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Poll: The best Australian wine region to “tour” is?

Simple question: what’s the best Australian wine region to tour? Maximum of 3 answers allowed, though you can click on one only if your choice is overwhelmingly in one direction.

From a pure wine touring perspective, Australia's best wine region to visit is?

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80 Responses to “Poll: The best Australian wine region to “tour” is?”

  1. And for now, the Poll doesn’t seem to work. Where’s GW when you need him?

  2. Gary Walsh says:

    It’s OK now. Please add a nice picture, of say, the Hunter Valley 🙂

  3. Ste667 says:

    Do you want votes from people who haven’t been to that many regions? (Just three in total for me – although I have a clear favourite from those!)

  4. Gary Walsh says:

    Margaret River for me.
    Soft spots for McLaren Vale, Clare and Hunter Valley.
    Yarra Valley is lovely, but bloody HUGE, and it takes forever if you don’t want to spend all your time in Hollywood…

  5. MichaelC says:

    I ticked Hunter and Yarra Valleys. This will probably not surprise anyone who knows me. I think Yarra is better from an overall tourism viewpoint.

    Soft spot for Clare.

    MR is winning, but I’ve never been there. Don’t get too excited about MR reds for the most part so that’s probably got something to do with it, and I don’t drink much MR white either (used to drink more MR Chardonnay than I do now).

  6. Cactus says:

    I voted the only ones I have been to which are Hunter, Barossa & Margs. I’m not sure that is fair, the only other region I have been to is Southern Highlands / Shoalhaven. Anyway – more interested in others thoughts here.

    Perhaps to frame thoughts, what do you want to see in a wine region? For me it is
    1) Some boutiques doing interesting things that aren’t in the major chains. Discovered Gundog & Thomas Allen in the Hunter which have pride of place in my cellar.
    2) Some big benchmark wines to try. So here Tyrrell’s or Lake’s Folly in Hunter for example.
    3) Some different wine tour options. I’m thinking Seppeltsfield in Barossa for example doing the barrel tour where you try 100 yr old port from barrel – unique. Havent been but this is where Seppelt’s Great Western Drives appeals.
    4) Other entertainment options to mix up time there (golf, gardens, beach/surf etc). Hunter hard to beat here. You can wangle work to put on a conference there or get wife/friends over the line (those that don’t like wine as much as me).
    5) A mix of good food between classy restaurants but also some good café/pub style options that don’t break the bank.
    6) Scenic driving. All of them tick this box to date, but jeez the drive from Adelaide up through the Adelaide hills to Barossa takes some beating.
    7) Reasonable drive from a major city. This is where Coonawarra might struggle? I find it hard to justify going. Maybe Tasmania would struggle normally, but the fact that golf and whisky has improved so much make this more compelling.
    8) Good service. You’d be surprised, had a shocker at a Marg River benchmark producer. I buy the wine despite them because it is good & I figure I shouldn’t punish the owners/winemakers etc for the terrible service from one cellar door staff member who might have been having an off day. On the other hand, places like Gundog + Thomas Allen have me buying religiously because of the personal service and time taken.
    9) Good wine – seems obvious, but the Shoalhaven / Southern Highlands just isn’t a producer of good wine (that I have tried yet maybe).

    • zel says:

      I too had a shocker at a Margaret River benchmark producer’s cellar door. About 15 years ago Pierre, a very Arab-looking Belgian of Egyptian extraction, and I were conspicuously ignored for around 20 minutes. When the number of parties on our side of the counter had reduced to two, the second of two people serving behind the counter walked out the back rather than serve us. Pierre said there was no need for me to apologise – his father (an engineer who had worked in Belgium for many years) often received the same treatment in France. After one such episode in the Champagne region he went back the next day impersonating a distributor, and was given the red carpet treatment. All of which might give you an idea of which MR winery it was.

    • Cactus says:

      I’d rather not say who it was re: the bad experience at a producer. It might also be influenced by the fact I am younger than most people who love wine. I also wonder whether I was dressed a bit casual? I now dress a bit better as a sign of respect to try to make sure I am doing my bit.

