The embodiment of ‘New World’ wine in its intensely fruity, fleshy finish, Australian wine is some of our favourite in the world, old or new. A holiday to this great country to sample some of the stuff, then, is a dream trip we’d love to make a reality.
Indeed, the wine and the country seem to share so much in personality; laid back, full of life and verve, open, and lacking in pretension…all the all, the ideal fit for a trip of exploration and indulgence.
Today we’re focusing our wine tour on the states of Victoria and New South Wales and their two megacities, Melbourne and Sydney. So, uncork a bottle, find the perfect glass, and let’s get down to writing our itinerary together; here are 7 IDEAL places to visit on your wine tour of Victoria and New South Wales, Australia.
Embla Wine Bar, Melbourne
The city of Melbourne in Victoria state needs little in the way of introduction; an open-armed city full of culture, charm and residents who just love their food and drink. The perfect place to begin our wine tour of Victoria and New South Wales, we think.
Melbourne is blessed with a superb drinking culture; this isn’t your 5 pints and kebab affair beloved on these shores. There’s a real appreciation for the good stuff here, inspired of course by the fact that the city is surrounded by five distinct wine regions, namely Yarra Valley, Mornington Peninsula, Sunbury, Macedon and Geelong, each with their own distinct agriculture and output.
Before we head out of town to explore the fertile landscapes of Victoria, a sharpener in Melbourne is obligatory. Embla, on Russel Street, is the kind of place London foodies will be well versed in already; nominally a wine bar but one which happens to serve superb, super hip small plates, all in paired back, minimalist and moody surrounds.
The wine list here is a collaboration between Australian wine producer Patrick Sullivan and French natural wine expert Eric Narioo. The results are an intriguing, exciting blend of the Old World and the New and the perfect place to start our Australian wine tour.
An honourable mention to Gerald’s Bar, a half hour’s walk north along Rathdowne Street, which is a warm, cosy institution, serving great wine and the winner of several prestigious awards in recent years, including the 2010 Gourmet Traveller Australian Bar Of The Year Award. That’s our evening sorted, then.
The Tarrawarra Estate & Museum Of Art, Victoria
Just 25km northeast of (and a half hour’s drive from) Melbourne is the Yarra Valley, a beautiful cool climate wine destination which boasts 80 cellar doors, several estates, vineyards and places of interest for wine aficionados to enjoy. The region has pedigree; it’s been producing wine for nearly 200 years, with the first Victorian grapes sown here in 1838.
We’re taking in the TarraWarra Estate – 45 km from Melbourne – today, which is one of Australia’s most revered wineries, set in a lush, tranquil setting including a 28-hectare vineyard, and run expertly by General Manager and winemaker Clare Halloran.
Do make sure you check out the TarraWarra Museum of Art while you’re here, one of the most exquisite collections of modern art in Australia and in the very finest of settings.
Panton Vineyard, Mornington Peninsula, Victoria
Part of the Mornington Peninsula Wineries an hour’s drive south of Melbourne, the Panton Vineyard in Shoreham is one of the most gorgeous boutique vineyards in the country. A family-run affair, Panton opened in 1995 and produces premium, single vineyard Pinot Gris and Noir, Sangiovese and Rose, in particular. The northeast aspect and rolling, untroubled slopes lead to a fertile soil and excellent wine.
Here, the cellar door is open every Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 11am to 5pm, and a glass of their crisp, herbal Chardonnay overlooking the gardens is about as ideal an afternoon as we could imagine. Or, you could buy a bottle and continue your drive just 5 minutes south to Point Leo Beach and enjoy a drop looking out to sea. Heaven!
Saint Peter, Sydney
Though we’d love to stay in Victoria forever, enjoying the rolling hills and rollicking wines, we’ve places to be and a booking at one of the world’s most talked-about fish restaurants. So, we’re bidding Mornington Peninsula farewell and heading for Sydney.
You could take the Hume Highway here, the most direct route, which is a nine hour drive from Melbourne to the Syndey, but we prefer to take the scenic coastal road, which takes around 14 hours and takes in diverse, breathtaking scenery of Australian seaside and the odd sup, too (check out the Lerida Estate and Lake George Wineries near Canberra, especially).
Once in Sydney, it’s to Oxford Street in Sydney’s Paddington suburb we’re heading, and to a restaurant which is at the vanguard of a revolution in the way we think about fish. Perhaps you’ve even seen head chef and owner, Josh Niland, on TV screens here in the UK, discussing his concept of ‘fish butchery’ – using every part of the fish and wasting nothing – which all culminates in stunning, deceptively simple dishes which highlight the chef’s unique approach but more importantly, the quality of the fish from nearby waters.
And what is a brilliant fish dish without a glass of wine to perfectly complement it? Here at Saint Peter, it’s an all Australian wine list to go with the all Australian fish menu, and it’s an extensive, exhilarating affair with the list awarded 2* by the World Of Fine Wine Magazine.
Right now, due to the current climate’s need for social distancing, the restaurant is undergoing a renovation, changing from table seating to one long bar. What could be more conducive to drinking wine?
Booking ahead is essential.
Maybe Sammy, Sydney
For a nightcap, we’re hopping in the STA and heading 15 minutes north into Sydney proper, for a drink at one of the world’s most acclaimed cocktail bars, Maybe Sammy in the funky neighbourhood of The Rocks.
Named last year as ‘The Best Bar in Australasia’ and #43 in the World’s 50 Best Bars, this Harrington Street bar has only been open for a couple of years but is chalking up the plaudits in the process, with it’s signature, creative cocktails and Rat Pack inspired aesthetic.
Though such an esteemed joint might sound worryingly exclusive – and indeed, it is swanky – there’s a ‘mini’ list of classic cocktails for just $10 a pop. What’s more, they do several wines by the glass as well as some superb skin contact Australian wines, including an Arfion Spring Pinot Noir from the Yarra Valley we were checking out earlier on. Chin Chin!
The Orange Wine Region, Nsw
For a relative newcomer on the world wine scene which is making serious waves, we’re heading three and a half hours out of Sydney over the Blue Mountains; a drive which is worth it for the scenery alone. That said, you can take a train from Syndey, leaving from Central Station each day at 7am if you fancy taking a load off.
With vineyards at an altitude of 600m or above, this is a cool wine region, with the main varieties produced here Pinot Gris and Viognier. That’s not to say this isn’t a diverse, exciting place to visit for wine. On the contrary, there are over 60 wineries and 14 grape varieties in the region.
Our favourite estate right now? It has to be Philip Shaw Wines on the Koomooloo site, run by esteemed winemaker Philip Shaw, who is a twice International Winemaker Of The Year, with the cool climate and high altitude here producing some fascinating, light reds, particularly their Shiraz.
The cellar door is open seven days a week, on Sunday to Thursday from 11am – 4pm, and on Friday and Saturday for an extra hour, 11am – 5pm.
Audrey Wilkinson Winery, Hunter Valley, Nsw
Finally, we’re heading north, finishing up in the Hunter Valley wineries, Australia’s oldest wine region and quite honestly, some of the most picturesque in the world.
The Audrey Wilkinson Winery is perhaps the most revered, with stunning views of the Brokenback Mountain range just behind, and a world-renowned Semillon to sample. Closer to home you’ll find the Audrey Wilkinson’s Chardonnay available in Waitrose, at £15.99 a bottle, the perfect encapsulation of the terroir of the Hunter Valley.
Should you be weary from all that driving and drinking (not together of course) then the winery has a guest cottage with a panoramic view of of the Hunter Valley and Brokenback Mountain range.
What a way to end your wine tour of Victoria and New South Wales, Australia.