New South Wales is not only home to Australia’s oldest wine region, the Hunter Valley, but also 11 other distinct regions – both cool and warm climate – where grapes are grown. From the rolling countryside of the Hilltops to the South Coast, discover the state's diverse vineyards and cellar doors.
Despite its name, the cool-climate region surrounding Canberra is actually NSW soil. Taste your way around the dreamy Yass Valley, which is not only home to award-winning cellar doors but also restaurants you’ll want to linger in, not to mention producers specialising in the likes of truffles. Come here in winter to be part of a truffle hunt.
In NSW’s Central West, Cowra’s 40 vineyards are the ideal destination for a delicious escape. The bucolic countryside of neat vines is tended by makers who champion sustainable viticulture, creating organic and biodynamic wines that you can sip at cellar doors or in pubs and restaurants throughout the region’s historic villages. Chardonnay is the hero with its ripe peach and melon highlights.
Northwest of Canberra in southern NSW, the Hilltops region is known for its plump cherries and juicy stonefruit. This part of the state – which includes Young and the towns of Harden and Boorowa – is one of the most exciting emerging wine districts in NSW.
The indecisive will not know which direction to look when landing in the Hunter Valley, a bucolic pocket of the state home to more than 150 cellar doors, not to mention boutique restaurants and providores. Australia’s oldest wine region, the Hunter Valley has forged an international reputation for acclaimed wines, from distinguished semillon and classic shiraz to emerging varieties.
Around 300 kilometres inland from the Hunter, Mudgee is home to some of Australia’s oldest vineyards, as well as the nation’s highest. With a history of winemaking that dates back to the 1850s and more than 40 family-owned boutique wineries, this may well be the ideal destination for a wine weekend. The area’s temperate climate allows for the slow ripening of grapes creating intense flavours in varietals including shiraz, cabernet sauvignon, merlot and chardonnay.
The New England region may be the youngest of its kind in the state, but it’s catching up to other NSW stalwarts with more than 40 vineyards now under its belt. The verdant region is home to award-winning cool climate wines, craft breweries and distilleries, not to mention rolling fields of delicious fresh produce.
Some 250 kilometres northwest of Sydney, Orange is a dreamy union of vines, deciduous trees (hello, leaf-peeping) and upscale restaurants. The drops here take home global awards – deservedly, as you’ll discover while savouring a glass or two at one of the 60 vineyards. A high altitude, rich volcanic soil and passionate craftsmanship make for distinctive drops.
The Riverina is in the heart of Australia’s food bowl, home to some of Australia’s biggest (and most well-known) wine producers and companies – in fact, 60 per cent of the state’s wine grapes are grown here. Italian heritage is strong, with many vintners growing grapes that hark back to the motherland and stay true to blending traditions. There are more than 15 wineries with cellar doors – be sure to taste the region’s acclaimed botrytis semillon, with over 20 different varieties produced.
Temperatures can soar in the Murray River region in the south of the state. The heat makes for some very interesting wines. This is the second-largest wine-producing region in Australia, and grapes have been grown here for more than 130 years, many along the banks of the river – you can even take a paddlesteamer cruise and stop off for a tasting at a winery and brewery. Meanwhile, the small grape-growing region of Perricoota, just northwest of Echuca Moama, is becoming known for its shiraz, cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay varietals. Take the guesswork out of your visit by following the Echuca Moama Food and Wine Trail, linking purveyors.
The Shoalhaven region of the NSW South Coast tastes as good as it looks. Enjoy delicious oysters plucked straight from the estuary, sample fresh produce at local restaurants and pick up gourmet treats from providores. Oh, and then prepare for the wine poured at the dozen or so vineyards across the region.
The Southern Highlands is the closest grape-growing region to Sydney, just 120 kilometres south of the city. Vintners here like to experiment with alternative cool-climate varietals, like arneis, lagrein and refosco, alongside pinot noir, pinot gris and traditional method sparkling wines. There are more than 60 vineyards and 15 cellar doors to see on a wine-tasting tour. Jump aboard with The Grape Escape or Highlands Food and Wine Tours.
You’re well and truly in the Snowy Mountains here, so expect stellar cool-climate wines. Sample outstanding cab sav and shiraz, as well as fruit-forward semillon and pinot gris. Then settle in beside a fire to enjoy a paddock-to-plate meal – many cellar doors come with restaurants – or check in to accommodation of the farmstead chalet kind.
Destination NSW acknowledges and respects Aboriginal people as the state’s first people and nations and recognises Aboriginal people as the Traditional Owners and occupants of New South Wales land and water.