      But I am sure they would have been rude regardless. We walked in at 3.30pm (3.25 if I recall correctly) when their posted time for closing was 4pm. They made a big deal about how they were about to close up and we had to be quick.

      • MichaelC says:

        Don’t worry about dressing up. I go shorts and scrappy-looking T-shirt (my favourites have ’60s muscle cars on them). Go up the front. Take up a position. Plonk out your notebook and pen. Start looking around quizzically with furrowed brow (I’m very good at this). Take a couple of notes. Then you get attention. I am regularly asked “are you in the industry?”. I delight in saying “no, just an informed consumer”. Not sure they always believe me (!). Show and display your genuine interest and you will generally be well treated, and the good stuff will be shown to you as well.

        If a winery wants you to dress up, to hell with them. I know extremely rich people who I don’t think have ever worn a suit in their life (artsy types, music producers, people involved in car racing, etc.). There are many ways to make a buck.

      • I agree with MichaelC – who gives a shit about what you wear.

        Harking back to my wine retail days we had two customers who would pop into the shop in shorts and paint flecked t-shirts and would drop $2-3k in a heartbeat.

        The good cellar door staff know that you never judge by what someone is wearing. If they do, then it’s not a cellar door worthy of spending your $$ at.

  7. via collins says:

    I’ve gone Margs # 1 without being there because a) I love wines from there, and b) beaten into submission by Gourmet Traveller articles outlining what it is. MP next – the more I go, the more I love it. stunningly beautiful, quality of wines getting better year on year. Can’t decide on # 3!

  8. Rich says:

    Will be interesting to read MB’s stuff on the Granite Belt whenever/wherever that is published.

    Only 3hr drive from Movie World in Gold Coast so possibly Aus’ best wine region.

  9. Tyrone says:

    Having been to several of these regions, I voted for MR just ahead of the Barossa. MR has the greatest concentration of high quality cellar doors in the country with exceptional winery restaurants e.g. Voyager, Vasse Felix, Leeuwin, as well as first-rate winery tours including Cape Mentelle (I had a sensational experience in 2015) and Woodlands, plus many other great cellar doors all within a short drive – topped off with beaches and great bushwalking. The Barossa stands out above the rest because so much of its wine history (e.g. Seppeltsfield, Tanunda) is still intact.

  10. Aaron says:

    I went Barossa as although it’s not my favourite wine style, I love the history, the hospitality, the whole culture built around food and drink. Lots of wineries to visit in close proximity, including lots of more boutique wineries too. I’ve been four times and never had anything but a blast!

    I went Yarra next because I love the wines, the cellar doors are pretty good, and it’s so damn scenic.

    And then Hunter because of the history, the great wine, the beauty of the region, and that most of the cellar doors are pretty close to each other. The bulk tourism industry turns me off a bit.

    Haven’t been to MR but it’s next on the list after Rutherglen.

  11. peter king says:

    Just back from the Yarra so that gets a vote as does MR.
    Had a cracking tasting at Bress / Mt Macedon. Funny guys, nice wine very entertaining.

    Comment above re Yarra being huge is funny.
    Takes even longer than before now that every vineyard is also a craft beer brewery…or it is that every craft brewery is also a vineyard….and Cider producer….

    great spot.
    V nice people.

  12. Chris says:

    Margs has it all no matter what time of year you visit. Summer of course is stunning with the weather, beaches and walks but you have to like scrummaging with the hordes in town getting supplies.
    Winter is just gorgeous with the dappled light through the eucalypts, Jarra smoke from the log fires, the caves and long comforting lunches at the wineries.
    You tend to get more attention at the tasting benches at that time of year too.

    • MichaelC says:

      Never been. You are all starting to convince me that I need to. Should have gone earlier, i.e., before child entered the scene. Maybe the place will even convince me to like MR reds more than I currently do :).

  13. Cactus says:

    I like Margs, a lot. But I have married into a Perth based family – so its a bit easier to justify. I think for many Perth is a bit harder to get to as it costs more and you just lose so much more time flying across and back. Its not quite a weekender proposition from the East Coast where-as most of the others are.

