There are almost 70 wine regions and 1650 cellar doors in Australia. You already know about the Yarra, Hunter and Barossa Valleys, so Greg Duncan Powell checked out five up-and-coming destinations
Wine regions you must visit now
What’s the difference between the Mudgee of today and the Mudgee of 15 years ago? The quick answer is new blood. There’s been generational change in this inland New South Wales town, and there are quite a few new wineries. All of that has put a rocket into the wine quality. Mudgee is still the charming nest in the hills it’s always been, but the wines are better and there’s more choice. It still produces its famous big, earthy reds, but also some elegant merlot, some interesting Italians, and some stunning riesling.
Where to sample the region
Winemaker Peter Logan of Logan Wines claims that “good wine should not be wasted on the wealthy” and his wines live up to the maxim. Check out his Apple Tree Flat range at $11. Frog Rock Wine has an affordable range of wines, and the petit verdot is particularly worthy of mention. Huntington Estate is famous for its concerts in the barrel hall and cellaring reds. Robert Stein is one of the wineries leading the way in Mudgee: its shiraz viognier and riesling are the best in the valley. Bunnamagoo Estate is one of the recent shining stars in the district – its chardonnay usually leads the pack at the Mudgee Wine Show. Botobolar is a landmark winery in Mudgee and was one of the first organic vineyards in Australia – a special favourite of asthmatics for its high-quality, preservative-free reds. Thistle Hill is another organic vineyard with a highly sought-after riesling and preservative-free wines.
Botobolar: 89 Botobolar Rd, Mudgee. Open Monday to Saturday 10am-5pm, Sunday 10am-3pm. (02) 63733850; botobolar.com
Bunnamagoo Estate: 603 Henry Lawson Dr, Mudgee. Open daily 10am-4pm. 1300 304 707; www.bunnamagoowines.com.au
Huntington Estate: Cassilis Rd, Mudgee. Open Monday to Saturday 10am-5pm; Sunday and public holidays 10am-4pm. (02) 6373 3825; huntingtonestate.com.au
Frog Rock Wines: Edgell Lane, Mudgee. Open daily 10am-5pm. (02) 63722408; frogrockwines.com
Logan: Castlereagh Hwy, Apple Tree Flat. Open daily 10am-5pm. (02) 6373 1333; loganwines.com.au
Robert Stein: Pipeclay Lane, Mudgee. Open daily 10am-4.30pm. (02) 6373 3991; robertstein.com.au
Thistle Hill: 74 McDonalds Rd, Mudgee. Open Monday to Saturday 9.30am-4.30pm; Sunday and public holidays 9.30am-4pm. (02) 6373 3546; thistlehill.com.au
Wine tourists in Western Australia tend to have tunnel vision and head straight for Margaret River. They’re missing out. Some of the most exciting and least touristy wine experiences can be found in the evocatively named Great Southern, which includes the subregions of Frankland River, Mount Barker, Denmark, Albany and Porongurup. In recent years it has been producing some of Australia’s most exciting wines.
It’s vast but it’s not all the same. Karris give way to banksias, which give way to rugged bush. There are untrodden beaches and a spectacular coastline. It is famous for its riesling, but the shiraz and cabernet sauvignon are also world class.
Where to sample the region
Ferngrove produces a large range of distinctive, well-priced wine. Its King Malbec and Majestic Cabernet Sauvignon are well worth taking home. Alkoomi is one of the pioneers, planted in 1971. The range is huge and prices go down to $15. At Frankland Estate, the rieslings from different local vineyards make for an intriguing comparison.
The Forest Hill Vineyard cellar is in Denmark; its cabernet sauvignon and riesling are standouts and the restaurant by the cellar door is one of the best in the region. Howard Park has a second cellar door here (the big one is in Margaret River), and has a wine for every budget, from the well-priced Madfish range through to the single-vineyard Scotsdale Great Southern Cabernet Sauvignon.
Head towards Albany from Denmark and you’ll come to West Cape Howe, a growing brand with some excellent wine. The Styx Gully Chardonnay and a cabernet merlot are especial favourites. The most celebrated local winery in Albany is Wignalls Wines. The collective wisdom says that Great Southern is not a great place for growing pinot noir but Wignalls isn’t listening – it has a stunning one. And its chardonnay and shiraz aren’t bad, either.
Heading back toward Perth you arrive at Mount Barker and the old apple shed that comprises the cellar door at Plantagenet. The riesling and cabernet equally brilliant, while the more affordable Hazard Hill ($12), and Omrah ranges ($18) are great value.
