There are some places in the modern world that are exactly how they are perceived by the rest of the world. Australia, however, does not fall into this category. Of course, we all know about the kangaroos and the crocodiles, the beautiful white beaches, and the dusty flatlands. However, Australia also has luxurious pastures, rugged mountains, fresh, cool evenings, and hazy mornings.
But we’re here to talk about wine, right? Then consider Australia’s one hundred various grape types that grow throughout the country. Many people don’t give the land down under the credit it deserves when it comes to producing wine.
Let’s take a walk through Australia and the wines this magnificent country offers. Here’s our guide for how to find the best Australian wine by variety and region.
Full-bodied Red Wines
When it comes to full-bodied reds from Australia, consider trying the Coonawarra Cabernet or the Sunshine-soaked Shiraz. Australia has plenty of robust and ripe reds available to anyone looking for great wine. This country is most well known for this type of wine, and primarily for its Shiraz, which is the most planted grape in Australia.
You’ll discover that there are many blends of “South Australian” Shiraz available on the market. However, we recommend looking for better quality wine in some of the country’s more regional options. For example, look to the famous Barossa Valley located in Southern Australia for some of the oldest vines on the planet.
Barossa Shiraz has a chocolatey and plummy flavor, while the colder climates of Eden create wines that are generally more tightly wound and savory. These lower-alcohol options are frequently blended with Barossa fruit.
When it comes to full-bodied red wine, consider trying Penfolds, Henschke, Standish, Rockford, John Duval, or Glaetzer. In the nearby area of Clare Valley, robust reds are also produced. Thanks to the cooler nights in this region, higher acidity Shiraz wines are created. Your best options for these types of wines will be either a Jim Barry or Wendouree.
McLaren Vale, which neighbors Clare Valley, is also similar to the Barossa, however, it provides a brighter fruit taste. The best names to try from this area are d’Arenberg and Clarendon Hills.
If a minty flavor is your thing, head a little further to the eastern part of South Australia to the Langhorne Creek area. Here you’ll find labels like Brothers in Arms and Bleasdale, which provide wines with a flavorful mint profile. You might also check our Henry’s Drive, which is fairly new to the region.
You can also find a full-bodied Shiraz in smaller regions like Queensland’s Granite Belt and Swan Valley. Both areas are located in Western Australia, where you’ll find that the wines are unique based on the style of the producer. The savory, robust reds are perfect if you like an original taste but aren’t too adventurous.
Heathcote and Jasper Hill consist of ancient soil which produces powerful Shiraz. These vineyards pride themselves on taking years to create the perfect taste. This area boasts Tahbilk’s 1860 Vines Shiraz. Near Nagambie Lakes, this wine comes from some of the oldest vines you’ll find on the planet.
Head northwest from Sydney and travel about 100 miles, where you’ll find Hunter Valley. This great spot for Shiraz produces full and medium-bodied wines with red fruits, savory spices, and fragrant florals. For these types of wines, you should look for Thomas Wines, Brokenwood, or Tyrrell’s.
If Cabernet Sauvignon is more to your liking, you’ll find some great options in Australia. Located in Coonawarra, which is a small strip of land on the southern edge of Australia, you’ll find some of the best. Between Melbourne and Adelaide are cabernets which will fill your mouth with flavor. These wines are flecked with green herbs, are filled with tannins, and ooze with the taste of blackberry.
Arguably the most famous blended wine from Australia is the country’s GSM selection. This wine combines the smell of a Grenache, the texture and fruitiness of a Shiraz, and the potency of a Mourvedre, all together for those who love big reds. These blends are made throughout Australia in many of its moderate climate regions.
Medium-Bodied Red Wines
If you like reds that aren’t quite as full-bodied, then try some of the less gargantuan reds that Australia has to offer. These savory, fruity, and sometimes spicy offerings will leave your mouth satisfied. One example of these excellent reds is a Shiraz blended with a Viognier. Doing so softens the Shiraz while adding the perfume of the Viognier. You can get this Northern style blend in Clonakilla, which resides just outside of Australia’s capital city, Canberra.
Victora lays claim to more wine areas than you’ll find anywhere else throughout Australia. These areas include places like the Pyrenees, Macedon and Strathbogie Ranges. These small, but important wineries lie just below the rough mountainous ranges. Medium-bodied wines to try in this region include Catagna, Giaconda, Seppelt, Best’s Great Western, and Mount Langi Ghiran.
Travel northeast from Melbourne for an hour, and you’ll wind up in the widely known and significantly larger, Yarra Valley. This region excels at producing many styles and varieties of wines. If you’re in the mood for a not-so-full-bodied Shiraz, visit Luke Lambert, Yarra Yering, Jamsheed, or Giant Steps.