    Having said that – it is well worth it.

  14. So far … the surprise results for me are:

    The beautiful Clare Valley ranking above the beautiful Mornington Peninsula.

    The amazing wine state of Tasmania, with all its associated glories, ranking only 6th.

    The great Barossa pulling in the numbers because of its history and mix of big/small name producers, but the Coonawarra gathering no such traction, despite its history and mix of big/small name producers.

    • tonyt says:

      Barossa v Coonawarra?

      The question asks best region to tour. Utterly no contest.

      If one of a couple is any less into wine than the other, Coonawarra is a horrid bore. And is a flat and virtually soulless (for the less wine passionate companion) place. A road with winery signs every few hundred yards. So many other regions have some incredible vistas and outlooks from cellar doors that make a day worthwhile for even non drinkers, and result in lots of photos being taken.

      Also, not as much interest in Coonawarra in the way of the local food produce/providore scene. I’ve never been on a wine tour where the attendees weren’t very happy to see other great other types of locally grown offerings or experiences.

      The question distinctly implies (intended or not) that there must be views and interest in such a tour well over and above the wineries and wines on the tasting bench.

      • paulf says:

        Unless they are into Saints or Fossils.

        • tonyt says:

          I’ve been with someone who is. The McKillop angle to Penola is about one twentieth the time and ceremony to take in compared with all the extra add ons in the Barossa. A pilgrimage, but not for as long.

          I’ve been with non wine people to the Barossa who felt that a week was barely enough time to see and soak up all that they wanted to.

  15. Vincenzo says:

    Top 3 for me: Margaret River, Barossa Valley & Yarra Valley. Wouldn’t mind visiting them all in fact!

  16. paulf says:

    I would have been to about 1/2 the regions on the list and I have been to a few in different parts of the world. On the whole, the Australian regions stack up very well against what is on offer in other parts of the world.
    For the record, I went with Margaret River, Mornington and Clare but I have had good experiences in all the regions I have been to.
    I grew up on the Mornington Peninsula so I have a better idea of what is there than most would. Outside of Mornington, I have been to Coonawarra more than any of the other regions and always enjoy it. I could have easily snuck the Beechworth/King Valley/Alpine Valley in there too.

    • via collins says:

      Snap Paul.

      I went Beechworth/King Valley/Alpine Valley as my third pick.

      The volume of seriously fine wines combined with ethereal beauty available in that region tipped me in. Sitting in a deck chair at Mayford on open day watching the sun kiss Mt Buffalo is very, very hard to beat.

      • MichaelC says:

        Seriously interested in this area too. Victoria is probably my favourite state to visit on account of the diversity of experiences you have if interested in wine/nature/cultural things, though there are certain suburbs of Melbourne you can keep all to yourselves (though we have some ‘interesting’ suburbs on the GC too). Very interested in checking out these cooler places, maybe in Autumn?

        • via collins says:

          Autumn is of course premium time in this region, and I reckon the best time to visit.

          And you’ll need to be very aware of Campbell’s cycling confreres who will be all over the region – having the proverbial ball!

  17. Gary Walsh says:

    I’ve never been to the following (though have passed up invites to all, aside Granite Belt).

    Tasmania (15%, 26 Votes)
    Rutherglen (2%, 4 Votes)
    Central Victoria (1%, 1 Votes)
    Granite Belt (1%, 1 Votes)
    Langhorne Creek (0%, 0 Votes)

  18. Mike Bennie says:

    I love the list here, and a positive affirmation of creature comfort wine tourism in the leading regions. Margaret River is amazing, and I am fortunate to have been there nearly yearly for the past 15 years. That echoes across most of Australia’s ‘blue chip’ wine regions. But sometimes I just can’t get past the whole ‘Accidental Tourist’ element of it all, in which comfort supersedes a sense of discovery. A privileged position to be in, no doubt. My votes are with the less touristy regions, Beechworth, Tasmania, Canberra District, beautiful places, where quality wine trumps edifice of wealth and success and testimonies to wealth in cellar door experiences and goes past fine dining that could be from anywhere. From my perch, of course.