Alkoomi: Wingebellup Rd, Frankland River. Open daily 10am-5pm. (08) 9855 2229; alkoomiwines.com.au
Ferngrove: 276 Ferngrove Rd, Frankland River. Open Monday to Friday 10am-5pm. (08) 9855 2378; ferngrove.com.au
Forest Hill Vineyard: South Coast Hwy, Denmark. Open daily 10am-5pm. (08) 9848 2199; foresthillwines.com.au
Frankland Estate: Frankland Rd, Frankland. Open Monday to Friday 10am-4pm. (08) 9855 1544; franklandestate.com.au
Howard Park: Scotsdale Rd, Denmark. Open daily 10am-4pm. (08) 9848 2345
Plantagenet: Albany Highway, Mount Barker. Open daily 9am-5pm. (08) 9851 3131; plantagenetwines.com
West Cape Howe: 678 South Coast Hwy, Denmark. Open daily 10am-5pm. (08) 9848 2959; wchowe.com.au
Wignalls Wines: Highway 1, Albany. Open daily 11am-4pm. (08) 9841 2848; wignallswines.com.au
The Granite Belt
For a state that sells itself on sunshine, Queensland surprisingly boasts a cool-climate wine region. This is not just about latitude; altitude is a critical factor too, and perched at 800-1000 metres above sea level, the Granite Belt has a very un-Queensland climate. It’s only three hours from Brisbane and the Gold Coast, so it’s become a favourite getaway for Queenslanders who want to pretend they’re Victorians and experience the exquisite thrill of wearing an overcoat while tasting a hearty red. For non-Queenslanders it provides a very different experience of the state from the one in the tourist brochures. While verdelho is cited as the region’s speciality, the reds are also good here, and quite a few other whites, too.
Where to sample the region
Golden Grove Estate dates back to the 1940s, but wine grapes were planted here in 1972. The shiraz is great, the sauvignon blanc is one of the best in the district, the durif is worth a look and there are some good fortifieds, all at pretty attractive prices.
Just Red has a name that needs no explanation: don’t expect whites. If you’re after quaffers, this is the place.
Up the road is Hidden Creek, a cellar door with a wide range of varietals and three labels – the Rooklyns are particularly good.
Symphony Hill is home to one of the more sophisticated wine ranges, with sophisticated (read expensive) prices. Try the Wild Child Viognier and the Family Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. Rumbalara Wines is a lively place with a restaurant and some very well-priced, enjoyable wines. Robert Channon Wines is famous for verdelho but also try its chardonnay and cabernet. Boireann Winery is arguably the best red producer in the region. Its cabernet sauvignon is brilliant but don’t forget to taste the mourvèdre shiraz.
Boireann Winery: 26 Donnellys Castle Rd, The Summit. Open daily 10am-4.30pm. (07) 4683 2194; boireannwinery.com.au
Hidden Creek: Eukey Rd, Ballandean. Open Monday and Friday 11am-3pm; weekends and public holidays 10am-4pm. (07) 4684 1383; hiddencreek.com.au
Golden Grove Estate: Sundown Rd, Ballandean. Open daily 9am-4pm. (07) 4684 1291; goldengroveestate.com.au
Just Red: 2370 Eukey Rd, Ballandean. Open weekends and public holidays 10am-5pm. (07) 4684 13212; justred.com.au
Robert Channon Wines: Amiens Rd, Stanthorpe. Open Mon-Fri 11am-4pm; weekends and public holidays 10am-5pm. (07) 4683 3260; robertchannonwines.com
Rumbalara Wines: 137 Fletcher Rd, Fletcher. Open daily 10am-5pm. (07) 4684 1206; rumbalarawines.com.au
Symphony Hill: 2017 Eukey Rd, Ballandean. Open daily 10am-4pm. (07) 4684 1388; symphonyhill.com.au
If there were an award for the quaintest wine region in the country, Clare Valley would win it hands down. It’s got everything: stone buildings, good food, friendly people and nice pubs with Coopers on tap. But we’re here for the wine, and it’s excellent. Riesling is the trump card but there are some very stylish reds too.
Where to sample the region
Mount Horrocks is in an old railway station remodelled into a cellar door. The riesling, the legendary stickie – the Cordon Cut riesling – and the shiraz should all be on your tasting list.
Grosset has cult status in the wine business, such is the quality of its Polish Hill and Watervale Rieslings, and the cabernet blend known as Gaia is worth a taste too.
Taylors is big for Clare (producing over half a million cases of wine) but the wines still have Clare character. Check out its premium Jarraman range.
