Australia’s location in the Southern Hemisphere makes it a prime location for producing wine. The first vineyards were planted in the 1830s; since then, the country has become the fifth largest exporter of wine in the world. Some regions along the south of the country mirror a Meditteranean climate, while others are similar to the climate of Burgundy, France. Wine is produced in each state of Australia, but the best of the best comes from the southern and coastal areas of New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia, and Western Australia.
The best time to visit the vineyards is during harvest season, from February to April. Australia has pretty strict drunk driving laws as local law enforcement conducts random breathalyzer tests (RBTs) on the roads. If you’re planning to visit a few wineries, it’s best to hire a car service or hop on a tour. That way you can enjoy drinking as much as you want and learn a little along the way.
Here are the top 12 wine regions in Australia.
Barossa Valley (South Australia)
Thanks to its cool climate, Barossa Valley, or “The Barossa” as Aussies call it, is one of the finest wine regions in the world. Barossa shiraz and Eden Valley riesling are the heroes of this region, which has been producing wine since 1842. Since then, about 150 wineries have popped up in the area.
As a day trip from Adelaide, you can take a hop-on, hop-off tour of Barossa Valley's best wineries, and/or visit Bethany Wines, a family-run winery at the top of a hill that overlooks the entire region. It specializes in shiraz, but ask to taste the Old Vine Grenache, a smooth red wine that’s easy to enjoy on a warm Australian day.
For a little adventure (or romance), hop on a sunrise hot air balloon ride. You won’t forget a view like that. If you have time, consider staying in the Barossa Valley. Places like Lanzerac Country Estate are incredibly picturesque and give you access to nearby restaurants, wineries, and attractions.
McLaren Vale (South Australia)
McLaren Vale is a South Australian wine region located 45 minutes south of Adelaide. Rivaling Barossa Valley for producing world-class wine, McLaren is known for shiraz, as well as grenache and cabernet sauvignon. This region planted its first vineyards in 1838 and now hosts more than 80 cellar doors.
While you’re in McLaren Vale, visit Shingleback Tasting Room, near the entrance of the township. Ask to sample its shiraz in the garden. When it comes time to eat, check out Beach Road Wines Restaurant, which claims one of the best views of the region. The wood oven pizzas pair well with its nero d’Avola.
Coonawarra (South Australia)
Coonawarra is located close to the border of South Australia and Victoria. This wine region produces premium red wines, particularly cabernet sauvignon. Coonawarra is known for its terra rosa (red soil) created by the breakdown of limestone over thousands of years. The red color comes from iron oxide, similar to what you might find in Australia’s Red Centre.
This soil influences the bold flavor of the wine produced in Coonawarra, and you’ll find that at wineries such as Jack Estate. After making an appointment, ask to taste the M-R Series Cabernet Sauvignon—the dark berry fruit flavor is an excellent example of how the soil works in the wine’s flavor.
The best way to get here is by hiring a car and driving four hours from either Adelaide or Melbourne. There’s plenty of accommodation in Coonawarra, but it’s more in the form of motor inns and small hotels as it’s not a particularly big wine region. Make a weekend trip here discover a different side of Australia.
Mornington Peninsula (Victoria)
One of Australia’s true maritime wine regions, this beautiful stretch of land is about an hour's drive south of Melbourne CBD. Its microclimate allows for the production of pinot noir and chardonnay. As there are only about 50 cellar doors in this area, a tour of Mornington Peninsula wineries is more of a boutique experience.
Wine Hop Tours is a great way to experience the Mornington Peninsula as a day trip from Melbourne; you can choose a bus tour based on what you’re interested in tasting and they pick you up from the city. Or, hire a car and stop by Montalto Estate, a property sprawling with green vineyards and olive groves. A great way to spend the afternoon is by having a picnic in Montalto’s garden, where they prepare an outdoor seating area with food and wine.
If you happen to visit Mornington Peninsula during November, be sure to check out the Vinehop Festival!
Yarra Valley (Victoria)
Yarra Valley is another wine region that’s only an hour's drive west of Melbourne CBD. The cool and wet climate makes it a prime area for producing wine, particularly pinot noir, chardonnay, and cabernet sauvignon. There are plenty of day tours from Melbourne CBD to Yarra Valley, although a car service might be the way to go as it will take you around the region and let you choose the wineries you’d like to visit.
Another great way to experience the area is by bicycle. This way you can explore the countryside, plus stop at various wineries along the way. But if you’re going to stop anywhere, it should be De Bortoli Yarra Valley Wines. It’s one of the bigger-name wineries, but it produces excellent cabernet sauvignons that pair well with the food from the on-site Italian restaurant. (Remember to book in advance!)
Yarra Valley is also known for its artisanal cheese, rich chocolate, and craft beer. If you’re in town from September 26 to October 6, be sure to catch the cherry blossom festival.
Macedon Ranges (Victoria)
Less than an hour from Melbourne is Macedon Ranges, home to about 40 family-owned wineries. Its slogan is “naturally cool,” which refers to the high altitude and cool climate of the region. This makes it perfect for producing sparkling wine, along with chardonnay and pinot noir. What’s interesting about this region is that most of the local wineries use the term "Macedon" to refer to their sparkling wines.
