A look at the wine regions of Australia


A terra rossa (red clay) vineyard region on the so-called Limestone Coast of southeastern Australia, between Adelaide and Melbourne, Coonawarra is famous above all for its cabernet sauvignon — rich and elegant, with plenty of fruit — though there is also good shiraz and chardonnay produced here.


Just northeast of Adelaide, this is one of Australia's original wine-producing regions, and probably its most famous. Settled by German immigrants in the 19th century, the region originally specialized in riesling, but its hot, dry climate ultimately proved more hospitable to shiraz. Rich, dark, extracted, jammy Barossa shiraz was the first Australian wine many wine lovers in other countries took seriously, and the wine that went a long way toward focusing the interest of connoisseurs on the country's bottlings. In recent years, increased amounts of grenache and mourvèdre have been planted, often going into GSM wines (grenache/shiraz/mourvèdre blends). There is also cabernet sauvignon — and riesling and other white wines (mostly chardonnay, sémillon, and blends of the two) continue to be produced here.

Clare Valley

North of Adelaide and Barossa, this pioneering Australian wine region grows chardonnay, shiraz, cabernet sauvignon, and other varieties, but is famous above all for its riesling. These wines, most of them made by a few dozen small wineries, are clean and bright and known for their vivid expression of varietal character.

McLaren Vale

South of Adelaide, in an important agricultural area with a Mediterranean climate, McLaren Vale is famous most of all for its shiraz, intense, dark, and ripe, though sometimes more elegant than its Barossa counterparts. Cabernet sauvignon, grenache, and chardonnay, among other grapes, also do well in the region, and there is promising sangiovese produced here as well.

Yarra Valley 

The vineyards clustered around the Yarra River, near Melbourne, enjoy a comparatively cool climate and have become well-known for their chardonnay and pinot noir grapes. These are bottled as varietals but also used to make some of Australia's best sparkling wines.


Divided into six wine zones — Central Victoria, North East Victoria, North West Victoria, Western Victoria, and the relatively newly planted region of Gippsland — Victoria, whose capital is Melbourne, encompasses many different microclimates and has more wineries than any other part of Australia. Shiraz and chardonnay are particularly prominent here, but many other varieties are successfully grown, from pinot noir, riesling, gewürztraminer, and pinot gris to sangiovese, viognier, and marsanne. The King Valley region of North East Victoria is famous for growing a wide range of grapes seldom found in Australia, among them sagrantino, graciano, mondeuse, and petit manseng. Victoria also produces excellent muscat-based sweet wines.

Margaret River 

A new wine region by Australian standards, first planted to grapes only in the late 1960s, Margaret River, in southwestern Australia, does well with numerous grapes — most prominently chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, sémillon, and cabernet sauvignon, though its low-key, well-structured shiraz has many fans. Most of the region's 140-plus producers are small-scale.

South Australia 

The state of South Australia, whose capital is Adelaide, encompasses an immense series of wine-growing regions, and produces more than 50 percent of all Australian wine. It is divided into six zones: Barossa (including both the Barossa and Eden valleys), Fleurieu (which includes McLaren Vale), Mount Lofty Ranges (of which Clare Valley is part), Far North, Lower Murray, and Limestone Coast (including Coonawarra). Wines that don't come from the better-known parts of the region, or that are blends from several sub-zones, are labeled South Australia. Virtually all the grape varieties grown in Australia, from the familiar to the obscure, may be found here.

Hunter Valley 

Located north of Sydney in New South Wales, Hunter Valley was one of the first Australian wine regions. It became known above all for its sémillon (sometimes labeled, confusingly, as Hunter Valley Riesling or White Burgundy in the 19th century). These wines are richer than their French counterparts, with a mineral-tinged brightness. They are famous for tasting oaky even when they have seen no oak. Many other varieties are also grown here, among them chardonnay, verdelho, cabernet sauvignon, and shiraz.

Other Australia


From Granite Belt in southeastern Queensland, around Australia's eastern and southern sections through New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania, and Southern Australia, and then far to the west in Margaret River, Australia boasts almost 2,000 producers, from tiny boutiques to massive multi-nationals, and is the fourth-largest exporter of wine in the world. In addition to the many bottles labeled with major wine region names, there is a huge production of proprietary labelings, from the famous Yellow Tail to such imaginatively named smaller offerings as Shoofly Buzz Cut and Mr. Riggs the Gaffer. Nearly every imaginable wine style, red, white, and rosé, sparkling, and fortified, is produced in this majo