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They make wine there? The secret grape districts you have to visit

Jack Rabbit Vineyard on the Bellarine Peninsula. Photo: Tourism Greater Geelong and the Bellarine

Jack Rabbit Vineyard on the Bellarine Peninsula. Photo: Tourism Greater Geelong and the Bellarine

You’ve sat in Friday night traffic to get to the Mornington Peninsula, joined the hordes on a pilgrimage to the Barossa and seen and been seen in the Hunter Valley.

Now you’re in the mood for some hidden wine district gems, where you can get off the beaten track, hear stories from winemakers that haven’t been told a thousand times before and pat the odd vineyard dog.

Victoria

There’s a new peninsula in town. It’s got wild surf beaches, peaceful coves, views across the bay to Melbourne and wineries on every dirt road, but it’s not the Mornington Peninsula.

Discerning wine lovers should head west from the city instead, make a left at Geelong and hit the Bellarine Peninsula. Or even better, catch the 70 minute ferry from Docklands in the CBD to Portarlington and be picked up by one of the many winery tour companies.

In one compact region you’ll be able to visit the oldest winery in the district, Scotchmans Hill, a regular in the James Halliday Top 100, Jack Rabbit Vineyard, and its stunning glass-enclosed restaurant with views to the You Yangs and beyond, Terindah Estate, and its restored W-Class tram bar, or new kid on the block, Yes Said the Seal, among others.

Jack Rabbit Vineyard on the Bellarine Peninsula. Photo: Tourism Greater Geelong and the Bellarine

NSW

Think NSW wine regions and you probably think the Hunter Valley, but head north west instead and you’ll find the wine village of Mudgee, surrounded by 35 cellar doors, and best known for its cabernet sauvignon.

For something rustic make for Lowe Wines and its wisteria draped patio, then stay for the signature three hour lunch.

For cutting edge architecture don’t miss Logan Wines. Burnbrae Wines is one of the area’s oldest, with a cellar door in a historic converted dance hall, and if you have a four-legged mate in tow, make for Moothi Estate, known as the region’s most dog-friendly winery.

The drive to Mudgee takes about four hours from Sydney, or you could skip the drive and get there in 50 minutes with FlyPelican.

Queensland

Let’s face it, all of Queensland’s wine districts qualify as hidden gems, because while the state is over-represented for tourist attractions, it’s not known for its vineyards.

Its two official districts are the Granite Belt, in the south near the border with NSW and the town of Stanthorpe, and South Burnett, inland from the Sunshine Coast.

In the Granite Belt, one of the highest wine making regions in Australia, you’ll find shiraz, chardonnay, cab sav and merlot.

The Granite Belt produces about 60 per cent of Queensland’s wines, and has more than 50 vineyards and cellar doors, including Ballandean Estate and its modern Italian-Australian restaurant The Barrel Room.

South Burnett specialises in cab sav and merlot.

From the Sunshine Coast pay a visit to Ocean View Estates, an hour north-west of Brisbane, for its cellar door and restaurant, plus accommodation, or take a look at the state’s biggest vineyard, Clovely Estate, a James Halliday 5-star winery.

Or make a road trip of it. In 2020 the state launched its Wine and Shine Trail, a self-guided tour of the wine regions.

Ballandean Estate Wines. Photo: Tourism and Events Queensland

Tasmania

Most wine hunters who visit Tassie head north from Hobart. The Tamar Valley, or closer to the capital, the Coal River Valley, between them produce about half of the island state’s wine.

But discerning wine lovers are increasingly heading south from Hobart to the Huon Valley. Only one per cent of the state’s wine comes from here, but it’s one of the closest wine districts to Hobart, and also offers spectacular coastal and forest scenery.

Here you’ll find Home Hill Winery and its award-winning pinot noir, and Kate Hill Winery, which focuses on sparkling, chardonnay, pinot noir and riesling.

On your way back circle around to Mewstone Wines, once a former cherry orchard, for its views of Bruny Island and its acclaimed single site wines.

Kate Hill Winery. Photo: Chris Phelps/Tourism Tasmania

Western Australia

You’re going to go to Margaret River. In fact, if you’re a real wine lover, you’ve probably already been.

But now go a bit further afield and make tracks for the Great Southern wine region, the largest wine district in mainland Australia.

Located right at the bottom of WA you’ll find wineries and vineyards clustered around Albany, Denmark, Frankland River, Mount Barker and Porongurup.

With the climate ranging from Mediterranean to maritime, there’s 51 diverse winery offerings to choose from, as well as wild ocean beaches and spectacular hikes.

Oranje Tractor Wines near Albany in WA’s south. Photo: Tourism Western Australia

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