Australia is home to 65 wine regions, collectively home to more than 2400 wineries. We’ll just let that statistic settle for a minute.
While this means we’ll never run out of great Australian wineries to check out, it can make choosing which wines to try next a tiny bit hard.
Enter ‒ our hot list of four boutique wineries around the country that are doing cool, interesting things (and winning awards).
Whether it’s growing grapes sustainably, using traditional artisan techniques, or a negociant winemaking approach, there’s a reason these Australian wineries are loved by the locals in the regions they are in. And why they should be on your watch list.
Yarran Wines is a family-run winery at Yenda, in the Griffith region of NSW, and has quietly built up its reputation to become Griffith’s multi award-winning must-visit destination. Shiraz was the first varietal Yarran released, and continues to be a staple. Beyond that, however, the boutique winery is carving out a reputation for lesser-known varietals like the Italian Montepulciano.
Yarran Wines’ organic vineyards and traditional techniques ‒ such as hand pruning, foliage positioning and shoot thinning ‒ produce high-quality fruit with intense flavours. In the winery, low use of preservatives and no animal products inform the process, producing approachable wines that are meant to be shared and enjoyed.
Pop into the relaxed space at the Yarran Wines cellar door overlooking the vines in Griffith, NSW, for a guided wine tasting, or you can opt for “Cheese + Chill” ‒ wine tasting with a sharing cheeseboard and a glass of wine on the terrace.
Oakdene has a formidable hospitality offering, in the form of the restored 1920s homestead with its Upside Down House cellar door, and it’s backed up by some fine wines that have been crafted with care and precision. This family-run winery has been producing a range of varietals in the maritime-influenced wine region of Bellarine peninsula since 2001. It started with chardonnay, pinot noir, sauvignon blanc and shiraz, but the addition of another vineyard allowed an expansion into grapes such as pinot gris, merlot and cabernet franc.
Even though the range is wide, from red and white to sparkling, all the wines are made from estate-grown grapes. Aside from a James Halliday five-star rating, Oakdene winery has over a dozen wines rated higher than 90 points in the 2021 guide, including the flagship pinot noir and shiraz.
Seated wine tastings at Oakdene vineyards cellar door involve up to six premium wines, with a team of experts to guide you through the handcrafted, award-winning selection.
Based out of Adelaide Hills, Jericho Family Wines is a boutique winery that prides itself on small batch handcrafted wines that speak to the terroir. Fruit is sourced mainly from the seaview subregion of McLaren Vale and the southern Adelaide Hills, but they also source grapes from other vineyards around the region. The varied terrain and microclimates of these regions means each wine, and each vintage, tells a different story.
Winemaker Andrew Jericho describes their philosophy as “light-handed but balanced”, and their approach to winemaking as “detailed and analytical”.
Whether the varietal is popular or pioneering, the wines are consistently interesting.
“[At Jericho Wines], we make fresh and vibrant wines really led by the vineyard,” says Andrew. “The focus is on liveliness, drinkability and delicacy.”
Based out of Margaret River, partners Livia Maiorana and Mijan Patterson created South by South West wine to celebrate the particular characteristics of this part of WA. In this region, the coastal climate with moderate diurnal shifts and the gravelly loam soil type combine to make for some of the best grape-growing conditions in this country.
The female-owned brand is built on a negociant wines ‒ or wine merchant ‒ model, allowing them to buy the best fruit possible from different growers, although they do own one vineyard in Wallcliffe. “This is such an important part of how we’re making wine,” explains Liv. “We wanted the connection to this unique part of Australia to be instantly recognisable with our label.” Sustainability is at the heart of the South by South West wines operations, with a leaning towards organic and some biodynamic farming methods, and a respectful, low-intervention and artisanal approach to the winemaking, which honours tradition while embracing innovation.
Focusing on small-batch wines gives them room to try different things, all with the goal of allowing expression of terroir. They’ve clearly been doing their job well, as they won the 2019 Australian Young Gun of Wine People’s Choice award and have been short-listed for Dark Horse Winery of the Year in the 2022 Halliday Wine Companion awards.