One of the more internationally recognised Australian wine regions, Barossa is about an hour north-east of Adelaide by car and is a fairly hot region producing very full-bodied reds, mostly from shiraz. However this is changing thanks to a new wave of producers who are putting in more work in the vineyards and picking earlier, producing slightly brighter, fresher and more approachable styles of wine. Shiraz and grenache are two of the key varieties.
A cooler-climate wine region thanks to the altitude and the influence of the sea, Adelaide Hills sits a short drive east of Adelaide. Key varieties include chardonnay and pinot noir which thrive due to the cooler temperatures and high diurnal range (the temperature difference between day and night). Shiraz also does well here, making a lighter and more perfumed style in comparison to the stereotypes of the Barossa.
A short distance south of Adelaide, McLaren Vale is a historic wine region and one which is still synonymous with classic Australian wine styles (not to discredit the selection of more modern wineries doing great things there!). It is a hot region and home to fantastic examples of shiraz, cabernet sauvignon and grenache in particular. D’Arenberg are one of the great names of the region but don’t miss Vanguardist who are at the forefront of innovation in McLaren Vale.
Technically the hottest but also wettest wine region in Australia, Hunter Valley is about two hours drive up the coast from Sydney and, at first glance, an odd place to grow grapes. Semillon thrives here, producing a wine style totally unique to this part of the world. Rains aren’t uncommon around autumn and so harvesting beforehand is key. Vintage variability can be a factor in the reds but in the best vintages shiraz from Hunter can be ethereal and utterly delicious.
Mornington Peninsula sits directly south of Melbourne, almost attached to the city. The southern tip of the peninsula is where a lot of the wealthiest of Melbourne have their second homes and many will pop into the various small wineries on the way to stock up. The climate is influenced by the ocean on three sides and the undulating hills make for different microclimates from one vineyard to the next. Somewhat Burgundian due to the cooler climate, chardonnay and pinot noir are very successful here and the prices can be somewhat inflated thanks to the wealthy local clientele.
The closest place to paradise you might ever visit. Margaret River is Australia’s most westerly wine region and a sort of oddly-shaped peninsula with the oceans on three sides having a significant moderating effect on the climate. Temperatures seldom get too extreme and the season is fairly long, meaning cabernet and chardonnay both do well here. The region is home to a disproportionately high number of Australia’s small fine-wine producers, making this an outstanding region for quality.
Doubtless the most-hyped region in Australia at the moment and one seeing significant new plantings and growth, Tasmania is a cool climate region seen by many as the future of Australian wine as things hot-up elsewhere. Chardonnay and pinot noir thrive and riesling can be well-worth keeping an eye out for too. The overall quality of wine production doesn’t quite live up to the hype at the moment, however a small number of producers are making truly outstanding wines – Dr Edge, Freycinet and Tolpuddle are the ones to watch currently.