In the subregion of Sevenhill, you’ll find some of the most memorable cellar doors. Kilikanoon has some excellent shiraz and the Mort’s riesling is one of the best in the valley.
Jeanneret is one winery you may not have heard of but the cave-like cellar door is worth a visit for the riesling and shiraz… and the cat.
Sevenhill Cellars is a Jesuit-operated winery and the oldest in the region – it dates back the 1851 and looks it. The wines are modern despite the surroundings. Check out the Inigo range in particular.
Neagles Rock takes its name from the igneous outcrop on top of the hill, where local lovers would go and pash. The cellar door features a wide range of varietals, the highlights being the sangiovese, riesling and the Mr Duncan cabernet shiraz.
Grosset: King St, Auburn. Open Wednesday to Sunday 10am-5pm from September. (08) 8849 2175; grosset.com.au
Jeanneret: Jeanneret Rd, Sevenhill. Open Monday to Friday 9am-5pm; weekends and public holidays 10am-5pm. (08) 8843 4308; jeanneretwines.com
Kilikanoon: Penna Lane, Penwortham. Open Thursday to Sunday and public holidays 11am-5pm. (08) 8843 4206; kilikanoon.com.au
Mount Horrocks: The Old Railway Station, Curling St, Auburn. Open weekends and public holidays 10am-5pm. (08) 8849 2243; mounthorrocks.com
Neagles Rock: Main North Rd, Clare. Open Monday to Saturday 10am-5pm; Sunday 11am-4pm. (08) 8843 4020.
Sevenhill Cellars: College Rd, Sevenhill. Open Monday to Friday 9am-5pm; weekends and public holidays 10am-5pm. (08) 8843 4222; sevenhill.com.au
Taylors Wines: Taylors Rd, Auburn. Open Monday to Friday 9am-5pm; Saturday and public holidays 10am-5pm; Sundays 10am-4pm. (08) 8849 1111; taylorswines.com.au
The King Valley
The King Valley has had a speedy rise to fame: 30 years ago it didn’t even exist. Back then, it was full of tobacco, but as that industry coughed its last, the mostly Mediterranean tobacco growers turned to grapes. At the same time, the biggest local winery, Brown Brothers, was offering good money for Italian varietals that hadn’t been given much of a go in Australia.
The results were more successful than anyone had hoped, grape growers became winemakers and now the King Valley is Australia’s No. 1 region for Italian-styled wines.
The scenery on the road up to Whitfield suggests a unique microclimate and somehow fits the style of the wines. It’s well worth a visit.
Where to sample the region
Sam Miranda King Valley is the same Miranda once associated with Griffith and casks, but that business was sold and this is a different thing entirely. Try the Symphonia tannat, saperavi and petit mansang.
Brown Brothers has more than 50 wines to taste at the cellar door. At the pricier end, the Patricia range is excellent.
Just up the road is Wood Park Wines (at the Milawa cheese factory), whose chardonnay and cabernet shiraz can be very good.
John Gehrig has a wide range and interesting sparklings, both white and red – try its Crémant de Chenin Blanc and Crémant de Gamay.
Pizzini Wines is one of the highlights of the valley. The Italian varietals are authentic and the sangiovese and nebbiolo are excellent.
Chrismont specialises in the red marzemino grape, the white arneis and pinot grigio.
Dal Zotto has some great wine and a much recommended trattoria open on weekends. Its prosecco gives the best Italian ones a run for their money.
Brown Brothers: Milawa-Bobinawarrah Rd, Milawa. Open daily 9am-5pm. (03) 5720 5500; brownbrothers.com.au
Sam Miranda: cnr Snow and Whitfield Rds, Oxley. Open daily 10am-5pm. (03) 5727 3888; sammiranda.com.au
Wood Park Wines: 17 Milawa-Bobinawarrah Rd, Milawa. Open daily 10am-5pm. (03) 5727 3778; woodparkwines.com.au
John Gehrig Wines: Milawa Road, Oxley. Open daily 9am-5pm. (03) 5727 3395; johngehrigwines.com.au
Pizzini Wines: 175 King Valley Road, Whitfield. Open daily 10am-5pm. (03) 5729 8278; pizzini.com.au
Chrismont: 251 Upper King River Road, Cheshunt. Open daily 11am-5pm. Also at 1605 Snow Rd Milawa. Open 10am-5pm. (03) 5729 8220. chrismont.com.au
Dal Zotto: Main Road, Whitfield. Open daily 10am-5pm, trattoria Saturday-Sunday 11am-4pm. (03) 5729 1821; dalzotto.com.au