New South Wales is pretty proud of the fact it is one and a half times bigger than France. A region that has 2,000m high snow-lined mountains and deserts that reach 50C. It also has seven major wine regions each with its own terroir, climatic characteristics and a diversity of wines its producers claim can also live up to the French too. You can find out for yourself at today’s New South Wales generic tasting taking place at 67 Pall Mall in London. Here respected Australian wine writer, Andrew Graham, helps explain what New South Wales is all about.
Today’s New South Wales tasting is the first in the UK since Covid. To find out more and to register click here. Here’s a flavour of what you can look forward to tasting from this wide and varied wine region.
From rugged white-capped mountains to endless sandy beaches, lush green rainforests to parched red dirt deserts, the state of New South Wales boasts some of Australia’s most diverse landscapes.
Isn’t it fitting that New South Wales (NSW) also produces some of the most charismatic wines found ‘Downunder’? And with the nation’s richest winemaking history too.
This is history you can see. A proudly varied, long history you can taste.
From the Hunter Valley, where the soil dates back 280 million years, and the Shiraz vines are among the oldest on the planet. Or Mudgee, where 160 years of winemaking helps deliver both classically robust Cabernet and unique Sangiovese, Barbera and Zinfandel
That contrast of old and new, heritage and evolution, is repeated across NSW. From the almost beachside vineyards of the Shoalhaven to the south or the Hastings River to the north coast, where sandy soils and intense Semillon & Verdelho reign supreme. Or you travel 1,000m up and over the Great Dividing Range, where the Southern Highlands is famed for delicate sparkling, and then onto Orange, where high-altitude vineyards produce evocative aromatic whites and stylish mid-weight reds.
Cool climate wine is what many will not expect from NSW. For example, while the Hunter Valley or Mudgee can give unquestioned richness, the continental climes of warm days and frosty nights help Canberra, Gundagai, Hilltops, and Tumbarumba enable wines driven by intensity but also perfume and light.
Diversity is not just a mantra; it’s a climatic reality.
Hunter Valley highlights
Of course, look no further than the Hunter Valley for a natural place to start a NSW wine adventure. As Australia’s oldest continuously producing wine region – with vines planted in the 1820s – the Hunter Valley enjoys an embarrassment of vineyards over 100 years old, with this critical mass of vine history delivering something special.
There’s a personality to the famously silken Hunter Valley Shiraz and mind-bending, low-alcohol Semillon that is unquestionably unique. These are wines of such intensity that they make you think, ‘what are these, and where have they been all my life’.
Hunter Semillon is otherworldly. Grown on the alluvial flats surrounding the Hunter River is almost unfathomably ageworthy. For just three Semillon examples, Tyrrell’s Vat 1, Brokenwood’s ILR & Thomas Wines Cellar Reserve Braemore are released after at least five years in the cellar, and they’re confounding wines. Think toasty, rich expanses of flavour that you’d expect in a coveted Corton Charlemagne, yet with this line of green apple acidity that seems otherworldly, all delivered at less than 11.5% alcohol.
There’s no need to stop there, with Pepper Tree, Gundog Estate, Latitude 32 Wines, Hollydene & Briar Ridge among a phalanx of producers who’ve mastered this evocative white wine style, while also producing purple-fruited, earthen and utterly delightful Hunter Valley Shiraz.
Of course, there is much more to unpack across the great state of NSW than just the Hunter Valley.
Scale and diversity
Astonishingly, New South Wales is 1.5 times the size of mainland France, with snow-lined mountains of over 2,000m and deserts that swelter to almost 50C. And several hours from the cloudy, warm and humid quasi-coastal climes of the Hunter Valley, we can look towards the heights of Orange for a very different vinous expression you need to discover.
As one of the only regions in the world strictly defined by altitude, Orange is a cool climate jewel of New South Wales wine. Here, the vineyards above 600m elevation elicit vital wines that shatter the ‘big and alcoholic’ Australian stereotype.
Perched around the extinct volcano Mount Canobolas, the vineyards here (among Australia’s highest at 1,150m elevation) are often cut off by snow in the winter, with night-time jacket weather a constant guarantee. Orange’s history is fascinating, too – while grapevines have been here since the 1800s, the region is more famous for orchards, producing legendary apples. Indeed, many of the vignerons are now set up in old apple sheds (as they make great wineries).
Orange’s modern history now revolves around benchmark sparkling, tantalising Sauvignon Blanc, pristine yet richly-textured Chardonnay, elegant Syrah and beautifully fine-boned Cabernet & Merlot-based reds.
While Orange is technically a young wine region, this area is defined by its history. For instance, the 210-year-old property home to the Mayfield Vineyard dates back to the roots of the Australian colony. Or Rowlee, where owners Nik and Deonne Samodol have revived a European family winemaking tradition to help craft fine-boned Pinot Noir sharing more with Burgundy than your typecast big Aussie red.
Of course, Orange, like the rest of NSW, is also a beacon for innovation. From Faisan Estate’s generously textured, barrel-fermented Sauvignon Blanc to See Saw’s organically produced MARGE Pinot Noir Gamay.
A proud heritage, married to a sense of innovation – that’s the New South Wales wine difference, whether it’s the Cassegrain family, who can trace their winemaking origins back to 1643 and have spent the last 30 years marrying their French tradition to Australian technology. Or the fun of Contentious Character, which parlays the mature Canberra vines of Lambert Vineyards into a provocative range of rich Shiraz, Pinot, and much more.
For anyone interested in Australian wines with charisma and a history you can taste, New South Wales is the answer. So what are you waiting for?
- From the rogue to the refined, the old to the new, the cool climate to maritime, taste through the wine regions of New South Wales at its generic tasting in London on September 21. It will feature 64 wines, from 16 producers, covering seven regions. There will also be regional masterclasses on the Hunter Valley, Orange and the ‘New Wave’ producers. It features producers already in the UK market and those seeking distribution. It takes place at 67 Pall Mall in London between 10am and 4pm. Click here to register.