Out in the western part of Australia, just shy of the Indian Ocean, lie the Great Southern and Margaret River regions. Here you’ll find medium-bodied Shiraz wines with a hint of juicy red fruit and laced with herbs, tannins, and pepper. In the Great Southern region, check out Plantagenet or Frankland Estate, or if you’re in Margaret River, visit Leeuwin Estate.
When it’s grown close to the coastline, Cabernet Sauvignon also turns into a medium-bodied option. This wine has hints of eucalyptus, currants, and a touch of sea spray. You’ll find the best Cabernets in Margaret River, many of which will spend decades going through the aging process. Some of the best options available include Moss Wood, Voyager Estate, Cullen, Cloudburst, and Vasse Felix.
On the other side of the country are warmer regions, like Yarra Valley, which are home to aromatic and tasteful Cabernets. Choose from historic wineries scattered throughout the area, like Yarra Yering, Yeringberg, and Mount Mary.
One of the quickest rising wines in Australia is its Grenache. The varietal wine is a hidden red blend, which has a red berry aroma and a silky texture. This wine is a popular choice among consumers and producers alike. Grenache really shines in a Meditteranean environment. That means you can get some of the best offerings in the South Australian region of the McLaren Vale.
The Grenache grown from the sandy soils of the McLaren Vale are arguably the regions best. Plus, it’s enriched with tannins, has a delicate, floral taste, and offers a sandy texture reminiscent of the soil from which it grows. If you’re looking for the best Grenache in Australia, consider Chapel Hill, Yangarra, Ochota Barrels, and Kay Brothers. In the Barossa region, try Greenock Creek, Turkey Flat, and Cirillo.
Light-Bodied Red Wines
Easy-drinking, light-bodied red wines are growing more popular by the day in the land down under. These light and refreshing bottles thrive in the cool-climate regions of Australia. The favorite type is the Pinot Noir, which is bursting with the flavor of fresh berries, enriched spices, and a pale-hued appearance.
When it comes to light-bodied reds, it’s difficult to determine specific differences based on region, however, here are some of the top producers you can enjoy in Australia. In Mornington Peninsula, check out Stonier, Kooyong, Crittenden, Eldridge Estate, and Yabby Lake. If you want to give some of Yarra Valley’s options a try, consider Yering Station, Mac Forbes, or Timo Mayer.
In Adelaide Hills, located in South Australia, give Murdoch Hill and Shaw & Smith a try. Or if you prefer Tasmania, you’ll discover that it is home to great producers such as Josef Chromy, Tolpuddle, and Dalrymple. Down in the Great Southern region, excellent offerings include Howard Park, Castelli, Castle Rock Estate, and Forest Hill.
If you are a little more adventurous, there a few places that have high reputations but are located off the beaten path. For instance, in Pemberton, you can find a Pinot Noir made by Picardy. You might also try Wines by Farr in Geelong or Bass Philip in South Gippsland.
Australia is home to many different types of soils, which means the country is home to a wide variety of red grapes. If you’re looking for a wine on the heavier end, you might try some located in Australi’s warmer climates. These include Durif, Touriga Nacional, Malbec, Sagrantino, and Petit Verdot.
To the East of one of Australia’s hottest wine regions, Barossa, is the Riverland. This region has begun to reinvent itself, due largely to progressive wine growers like Nero d’Abola, Montepulciano, and Sangiovese. Additionally, you can find Merlot, Tempranillo, and Nebbiolo grown in vineyards in the land down under.
One of the fastest growing exports in Australia is its sparkling wine. This brioche-flavored, yeasty wine is developed in some of the coolest areas of Australia. These regions include Yarra Valley in Victoria and Adelaide Hills in South Australia.
However, Tasmania is where you go to get sparkling wine in Australia. This diverse wine growing region is starting to hit its stride. In particular, you should consider Pirie, Bellebonne, Apogee, Clover Hill, Stefano Lubiana, Ninth Island, and Deviation Road.
If you prefer a fruitier, Prosecco-type sparkling wine, you’ll have no trouble finding an offering you like. Since 2015, production of this wine style has more than tripled. Brown Brothers, Dal Zotto, or Di Sciascio are all excellent choices for this up and coming wine type.
You’ll also discover a Sparkling Shiraz, which makes its home in many regions of South Australia. This fruity, off-dry, tannic red wine comes best from labels like Best and Seppelt. You’ll find both of these in western Victoria, part of the Great Western regions.
Lastly, Australia’s natural wine should be given some serious attention as well. These natural offerings are quickly rising in popularity throughout the continent. Sutton Grange, located in Bendigo, is one of the first pioneers of this wine type, blending it with Viognier, Syrah, and Sangiovese. Another offering we suggest trying is Jauma, which is a pet-nat blended with a Chenin Blanc.
