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The Wine Regions of Australia

The more well-known wine regions in Australia are located in the states of South Australia, New South Wales, Victoria, and Western Australia. The wine regions in each of these states produce different types and styles of wines that take advantage of the particular area's terroir.

South Australia

Australia’s most important state for wine production is South Australia. South Australia makes about 50 percent of Australia’s wine. While many vineyards in South Australia produce inexpensive wines for the thirsty home market, vineyards closer to Adelaide (the state's capital) make wines that are considered among the country’s finest. Among these fine wine regions are:

  • Barossa Valley: north of Adelaide, this is one of Australia’s oldest areas for fine wine; it’s a relatively warm area famous especially for its robust Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Grenache, as well as rich Semillon and Riesling (grown in the cooler hills). Most of Australia’s largest wineries, including Penfolds, are based here.

  • Clare Valley: North of the Barossa Valley, this climatically diverse area makes the country’s best Rieslings in a dry, weighty yet crisp style, as well as fine Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon.

  • McLaren Vale: south of Adelaide, with a mild climate influenced by the sea, this region is particularly admired for its Shiraz, Cabernet, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay.

  • Adelaide Hills: Situated partially within the Adelaide city limits, this fairly cool region sits between the Barossa and McLaren Vale areas and is the home to rather good Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Shiraz.

  • Limestone Coast: This unique zone along the southern coast of South Australia is an important area for fine wine, both red and white, thanks to the prevalence of limestone in the soil. Two of the six regions within the Limestone Coast zone are famous in their own right — the cool Coonawarra for some of Australia’s best Cabernet Sauvignon wines, and Padthaway for its white wines, particularly Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Riesling.

    The wine regions of Australia. [Credit: © Akira Chiwaki]
    Credit: © Akira Chiwaki
    The wine regions of Australia.

New South Wales

New South Wales, with its capital, Sydney, is Australia’s most populous state, and the first to grow vines; today it makes 31 percent of Australia’s wine. High-volume production of everyday wines comes from an interior area called the Riverina. Fine wine, for now, comes from three other areas:

  • Hunter Valley: An historic grape-growing area that begins 80 miles north of Sydney. The Lower Hunter, with a warm, damp climate and heavy soils, produces long-lived Semillon as its best wine. The Upper Hunter is a drier area farther from the coast.

  • Mudgee: An interior area near the mountains. Mudgee specializes in reds such as Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon but also makes Chardonnay.

  • Orange: A cool, high-altitude area making distinctive white wines and also very good reds.

Victoria

Adjoining South Australia to the east is Victoria, a smaller state that makes 15 percent of Australia’s wines. Most of Victoria's 500+ wineries are small. Victoria’s fine wine production ranges from rich, fortified dessert wines to delicate Pinot Noirs. Principal regions include, from north to south:

  • Murray River: This area stretching into New South Wales includes the Mildura region, where Lindemans, one of Australia’s largest wineries is situated. This region is particularly important for growing grapes for Australia’s good-value wines.

  • Rutherglen: In the northeast, this long-established, warm climate zone is an outpost of traditional winemaking and home of an exotic Australian specialty, fortified dessert Muscats and Tokays.

  • Goulburn Valley: In the center of the state, Goulburn Valley is known especially for its full-bodied reds, especially Shiraz.

  • Heathcote: East of Goulburn and due north of Melbourne (the capital), this area boasts unusual soils that make distinctive, rich-yet-elegant Shirazes and also Cabernet.

  • Yarra Valley: In southern Victoria, and close to Melbourne, Yarra Valley boasts a wide diversity of climates due to altitude differences of its vineyards. The Yarra is noted for its Cabernet, Pinot Noir, Shiraz, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc.

  • Mornington Peninsula and Geelong: South of Melbourne and separated from each other by Port Phillip Bay, these two cool, maritime regions specialize in fine Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

Western Australia

Western Australia, the country’s largest state, makes little wine compared to the preceding three states, but quality is high. The warm, dry Swan Valley is the state’s historic center of wine production, but two cooler climate regions have become more important:

  • Margaret River: This is a relatively temperate region near the Indian Ocean. Among the wines that various wineries here excel in are Sauvignon Blanc-Semillon blends, Chardonnay, and Cabernet Sauvignon.

  • Great Southern: Cooler than Margaret River, Great Southern’s specialty is crisp, age-worthy Riesling. This huge, diverse region produces intense, aromatic Cabernet Sauvignon as well as fine Shiraz and Chardonnay; on the southern coast, Pinot Noir is successful.

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