As a country, Australia features numerous microclimates and landscapes, ranging from vast deserts to high-altitude mountain ranges to pristine shorelines. These landscapes make up 65 distinct wine regions accounting for the diversity that is found in Australian wine. Some of today’s most exciting wines are coming from the cool, temperate southeast, specifically the southeast coast of New South Wales, the lower half of Victoria, and the island of Tasmania.
“Cool” doesn’t necessarily mean sweater weather all year round, but rather, warm summer days followed by drops in temperature at night, which allow the vines to rest and stretch out the grapes’ maturing process. The result is a longer growing season in which more desirable flavors and complexity — as opposed to amped-up alcohol — can develop in the wines.
These cool climates are attributable not only to proximity to the breezy sea air, but also latitude and altitude. Along the coasts and farther up in the mountains, average temperatures are simply just lower. It’s said that less than 1 percent of vineyards in Australia are located higher than 600 meters above sea level, and many of them are found in this part of the country. While mountain terroir enables an extended growing season, it also helps protect vines from potentially damaging rains.
While not ideal for all grapes, this brisk climate is conducive to many white wines, such as Chardonnay and Riesling, and lighter reds, including Pinot Noir — the opposite of the big, fruit-forward and heavily oaked wines Australia once hung its hat on. Wines grown in these areas are elegant, sophisticated, and allow winemakers to flex their skills when it comes to farming and harvest dates.
Here, a look at five of Australia’s cool climate wine regions and the wines to get to know in them.
Look out for our next article featuring another Australian cool climate region — Adelaide Hills!
This article is sponsored by Wine Australia.