Tour Australia’s wine country
Whether you’re planning a day-trip to wine country or a romantic weekend away, an array of exciting cellar door experiences await
Jacobs Creek, Barossa, SA
From cosy family living room settings to grand architecturally-designed structures that stand out from vineyards, Australia offers a great breadth of exceptional winery experiences to cater to every taste. “There’s a real sense of creativity in the wine scene, and with the Australian laissez faire approach to the universe that’s embodied in our cellar doors,” explains Australian wine journalist and critic Mike Bennie. The result? A whole host of cellar door experiences – which allow visitors to tour the vineyard, hear the how the wine is produced and sample it on the spot – that make for an exciting day trip or weekend away. Where will you go next?
New South Wales
Wyndham Estate, Hunter Valley, NSW
Known for its shiraz and semillon, the Hunter Valley is the go-to wine country destination for Sydney visitors.
Audrey Wilkinson winery in the Hunter Valley takes guests on a vine-to-glass journey, starting with a walk through their vineyard, followed by a tasting of their premium wines in the trophy room. “Seeing the vineyard first-hand opens up a whole new world of understanding and enjoyment of the wines we produce,” says owner James Agnew. “Seeing the vines on which we grow the grapes is the best way for people to appreciate what all good winemakers are trying to achieve – a sense of place.” See the vineyard in a new light by timing your visit for dusk, so you can “enjoy a bottle of our Lake Shiraz whilst watching kangaroos bounding between the rows”, Agnew adds.
At Wyndham Estate, private wine tastings guided by a senior consultant can be paired with a paella lunch at the 100-year-old property. “These experiences allow guests to immerse themselves deeply in the culture of Australian wine and learn about the aspirations of its pioneers, of which George Wyndham was one,” says Stephen Guilbaud-Oulton, public relations and operations manager. Small groups can also explore the ageing qualities of wine and discover the subtle effects that region and climate can have on the wines’ flavour.
Home to Australia’s “only true Mediterranean climate”, McLaren Vale offers a plethora of alternative grape varieties and a laid-back, food-orientated culture reminiscent of the south of France or Italy, says Bennie. Here, visitors can taste shiraz and cabernet sauvignon, plus mourvedre grenache and chardonnay.
Delve into the relationship between food and wine at Chapel Hill winery, where guests can take part in hands-on cooking classes using local produce and dine at the property alongside its namesake 19th-century stone church. “The region is blessed with a diverse culture and rich history. That story gets told every time we use local produce,” says general manager Brett Lanthios.
Vineyard tours are included with wine tastings at Jacob’s Creek Visitor Centre, where food and wine are matched for meals at the cellar door restaurant. “We’ve become more than a cellar door,” says Greg Stirling of Pernod Ricard Winemakers Australia. “We’ve worked on developing the grounds with walking trails, extensive native gardens and a wonderful kitchen garden that is situated at the original Jacob family home.” The cool climate and altitude of the Adelaide Hills produce sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, riesling, pinot noir and sparkling wine. Penfolds Magill Estate takes guests through the vineyards, working winery and cellar for a full-spectrum winemaking tutorial.
Moorilla Winery, Hobart, TAS
Tasmania, where the pristine natural environment is reflected in the wines, is renowned for its cool-climate pinot noir and chardonnay.
At the same property near Hobart that houses the Museum of Old and New Art, winemaker Conor van der Reest oversees Moorilla Estate. “We craft cool climate wines from vines on ancient soils amid the cleanest air in the world,” he says, adding that the tight bunches of small berries carry intense flavour profiles. “The museum’s vision is to offer guests the best of life’s pleasures: great food served with fine local wines in an elegant setting, along with interesting works of art.”
Josef Chromy Wines
Heading north to Launceston, David Milne of Josef Chromy Wines emphasises the importance of experiencing wines from grape to glass. “Wine is to be shared and to be enjoyed. Through our tastings, the winemaking process is demystified,” he says of their tutorials, which offer samples of still-fermenting grape juice and wines straight from the barrel.
