonnay, pinot noir and riesling varietals, which they showcase in a light-filled cellar door crafted from local stone and timber. Not much beats sipping a glass of something delicious by the open fire, an activity also on offer at nearby Lark Hill Winery. Chardonnay, riesling and pinot noir grapes thrive in the countryside surrounding this estate, beautifully expressed in bottles like the sparkling brut – which is rich, creamy and yet refreshing. After a cellar-door tasting, journey into the restaurant to pair a pinot with slow-roasted duck or pumpkin ravioli.