When the colder months roll around, enjoying a full-bodied glass of wine beside a log fire is one of life’s true pleasures. But even if you are a non-drinker, Australia’s many wine-growing regions can still help bring warmth to the dreariest of days.
By virtue of their typography, wine regions always have plenty to offer travellers.
Yet whether you are in possession of a sophisticated wine palette, someone who favours the grain rather than the grape, or are a complete teetotaler, before heading off on such a journey it’s always wise to arm yourself with some facts about Australia’s burgeoning grape growing industry.
Two million – this is the number of bottles of wine that leave Australia every day heading for 111 international markets.
$168,000 – is the sale price of the most expensive bottle of Australian wine ever sold.
1800s – the period when many of Europe’s established vineyards were destroyed by the phylloxera disease.Some of the only survivors were the vines brought here on board the First Fleet, meaning Australia now has some of the oldest grape vines in the world.
170,000 – the number of hectares in Australia covered in vineyards.
Journey with us as we highlight three of the best.
Margaret River, Western Australia
Situated at the tip of southern Western Australia, the Margaret River Region stretches from Busselton to Augusta and is an easy 2.5-hour drive from Perth.
For the wine lovers – Margaret River has built a global reputation for its outstanding Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. Today there are around 150 wineries producing premium wines. It is worth a visit to the region’s founding wine estate, Vasse Felix, for its stunning cellar door, restaurant and gallery, while sustainability fans will enjoy Voyager Estate which has recently announced its move to full organic certification. It’s worthwhile taking a behind the scenes tour where you can fill your glass straight from the barrel.
For the abstainers – Head up the Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse, Australia’s tallest mainland lighthouse, and see where the Southern Ocean and Indian Ocean meet, or visit Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse for panoramic views. For those who are feeling adventurous, head underground to check out one (or all) of the region’s four magical caves: Jewel, Lake, Mammoth and Ngilgi. If you are in the mood for more of a challenge, try walking a section of the 135km-long Cape to Cape Track, and drink in the numerous sea creatures, beautiful wildflowers and magnificent coast along the way. If travelling between September and December you may be lucky enough to spot migrating humpback, southern right and blue whales.
Barossa Valley, South Australia
Situated just a 50-minute drive north east of Adelaide, the area encompasses towns such as Tanunda and Nuriootpa, with the stone cottages and Lutheran churches throughout testament to a 19th Century wave of German settlers.
For the wine lovers – Barossa boasts the longest unbroken lineage of winemaking and grape growing families in the country. With about 150 wineries and 80 different cellar doors in the area, Shiraz is the region’s hero red. Producing wine since 1890, Chateau Tanunda is a must visit. Select from one of its award-winning wines or just visit to take in its beautiful architecture or the incredible views of the Barossa Ranges. While Yalumba offers an impressive selection of great wines, be sure to make time to enjoy a tour of its wine barrel making facility – the only on-site winery cooperage in Australia.
For the abstainers – The Barossa is home to many iconic landmarks and heritage buildings including the Seppeltsfield Mausoleum, the Whispering Wall and the Angaston Heritage Walk. Make time to check out the Angaston Blacksmith Shop and Museum where, for just $2, volunteers demonstrate the art of blacksmithing and guide you through three rooms of memorabilia. Leave a late afternoon free to head to the Eden Valley Lookout where, surrounded by stands of ancient red gums, you can drink in the panoramic views as the sun sets.
Orange, New South Wales
Orange is a city in the Central Tablelands region, located an easy 3.5-hour drive from Sydney or Canberra and just a quick 40-minute flight. One of the state’s best known food bowls, it has a history of fruit-production spanning almost 200 years.
For the wine lovers – The Orange wine region, home to over 60 vineyards and wineries, boasts some of the country's highest-elevation vineyard sites. It is best known for its premium expressions of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc. Nashdale Lane offers visitors the chance to breathe in refreshing mountain air while sampling the wines at the cellar door, a 70-year-old converted apple packing shed offering unobstructed views and a wood fire. While the cellar door at Philip Shaw Wines may not have a restaurant, it provides lunch and graze picnic hampers featuring tastings of local produce to enjoy on the cellar door’s tiered lawns.
For the abstainers – Take a self-guided Orange Heritage Trail or undertake a scenic drive to the historic villages of Carcoar, Barry or Lyndhurst. The ancient volcano of Mount Canobolas is home to a variety of walks, such as the Spring Glade walking track or visit Pinnacle Reserve and Lookout, where you can relax in picnic shelters near a trail to Town Pinnacle, overlooking Towac Valley. You can also learn about the traditional custodians of the land, the Wiradjuri People, on an Indigenous Cultural Adventures tour.
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