It’s best to do a wine tour to Macedon Ranges, during which you will be picked up from Melbourne CBD and driven to different cellar doors. Be sure to visit Hanging Rock Winery. It’s not only known for its sparkling Macedon, but also its “art in the vines” outdoor sculpture exhibition that features artwork from local and international artists.
You’re lucky if you visit during November—Macedon Ranges puts on a huge Budburst Festival that celebrates the region's local food and wine.
Hunter Valley (New South Wales)
A three-hour drive north of Sydney, Hunter Valley is Australia’s oldest wine region. It’s home to more than 150 cellar doors and is known for producing shiraz, cabernet sauvignon, and chardonnay. There are day tours that run from Newcastle and Sydney, but it might be worth it to stay overnight as there’s plenty of accommodation.
When it comes to wine, big-name labels such as Tyrrel’s, Lindeman, and Gwyn Olson have their vineyards planted here. For an intimate cellar door experience, visit Boydell’s Winery; the family-owned property was settled in 1826 and is said to be the site of the first vineyard in New South Wales. Boydell’s produces red and white wine, but its rosé is the star of the show.
While you’re in Hunter Valley, tour the area by horseback or see wine country from a hot air balloon. This region hosts a bunch of concerts and festivals throughout the year, including visits from big names like Elton John, Tim McGraw, and Red Hot Chili Peppers. Check what’s on before you go!
Orange (New South Wales)
It might have a simple name, but Orange is anything but ordinary. This wine region in New South Wales sits at 2,000 feet above sea level, with a dormant volcano called Mount Canobolas bordering the area. A combination of soil, climate, and elevation is what makes Orange a prime winemaking destination. It’s particularly known for its chardonnay.
Orange is an hour flight west of Sydney, deep in the countryside of Australia. It’s a new and small wine region that popped up in the 1980s and is home to about 60 vineyards and 40 cellar doors. Make an appointment to visit De Salis Wines—it has an incredible location on Mount Canobolas with a view of the wine region. For a different kind of winery experience, Heifer Station Winery not only offers tastings, they also have a petting zoo with ponies, sheep, goats, and alpacas.
Orange happens to have an incredible culinary scene, too. Fine dining restaurants such as Racine showcase the flavor of the region in a farm-to-table setting. Meanwhile, The Agrestic Grocer offers casual lunch fare (think steak sandwiches and pulled pork burrito bowls) to enjoy with live music.
Tamar Valley (Tasmania)
The island of Tasmania has heaps of vineyards, but Tamar Valley is its principal wine-producing area. It shares the same cool climate as Burgundy, France, making it a great spot for producing sparkling wine, chardonnay, riesling, sauvignon blanc, pinot grigio, and gewürztraminer.
Tamar Valley is a 30-minute drive from Launceston Airport. You can make Launceston your base as you explore the wine region by car or hired tour. Josef Chromy Wines is worth a visit when you’re in the area; you can take a bicycle tour through their vineyards or learn the art of sparkling wine with a masterclass. Continue learning at Jansz Tasmania Wine Room, which offers an educational tasting with a view over the lake.
Margaret River (Western Australia)
About a three-hour drive from Perth, Margaret River produces over 20 percent of Australia’s premium wine. Situated along the coast, its Mediterranean climate provides perfect growing conditions for wine grapes. Cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay are the king and queen here.
Margaret River is an easy region to navigate as most wineries are close together. If you’re going to visit one winery, make it Whicher Ridge Wines, where you can learn how to better pair wine with food by tasting and matching wine flavors to herbs, flowers, and vegetables in their "sensory wine garden." To sample more of the region's culinary offerings, hop on Cellar d'Or's winery tour, which includes visits to both chocolate and cheese factories.
Margaret River is also a top destination for surfing, snorkeling, whale watching, caving, and hiking, so there’s plenty of accommodation in town.
Great Southern (Western Australia)
Come to Great Southern for the riesling and shiraz, stay for the whale watching. This wine region in Western Australia is huge. The best way to experience all of it is by tour, as the vineyards are spread out throughout five subregions and it can be overwhelming to tackle Great Southern wines.
As you make your way around Great Southern, you’ll come across Denmark, which sits right along the coast. It’s known for producing chardonnay, riesling, and sparkling wines, but it’s also a prime spot for whale watching (double win!). Then there’s Albany, which takes the title of the oldest European settlement in Western Australia. You’ll find sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, pinot noir, and shiraz in this subregion.
Swan Valley (Western Australia)
Swan Valley is a 30-minute drive from Perth. You’ll find a whole heap of varietals here, with the most prominent being sparkling wines, verdelho, and petit verdot. The first vines were planted in this region in 1829, but Croatian farmers were responsible for transforming Swan Valley from traditional agricultural lands to proper vineyards after World War II.
Take full advantage of your time in Swan Valley. You can take a masterclass, browse artwork, relax in the spa, and of course, drink fine wine. For something a little different, embark on a wine cruise that leaves from Perth and sails up the Swan River. It will end right at Sandalford Winery, where you hop off, drink wine, and eat lunch.
Swan Valley is one of the more lively and family-friendly wine regions on this list. Coward and Black Winery is a fun stop in Swan Valley because you can taste chocolate and wine at the same time, while Upper Reach Winery throws outdoor Twilight concerts from February to March.