Montalto Vineyard and Olive Grove, Red Hill South, VIC
Some 50 wineries in Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula produce pinot noir and chardonnay.
Montalto Vineyard & Olive Grove offers a complete package that blends wine tasting with vineyard tours, plus three-course lunches matched with wines. “The people, environment, wine and produce, where we live and work – it’s bringing all those elements together,” says their wine business manager Anthony Jones. “It’s really respecting our place in the Peninsula.”
The depth of varietals on offer expands in the Yarra Valley, which creates chardonnay, pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon and shiraz. Clare Halloran is the winemaker at TarraWarra Estate, where back vintages of their chardonnay are matched with a seasonal two-course lunch. “We make wines to age, so this shows how they develop,” she says. “I believe wine and food are very much interlinked, and they usually look their best when served together.”
Voyager Estate, Margaret River, WA
“Margaret River has a laid-back surfer lifestyle neatly meshed into its winemaking as well as a relaxed approach,” says Bennie. Here, Semillon blends sit alongside cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, shiraz and sauvignon blanc.
Bringing together fine wine with food and the arts, Leeuwin Estate has combined these elements at its picturesque setting to create a unique experience. “Guests can embark on a behind-the-scenes tour to learn about the winemaking process, while a range of food and wine pairings and tutored tastings help guests explore their own palates,” says joint chief executive Simone Furlong.
From vineyard and barrel cellar tours to regional wine tutorials and three-course lunches with wine, Voyager Estate is focused on offering guests a memorable experience. “It’s not just a wine tasting or a lunch, it’s about connecting all of those dots so people get a really full understanding of what wine is all about,” says cellar door manager Janine Carter.
Australian Capital Territory
Just a short drive from the heart of Canberra lies a range of boutique wineries. The cool climate surrounding our nation’s capital, which produces premium wines including riesling and pinot noir, is home to Canberra District Wines.
Part deli, part smokehouse, part vineyard, Poachers Pantry is well-known for its range of house-smoked meats as well as its Wily Trout Wines. Created from grapevines planted on granite soil, visitors to the property pass the vineyard on the drive up to the café door. “Our cool climate wines pair sensationally with our meats,” says managing director Susan Bruce. “It’s almost compulsory to have our smoked duck breast with a glass of our pinot noir.”
Shaw Vineyard Estate
At Shaw Vineyard Estate’s cellar door, guests can take part in tastings of the winery’s complete range, including riesling, cabernet sauvignon and botrytis semillon, and collect locally produced artisanal goods like rosemary and garlic-infused olive oil, and cabernet and cracked pepper jelly. “The restaurant offers a wonderful range of dining options from a casual wood-fired pizza to a first class three-course dining experience,” says director Tanya Olinder of their lauded on-site restaurant, Flint in the Vines. “Guests can try the wines before ordering them to pair with their meal, which is a rare opportunity.”
From Brisbane to North Burnett, Queensland produces a broad range of wine grapes and styles. “The premier wine growing areas seem capable of a lot of different wines,” says Bennie, “and the scope for experimentation is broad.”
“The Granite Belt will surprise many for just how cool and elevated most of the wine producing vineyards are in the region. The styles are hence more medium bodied and potentially elegant than most people think,” Bennie says. “It’s worth checking out Ballandean Estate for their work with some really lesser known varieties like sylvaner, fiano and saperavi.”
For a fresh perspective on self-guided wine tours, visitors can take to the Strange Bird Trail to stop by a suite of wineries committed to producing alternative – yet successfully planted – wine varieties. One such example is the Italian varieties like barbera, nebbiolo and sangiovese, found at Boireann Wines, where traditional winemaking methods are used to create an innovative range of wines.
3 fun wine facts
You'll learn all sorts of fun facts on your vineyard tour; here's a few fast facts to get you started!
- One standard acre produces roughly 5 tonnes of grapes
- One case of wine uses 13-14kg of grapes
- One bottle of wine represents over 1kg of grapes