In Part 1, we discussed why Australia has become a renown wine producing country, and that all states and territories other than the Northern Territories and Queensland produce high quality wines. (Surprisingly, every state in the US, including Alaska, now has a least one winery. Having grown up in Minnesota, I find this surprising as there is nothing about the growing season in Minnesota or the conditions that would inspire me to drink a Minnesotan wine. However, my parent's friends own a winery in Canon Falls, Minnesota, so we will try it out on our next trip there and let you know!)
Below is a map of the Australian wine growing regions, even though it seems to be missing the recent growth in great Tasmanian wines. Don't let this mis-lead you: there are some great Tasmanian wines, especially Pinot Noirs and Sauvignon Blancs.
As you can see, most Australian wine growing regions are located in the southern part of the country. The northern part is just too hot (and often too dry) to be able to grow grapes of any quality.
For touring purposes and geographical simplicity, I categorize the major wine regions as follows:
- Hunter Valley - about two hours north of Sydney, New South Wales
- Barossa Valley - just north of Adelaide, South Australia with close by regions of Clare and Eden Valley, and with McLaren Vale south of Adelaide
- Yarra Valley - about an hour north of Melbourne, with close by regions including Mornington Peninsula and Geelong, south of Melbourne, and Heathcote, Victoria northwest of Melbourne and on the way to Bendigo, Victoria
- Margaret River - about 4 hours south of Perth, Western Australia
- Rutherglen - about half-way between Sydney and Melbourne, close to the New South Wales and Victorian border and the cities of Albury and Wodonga
- Mudgee, NSW - about 4 hours northwest of Sydney, with some wineries relatively close by around Orange
- Riverina - in southwest New South Wales
I have tried to categorize the major regions around the major cities you would fly into and then drive out of to visit the wine regions. As you can see from the map, there are a number of smaller and well-define regions also that are close by and associated with the better known region names. But when it comes down to it, the four most prominent regions by name are Hunter Valley, Barossa Valley, Yarra Valley and Margaret River. Rutherglen, Mudgee and Tasmania are worth visiting and growing in popularity, but less known (and more distant from a major city). Riverina is a large rural area that produces a lot of grapes, but not great wines in general.
I have included a link to more detailed maps of the major wine regions for you to review. Again, they fail to mention Tasmania, but an Internet search of 'Tasmania and wine' will provide you with ample information on Tasmania as a popular Australian wine region.
In Part 3, we will discuss the unique characteristics and grapes that each major region is known for. Part 4 will similarly do this for the smaller wine regions.