The food revolution, like elsewhere, has revitalized Oz’s restaurant scene, with demand for top notch, locally grown, organic produce resulting in a new wave of thrilling foodie destinations. Same goes for the wine. A new generation of curious, well-traveled, and environmentally conscious producers are taking advantage of Australia’s excellent climate and terrain to make wine that is sophisticated but utterly surprising. Lay off the high alcohol Shirazes and bulk wines sold on the merits of colorful animal logos and experience wines from these regions instead. Many are so new, they haven't left the country. One more reason to book a trip to Australia now.
Perth: Urban Wino Paradise
In the remote state of Western Australia, the capital city Perth’s recent economic boom has birthed a thriving food and drink scene.
There’s Print Hall, the heritage-listed former newspaper house-turned-multi-story-food-mecca located in the heart of Perth’s business district, whose wine list is one of the best in all of Australia. Just down the street is Lalla Rookh, where, in the shop section, you can polish off bottles at retail price from some of the hottest artisan winemakers in Oz, accompanied by hearty Italian comfort food. Thirty minutes south of Perth in the laid-back, artsy port city of Fremantle is Bread in Common, its warehouse-y vibe pairing perfectly with colorful, innovative small plates of goodness, all washed down with wines from star local producers.
Great Southern: For the Quirky Stuff
Without question, Margaret River is Western Australia’s most famous wine region, but it’s the Great Southern, a vast swathe of land encompassing five diverse subregions in WA’s southwest corner, that really nails it. An increasing number of young upstart winemakers (who are willing to live more than five hours' drive away from the nearest city) are starting a frenzy with quirky, irreverent labels that embrace both regional varietals like Riesling and Pinot Noir alongside alternative ones like Pinot Gris and Tempranillo. Try La Violetta’s “Spunk” petillant naturel, a light sparkler with flavors of strawberries and cream, or the foot-stomped “Klusterphünk” Chardonnay from brand new label Brave New Wine. Express Winemakers' smoky, cool-climate Shiraz will challenge your thoughts on the grape, and at Oranje Tractor it’s a toss up as to what’s more likable: the rustic, welcoming atmosphere or the zippy and sparkling "Sparkplug" Riesling.
Adelaide: A Slice of France Down Under
Drop into East End Cellars for a tasting with one of South Australia’s hottest winemakers. Or transport yourself to Paris at La Buvette Drinkery. Behind the royal blue exterior, you'll find exposed beams, old French posters, and a menu of authentic French fare like rillettes and fromage. Then pay a visit to 19th-century bistro-style Apothecary 1878, where small-house Champagnes are sabered by the staff.
Outside of the city, two of South Australia’s lesser-known regions, McLaren Vale and Adelaide Hills, lay claim to many of the state’s most innovative winemakers. Within McLaren Vale’s tight-knit community, don’t miss acclaimed winemaker Steve Pannell's wide range of sustainably produced wines, particularly his beautifully floral Grenache. Go to Brash Higgins during harvest time (late February to early April) and American-born sommelier-turned-winemaker Brad Hickey may put you to work foot-crushing his exceptional Nero d’Avola.
Adelaide Hills: Wines With Serious Character(s)
Just east of the city in the high-altitude Adelaide Hills, a region full of hobbit-like cottages, a crop of young Aussies are at the forefront of the natural wine scene. You’ll find characters like Taras Ochota of Ochota Barrels, a former bassist for a punk band who has made wine in California, Italy, and Sweden. Gareth Belton, a marine biologist (with an expertise in seaweed), makes wild, gluggable wine under his Gentle Folk label. A true eclectic, natural wine pioneer Anton Von Klopper of Domaine Lucci is known as the "wild man of Pinot," both for his crazy head of hair and his unconventional techniques. He once famously buried ceramic eggs with fermenting grapes. At Jasper Button's Commune of Buttons, you can get a taste of the mad, magical nature of the Adelaide Hills: Grapes are grown right on a commune he and his family live on.
Melbourne: Home to Ahead-of-the-Curve Producers
As you may remember reading in AFAR, Melbourne is home to one of the world's most exciting food scenes. Sip and sup at The Town Mouse, which effortlessly makes fine Australian dining seem casual; at the lovely wine bar Clever Polly’s; the cozy, wine-geeky Gertrude Street Enoteca; or at the even wine-geekier City Wine Shop.
Under an hour outside Melbourne, the Yarra Valley is the nerve center of the state’s most cutting-edge producers. Both Luke Lambert and his eponymous wines are beguiling and understated, the kind that keep you scratching your head long after the first sip. Mac Forbes is known for his single-vineyard Pinot Noirs, which range from subtle to gutsy. For savory and light Syrah, try Jamsheed. One more naturally made Syrah not to be missed is from Bobar Wine. It's bursting with bright berries, pepper, and clove, with the slightest bit of funk.