    • john pearce says:

      Hence why Clare was one of my choices.

    • MichaelC says:

      Agree with a lot of that. Not that interested in ‘fine dining’. Prefer to go collect and ‘discover’ during the day and cook it up in the evening. A good experience in the Yarra is go up past Marysville and catch a couple of trout and then stick them on a barbecue in the evening in a bit of alfoil with lemon and butter and herbs, etc., and wash it down with some Chardonnay, of course, and local beers – always good to hunt out the more obscure local microbrews. 10/10 evening and it cost very little.

    • wnobrien says:

      Visited the Canberra district last weekend and absolutely loved it! We’ve been to the Hunter probably a dozen times when we lived in Newcastle, so it was a nice change to visit somewhere without hordes of tourists. The hour we spent with Ken Helm was truly memorable. Already planning our return visit.

  19. milansenicic says:

    For pure natural beauty combined with some really good wines, esp recently I picked Tassie. Second two are Canberra and Yarra Valley for me.

  20. Regan says:

    Hard to put Tassie as one region (though technically it is…but I won’t get back into that argument here). The rest are 2, maybe 3 days tops for a full immersion, but Tas is so geographically diverse you’d need more than a week to go from the North West (Barringwood etc) through the Tamar, down the East Coast, into the Coal River Valley, across to Derwent Valley, in through Granton, off to the Huon and maybe catch the ferry to Bruny. But still, throw in world class accommodation, food, museums, beer and golf…and it’s got a fair bit going for it.
    *Disclaimer..yep, I’m living in Hobart.

    • Given all that Tassie has to offer … I thought it might come out top.

      • Dave55 says:

        Agree with these comments – Tas has a heap to offer as a destination either for wine tasting purposes or with wine as an aside. Despite the extra cost and difficulties with accomodation, I reckon doing Taste in Hobart (up to and including New Years) is also worthwhile – a wide range of wineries and they are typically generous with what they have on offer (Arras for example had everything except the CJ Carr) – has added benefit of being warm and the Syd – Hobart yacht race comes in. You can then do infil tastings from wineries you didn’t get to try at Taste.

      • winefool says:

        I would have voted Tassie given all of the ‘extras’ (museums, accomodation, beer, golf etc.) but the question states, “From a pure wine touring perspective” so I excluded those and Tassie didn’t make the cut.

      • tonyt says:

        Many here won’t have been. Or at least, not specifically for principally wine touring reasons. More like adding wineries to a Tassie tour, rather than adding a taste of Tassie to a winery tour.

        Like some have said above, it is anachronistic that the state is still a single region. Possibly also counts against it because it isn’t quite kosher to claim all of Tasmania’s attractions as single region wine touring add ons.

      • john says:

        was organising a tour of Tassie with wine mates – and realised we would have to spend a week drinking white wine and pinot!

  21. knoxinus says:

    I have at times been patronisingly treated at wineries. They have kindly look at me and almost questioningly ask if I am there to taste wines and have been asked for ID before ugh. Usually wipe the smile off of their faces when I critique the wine. Mind you I do look very young for my age so in one sense they are probably just taken aback.

    • Gary Walsh says:

      I look very young for my age too. I empathize.

      • john pearce says:

        Yes, I’m also often asked to produce ID at bars.
        I also get special treatment at airports – I was “randomly” selected to be personally scanned both when going to Melbourne at Adelaide Airport and when coming back at Melbourne Airport.
        Maybe I look like Carlos the Jackal (not Carlos the winemaker).

        • MichaelC says:

          You’ve got nothing John. Try travelling internationally with someone on a Mexican passport. Extra special fun passing through Los Angeles! You get the ‘special’ treatment. Wife has recently taken out an Australian passport, but we still got the ‘special’ luggage treatment on the way back into Australia from NZ. Not sure why my wife decided to personally important every NZ chocolate known to humanity …

          Unfortunately I never get asked for ID. Be happy with that! I probably look a bit younger than I am, or so I’m told, but I make up for that with world-weary demeanour …

      • Lee says:

        But isn’t that an old photo…?