Medium-Bodied White Wines
If you’ve ever had an Australian Riesling, then you know there is something unique about it, even though the flavor can vary based on the region from which it comes. For example, the South Australian area called Eden Valley has Rieslings that tend to have more apple and floral aromas. Comparatively, those found in Clare Valley has hints of talc, lime, and lemon.
Overall, an Australian Riesling is citrusy, elegant, dry, and has a very sharp acidic taste to it. Many Rieslings begin to show a hint of kerosene as they age, even though they might still be young. When it comes to Eden Valley Rieslings, give either Henschke or Pewsey Vale a try.
In Clare Valley, try Grosset, one of the most popular Rieslings in the area. Springvale and Polish Hill are also examples of popular wines in this part of the country. Other favorites in Clare Valley include Pikes, Wines by KT, and Jim Barry.
You can also find exception Rieslings in the southwest corner of Western Australia known as the Great Southern. Here there are producers such as Frankland Estate, Crawford River, Mac Forbes, and Best’s Great Western.
Additionally, Australia produces tasty Sauvignon Blancs. If this is your wine of choice, head toward the Adelaide Hills in southern Australia. These wines offer the flavor of bright and exotic tropical fruits but balance it with the natural acidity associated with this variety. Two names to keep in mind when looking for Australian Sauvignon Blanc are Sidewood and Shaw & Smith.
You’ll discover that some Sauvignon Blanc producers like to let their wine age in oak for a bit, to give it added flavor and texture. If they’re looking for more complexity or weight, you also will discover styles that are blended with Semillon. One well-known producer that likes to use these methods is The Lane, located in Adelaide Hills.
These types of combinations are especially common in the Western parts of Australia. Many Great Southern and Margaret River producers include an “SSB” or “SBS” offering in their lineups.
Chardonnay is easily the most popular white wine option throughout Australia. This type of wine is like a sponge. It soaks up the elements of the ground from which it comes, ages well, and absorbs the skins, yeasts, and other ingredients involved in the production process.
Gone are the days of overripe Chardonnay’s created in Australia. Now you can find linear, focused options that provide creamy, stone fruit-flecked or oak-aged wines. You’ll also discover citrusy, crisp, unoaked options if you prefer something of that type. Australian Chardonnay’s range from reductive, flinty, and salty to yeasty and complex.
While Chardonnay grows well almost anywhere throughout the country, it performs particularly well in cooler climates. This includes regions like Yarra Valley, Adelaide Hills, Margaret River, and Mornington Peninsula. Additionally, Beechworth, Canberra, Tasmania, and Orange make noteworthy bottles.
It’s surprising how many Chardonnay producers there are in Australia. Here are a few to consider as you look for a bottle to enjoy: In Western Australia, check out Vasse Felix, Larry Cherubino, Walsh & Sons, Leeuwin estate, and Fraser Gallop; in Beechworth, try Giaconda; in Yarra Valley consider Giant Steps; Geelong offers Lethbridge; the Morning Peninsula area has Moodrooduc Estate; Adelaide Hills try Bird in Hand; and Printhie in Orange.
Also popular in Australia are the bottle-aged Semillon wines, which hail from the New South Wales region of Hunter Valley. Even though the region offers unwooded and youthful options, the Semillon choices age for at least six years, which makes them known and appreciated around the world.
Wound tightly with subtle hints of apple and searing acidity levels, Hunter Semillons have grass and citrus aromas in their early stages. However, if they’re allowed to age for a few decades, they can morph into a more honeyed and complex, flavorful wine. The top producers of Semillon wines include Brokenwod, Mount Pleasant, and Tyrrell’s. These wines are also available in Barossa Valley, Clare Valley, Margaret River, McLaren Vale, and Granite Belt.
Additional White Wine Options
There are many other white wine alternatives available in Australia if none of the ones mentioned here appeal to you. If you like Vermentino, try the Chalmers, or if you prefer Heathcote give Vigna Bottin a go. You can get a honeyed Fiano in McLaren Vale from Oliver’s Taranga, or a tasty Viognier made by Yalumba.
Wine Regions in Australia
We’ve already touched on many of Australia’s wine regions, each of which is famous for a distinct taste and variety of wine. These styles and offerings capture the elements unique only to Australia in every glass. If you consider yourself an oenophile, be sure to try a sample from each Australian region.
Perhaps the most well-known wine region in Australia, Barossa Valley is also home to some of the oldest grape vines in the country. Some blocks date as far back as the middle 1800s. There are some families in Barossa Valley who boast that they are sixth generation winemakers. That means the region is deeply steeped in the history and tradition of viticulture.
This region is most well-known for its Shiraz offering, however, it is also known for providing excellent Mataro and Grenache varieties. Shiraz offerings in this region are known for their pure fruit, a full-bodied character, and plush tannins.
