Whether you’re a fan of rich, fruity reds or crisp, bubbly whites, there is no disputing the fact that Australasia has it all when it comes to wine. Travellers that make the long journey to this corner of the Southern hemisphere are rewarded with almost 100 wine regions, each of which produces its own range of distinct and often award-winning flavours.
While France may have coveted the role as the world’s finest wine maker for many decades, in the last 20 years Australia and New Zealand have gained a tremendous amount of ground and now compete with the offerings of Bordeaux and Côtes du Rhones on an equal footing. So, let your senses be intoxicated as we take you on a virtual tour of some of Australasia’s finest wine regions and vineyards.
South Australia’s Barossa Valley
This pocket of South Australia is widely recognised as one of the country’s finest wine-producing regions. It is home to over 150 wineries, so visitors can never travel too far without having the opportunity to step through a cellar door to sample the local delights. The magic of Barossa’s vino comes from the area’s unique growing conditions, and diversity is one of its main attractions. For example, while the Eden Valley is known for its unmistakeable cool climate varieties, the warmer low-lying areas are celebrated for Barossa’s iconic Shiraz. Jacob’s Creek is one of the local brands that’s now made a name for itself across the globe, and was the first commercial vineyard in the region. A multitude of wine trails criss-cross the region, and as the area is also known for its fresh, artisan-produced foods, visitors can look forward to gorging themselves on Barossa handmade cheeses as well.
Western Australia’s Margaret River
Cross over to Western Australia and you will be treated to an entirely different kind of vino. The culinary journey across this region is just as rewarding as the vineyard adventure, with local organic beef, artisan cheeses and even handmade chocolates scoring highly amongst the favourites. There are more than enough tipples to choose from as the region is home to more than 120 wine producers. Western Australia’s wine reputation is based mainly on the cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay produced around the Margaret River, although sémillon, sauvignon blanc, merlot and shiraz are among some of its other fine offerings. It’s a fact worth knowing that Western Australia as a whole produces 20 percent of the country’s premium wine market from just three percent of the grapes, so you can be confident of the high quality you will get. Head to Leeuwin and Voyager for the grander wine estates.
Victoria’s Yarra Valley
Home to more than 80 wineries in total, the Yarra Valley region is celebrated for producing some of Australia’s most superb pinot noir and sparkling wine. Numerous wine-tasting tours can be booked from Melbourne, and will take you through several of the region’s most popular, well-known and boutique wineries before dropping you back in the city again once evening rolls around. The Rochford Winery is a spot not to be missed, thanks largely to its stunning vantage point overlooking the Great Dividing Range. Located within convenient distance of Melbourne, the award-winning Oakridge Winery is also well worth a trip. Wines from this patch are known for their delicacy, grace and balance of flavours. Another plus point to the Yarra Valley is that it’s also home to a selection of local craft breweries for those that fancy switching wine for another brew during their travels.
Marlborough, New Zealand’s South Island
New Zealand’s wine growing regions stretch for 1,000 miles south of their sub-tropical Northland apex on the country’s Northern Island, and blissful hours of sunshine followed by cool sea breezes are thought to be some of the elements that bring a unique edge to the nation’s grapes. In general terms, wine from New Zealand is praised for its vibrant, intense flavour. Marlborough is arguably the country’s flagship wine region, and the sauvignon blanc it creates has undoubtedly put it on the global wine making stage. Sauvignon blanc from this region is prized for its aromatic yet exotic, fruity notes, with Cloudy Bay being one of the area’s most popular bottled exports. Established in 1985, it was one of the first five wineries to set up shop in Marlborough and now brings the region’s pure, crisp flavours to the rest of the world. The deep cherry and plum flavours of Marlborough’s pinot noir are also highly sought-after.
Northland, New Zealand’s North Island
Grapes were first planted in New Zealand’s most northern wine region by Reverend Samuel Marsden in 1819. Around 80 years later, the tradition of European wine making techniques also arrived, eventually developing into the successful array of producers around today. Northland boasts the country’s highest average national temperature, so vines grown in this area are subject to the most heat. Pinot gris and viogniers lead the white wine pack here, while zesty cabernet/merlot blends are prized among the red offerings. The Okahu Estate winery enjoys panoramic ocean views, making it a popular stop for visitors. Wine crafted from the grapes of these vineyards reflect the complex soil conditions of the area, which include layers of sandstone, soil and clay.
- If you’re exploring South Australia’s Barossa Valley, head down during Adelaide’s yearly Cellar Door Wine Festival, which takes place in April. If you’re just as much of a foodie, August’s Barossa Gourmet Weekend is also worth a visit.
- The ever-changing seasons of the Yarra Valley have provided an inspiring backdrop for scores of Australian landscape painters. As such, the region is home to a wealth of working galleries and studios.
- Make the most of the Margaret River Valley’s splendid coastal scenery by squeezing some hiking or cycling into your travel itinerary. Marvel at the blissful calm of the Geographe Bay area before heading down to the dramatic – not to mention treacherous – coast of Augusta.
- One of the best ways to escape to true tranquillity in New Zealand’s Marlborough region is simply to hire a car, pack up and go. The Queen Charlotte Drive between Havelock and Picton unveils scenic bays, glorious strips of coastline and wild bush.
- Try to allocate plenty of time to exploring Northland’s treasures. If you’re intrigued by the history of New Zealand’s native Maori people, the region is home to the remains of many Maori Pa fortified villages, some of which date back as far as 500 years ago.