  22. wustin says:

    I know its not so popular, but I really recommend a weekend visit to Orange. It is only a relatively young wine region with Bloodwood being the first commercial vineyard being planted in 1980. Worth visiting are Bloodwood (ring ahead to book in a tasting), Canobolas-Smith (only open on Saturdays), Ross Hill, Philip Shaw, Heifer Station and Patina. Riesling and Chardonnay are particularly good at Bloodwood; Canobolas-Smith produces excellent Cabernet Sauvignon; Ross Hill has a very good Cabernet Franc and a peppery Shiraz; Philip Shaw excels at Sauvignon Blanc and a Merlot Cabernet Franc blend called “No.17”; Heifer Station has some good Shiraz; Patina have some good Cabernet blends. Saturday lunch at Racine, followed by dinner at Lolli Redini and Sunday lunch at Tonic (15mins drive from Orange in Millthorpe) would complete the gastronomic experience. There are some great little B&Bs around, not to mention the rather posh but almost always booked-out De Russi Suites. Mount Canobolas is a beautiful place for a bushwalk and afterwards coffee at Byng Street cafe is very good.

    • milansenicic says:

      Is old Murray still at Canobolas-Smith? I heard he was selling up. I do like his Alchemy BDX blend.

      • wustin says:

        Yes Murray Smith is still at Canobolas-Smith but I’m not sure that he is making much wine at the moment. Reportedly sold the majority of last year’s Cabernet Sauvignon harvest to Philip Shaw and has fended off a few offers to sell to Chinese investors. I don’t think succession planning was at the top of his mind ten years ago and now his health isn’t good and the future for Canobolas Smith is uncertain.

    • Rich says:

      +1 had a few good trips to Orange. Bloodwood great. Good pubs. Open fires. Leafy. Now a great time to visit.

    • peter king says:

      Thanks Wustin.
      We have kicked around a visit to Orange for a couple of Sydney winters.
      Always liked Philip Shaw in all forms ( perhaps minus the SB…)
      More importantly, your mentions of tastings, open fires & bushwalks has just got the nod from SWMBO to plan for a Mid winter journey.
      Cheers

  23. Red Bigot says:

    I haven’t been to the Yarra for many years, probably should bump it up the list.
    Last time I went to the Hunter (2012) was probably the last ever, it’s really a big wine-themed tourist park compromised by hordes of Sydney people with apparently lots of money to spend. And I think we came across about every wine fault known to man, the very good stuff was very expensive, the more affordable wines were mostly just undistinguished (with some exceptions). A very ordinary lunch experience at one of the top-rated restaurants topped off the underwhelming experience.

  24. Filby says:

    It’s been 2 kids and a number of years since I went there but Marg River for sure. My one and only vote.

  25. Mark Gifford says:

    Woohoo Margaret River for the win!!

    Just finishing the some further touches on our tasting room and outside area, so maybe one day in the future WineFronters can trek east during their holiday in Margs.

    Surfing Championships on this morning, so something for everyone 😉

    Cheers

  26. Diq says:

    People who have voted Tasmania- If someone was to say plan on spending a few days there and had never had the opportunity to visit Tasmania for a wine related trip, where would you recommend? We have been looking at a trip and due to time it seems like we either focus on the areas accessible from Launceston or the areas near Hobart.

    Also can anyone enlighten me why Tasmania is seen as one region? Is it due to how late into the game Tasmania came into wine?

    • Santenay says:

      From Launceston it is a very scenic drive up the Tamar River and back, dropping in at the likes of Stoney Rise, Holm Oak and Delamere among the many fine choices along the way (especially if you like pinot and chardonnay). From Hobart the Coal River Valley is a short drive. Pooley Wines is a great place to visit, and drop in to Coal Valley Wines if only for the amazing view. Can’t answer the question regarding Tasmania as one region. You’d need a helicopter to visit all the extremities in a day!

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