Another historic wine region in Australia is Clare Valley. The first grapes in this picturesque area of the country were planted in the 1840s. It’s hard to resist the wine and the view in this amazing region. Clare Valley offers meandering streams and tree-covered hills to complete its allure of wine lovers.
Clare Valley has hot summers and cool breezes, which work together to create some of the best wine in Australia. This region is Riesling country. This one wine accounts for nearly one-fifth of the Rieslings produced throughout the country every year. Clare Valley Rieslings can take decades to evolve, however, most benefit most from being in the bottle for at least five years.
Coonawarra is a region perfect for growing grapes. Its flat, fertile plains and cool climates make Coonawarra ideal for grape production. Its terra rossa soil makes the perfect grape for an excellent Cabernet Sauvignon. The rich, red structure of this Cabernet is known around the world for its delicious black cherry and plum flavors. This can only come from some of the best, sun-soaked vineyards Australia has to offer.
Some say that the birthplace of winemaking in Victoria took place in Yarra Valley. Throughout the region, you’ll find many red options, including Pinot Noir, is considered the premier wine in Yarra Valley. The volcanic soil and cool climates mean winemakers have the elements needed to make a near-perfect Pinot Noir. Depending on the climate and altitude throughout the region, you can find light and medium-bodied Pinots, as well as some that have cherry, plum, and strawberry flavor.
When people think of Margaret River, they think of excellent tasting Cabernet Sauvignon. This three-hour jaunt from Perth is considered by many to be the gateway to Western Australia. The Margaret River region exploded into popularity in the 1970s, trailing behind Australia’s other wine regions by a few years.
However, the region soon caught and passed some of the other leading wine areas in the country, receiving worldwide recognition for its savory Sauvignon Blanc. Additionally, the region produces fantastic blends of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc, as well as elegant Chardonnay and a medium-bodied Shiraz, the latter of which is due to the constant sunshine and mild climate in the western part of Australia.
The technology used to process and produce grapes in the Margaret River region results in top-notch Australian wine. Many have gone so far as to suggest that Margaret River is the Southern Hemisphere’s version of Tuscany. Find a family-run winery in this region and take a load off while you enjoy the fabulous vistas offered by the areas pristine beaches.
This region sits between Barossa Valley and Clare Valley and is considered one of the best places in the world to get a bottle of sparkling Chardonnay. It’s also well-known for its Pinot Noir, which grows to perfection in Adelaide Hills’ temperate climate. The prominent vineyards in this region are located just a half hour ride from the city center and are considered part of the city of Adelaide.
The Adelaide Hills region is home to a delicious Sauvignon Blanc, which is often likened to the famed Marlborough region in nearby New Zealand. You can also enjoy a crisp Riesling with a hint of apple in this region, a secret which has been passed down through generations of the German settlement of Hahndorf.
It’s not uncommon in Australia for high-quality wines to originate in the smaller and cooler wine regions. That’s why it’s no surprise that Tasmania has risen as a producer of excellent-quality wines. As a result, Tamar Valley has become one of the premier wine regions on the island.
Situated near Launceston, which is Tasmania’s second-largest city, the Tamar Valley is an easy trip to add to any wine lover’s itinerary. The vineyards in this area stretch from the beaches of the Bass Strait all the way to Launceston. This makes Tamar Valley the perfect place to get away for a long weekend.
Tasmania is well-known for its fruity varieties of Riesling and satin smooth Pinot Noir. As a result, Tamar Valley offers wines that are light-bodied, with delicate apple or cherry flavors. This region has rightly earned a reputation for producing high-quality, top-notch wines. If you have the time, it’s definitely worth spending a view days in Tamar Valley.
Hunter Valley was established in the mid-19th century by James Busby, considered by many as the founder of Australian wine. Busby brought 20,000 various vines cuttings from Europe over to Australia, including Shiraz, Semillon, and Chardonnay, all of which develop full-flavored complexities the longer they age.
Known for its top-of-the-line Shiraz, Hunter Valley is close enough to Sydney that it draws high-profile guests, including such performers as the Rolling Stones or Elton John. So if you’re visiting Sydney, hop on over to Hunter Valley. You might even try to schedule your trip to coincide with the region’s Hunter Valley Wine & Food Festival.
As you can see, there are plenty of wine options available all throughout Australia. Even though the country is known for its Shiraz offerings, you can find many more wines that are sure to satisfy your cravings. Thanks to the varied climates and altitudes throughout the land down under, you can enjoy many different flavors and types of wines.
This vast country made up of six states, two territories, and a widely varying landscape provides wine lovers with Shiraz, Cabernet, Riesling, and Chardonnay they’re sure you to savor. You’ll find no shortage of wine if you make a visit to Australia, however, it’s not just the quantity that counts. This country produces quality wines that make it a must-visit destination for any wine lover.