On the trail of Australia’s hidden gems
Author: Jessica Poon
Having recently been awarded a WSET scholarship from Wine Australia, I spent 10 days visiting Australia’s wine regions and was once again struck by the incredible range and innovation of the wines emanating from this country. My tour led me to many famous wine-producing areas in South Australia and Victoria including McLaren Vale and the Barossa and Yarra valleys as well as other, lesser-known yet wonderful gems, from Riverland in the South to Victoria’s Strathbogie Ranges. Forget the myth that Australia has a hot climate and only produces bulky and jammy wines: the new Oz is focused on regionality, taking advantage of the unique microclimates of its diverse terroir, and there are great-value quality wines waiting to be discovered, especially in these less familiar regions:
One of the largest geographical wine regions in Australia, Adelaide Hills is also amongst the most diverse in terms of its climate, soil and topography. This scenic area is full of amazing local wines produced at boutique wineries hidden amongst fruit orchards. Adelaide Hills enjoys a cool climate and significant diurnal range, making it the perfect setting for growing elegant Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, and a spicier style of Shiraz with great finesse. In seeking and exploiting these climatic differences, the vineyards tend to be small and are often steep. The best way to enjoy the fantastic view of the Mount Lofty Ranges is from above – it was a truly spectacular experience taking in this incredible wine-making landscape by helicopter.
Many wine regions in South Australia are well-known for their reds, but Clare Valley earned its fame from its Riesling, hence it is often referred to simply as ‘the home of Australian Riesling’. The Valley has more than 40 wineries, most of which are boutique in scale. The ideal way to get an appreciation of the terrain and gain a better understanding of the region itself is to bike along the Riesling Trail. This is part of one of Australia’s premier long-distance cycling trails, an epic ride that traverses the Mount Lofty and Flinders ranges, providing ever-changing views of Riesling vineyards, mixed farms and natural bushland.
If you want to explore the innovative side of Australia, Riverland is definitely not to be missed. It’s home to an array of experiences, from exploring its renowned hot-climate wines such as Shiraz and Cabernet, to drinking in the charming Murray River and its surrounding wetlands. The Riverland is the largest wine growing region by volume in Australia, accounting for up to 30 percent of the country’s annual production. Recently unique and ‘alternative’ grape varieties have started to become fashionable there. While aboard the mighty Murray River cruise – from which it’s possible to enjoy sedentary views of the region – I also had a tasting with local producers who grow varieties with Mediterranean influences such as Vermentino and Montepulciano.
If you have a chance to visit Australia and explore its wine country, besides the rightly popular Barossa I would highly recommend you make the time to tour these less well-known regions. They are not only full of energy and potential, but are also an apt reminder of Australia’s outstanding regional diversity and vinous history.