With 24 percent of Australia’s vineyards (40,000 hectares), New South Wales is the country’s second-largest wine-producing region, notably in the zones of Riverina, Mudgee, Orange and the the Hunter Valley. Of these, only the Hunter Valley and, potentially, Orange could probably be considered fine wine regions.
Thanks to the Murrumbidgee (River) Irrigation Area, Riverina was turned from a dust bowl into a viticultural oasis from 1899 onwards, a process accelerated after WWII, with the flow of Italian immigrants into the area. Vines account for approximately 10,000 hectares, with grain, rice and vegetables also grown. While irrigation of the red loam ensures this region’s survival, unusual bursts of rainfall during the very hot growing season enable Sémillon - the region’s most planted variety – to develop noble rot. Casella Family Brands (owner of ‘[yellow tail]’ wines) are based here.
Orange is a small region with a fine wine opportunity: at 900 to 1100 metres it benefits from the cooling influence of Mount Canobolas (1,400 metres), whose basalt and limestone soils favour light whites such as Chardonnay.
The best district is the Hunter Valley, 250km north of Sydney. It is very hot, but frequent cloud cover softens the impact of the sun. Excellent Sémillon wines are produced here as well as first-rate Shiraz.