The state of Victoria has more individual wine producers than any other within Australia with over 600 wineries.
Add to that around 20 wine regions and you're going to take a while to learn them all.
The state capital of Melbourne is a hub of art, culture and of course wine, with several wine regions bordering the city and a half dozen more within 1-2 hours drive.
Several regions of Victoria are arid, hot and famous for their gold mining history, these areas contrast nicely with one some of Australia's only 'alpine' terrain; cool, higher altitude regions found in the North-East, where Victoria border New South Wales.
In the interest of time and simplicity, Victoria's wine-growing areas will be broken into six zones, with several wine regions occupying each zone spread across this state.
The Central area of Victoria is a Zone that has a bit of everything when it comes to geography for wine growing. An incredibly varied collection of areas with river, hills, lakes, and arid plains. Central Victoria combines hot, dry, low elevation sites also found in the Western Victorian Zones, with cooler, wetter, higher elevation sites like those common to the North-Eastern and Southern Zones.
Heathcote is an area sandwiched between the Bendigo and Gouldburn Valley region, where rare 500 million year old red Cambrian soils, create spectacularly rich wines from Shiraz grapes.
Located North of the Great Dividing Range, most vineyards are planted at elevations between 160-380m (520-1250ft), and rainfall is evenly distributed amongst it's distinct seasons.
It's temperate climate, supports a broad range of varieties, including Sangiovese, Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, amongst many others.
As with much of Victoria, Bendigo was a mining region, and the gold-bearing soils ended up being excellent for viticulture which the residents turned to, after the mines ran dry.
The area contains volcanic soils, alluvial flood plains, rolling granite hills and sedimentary rises, bringing about a great variety of terrior.
The region has become well known for it's Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz, which have been the focus of the region for nearly 40 years.
Goulburn Valley is a broad winegrowing region located 1.5-2 hours North of Melbourne city centre and is Victoria's oldest continuously producing wine region.
The region is centred around the Goulburn River which is part of the enormous Murray Darling Basin, and features a varied landscape for viticulture. Several small meso-climates are present across the valley from the ancient, weathered Dookie Hills to the East, to the Murchison area of the valley floor with it's well-drained alluvial soils.
The most well-known region for wine is the sub-region of Nagambie Lakes, known for rich and complex wines produced from ocre-red alluvial soils near the lakes and riverbeds.
Incredibly old Shiraz vines are still harvested at Tahbilk Winery, and were originally planted in 1860, before the rampant Phylloxera destroyed many of the world's vineyards. Just 1/2 a hectare (1.2 acres) survives today and it's resulting wine is sought by collectors the world over.
This region is the border region to the much cooler North-Eastern Victoria and features several overlapping mountain ranges that steadily climb as you head East.
There are over 25 vineyards (totally approx 1500ha) within the Strathbogie Ranges, which are located about 120-180km (75-110mi) drive from central Melbourne.
This wine region started developing in the mid 1970's, with Dr Peter Tisdall founding Mount Helen Vineyard (originally Tisdall Wines) which found immediate success from their first crush of 1979, winning awards for both their Riesling and Cabernet Sauvignon.
The altitude of vineyard plantings in this region range from 150m-650m (490ft-2150ft) above sea level, which allows for a wide variety of different varieties and styles.
The decomposed granite of the mountain ranges has formed acidic, sandy loam soils on which the region's main grapes of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Shiraz thrive.
Located in the High Country roughly 90 minutes North-East of Melbourne, the Upper Goulburn Region is North of Yarra Valley and is bordered to the North by the Strathbogie Ranges and Goulburn Valley wine regions.
In this young region, we find high sunshine hours, that when combined with it's cool evenings, allows for a long growing season, perfect for crisp, aromatic white wines and textual, reds with many complexities.
Upper Goulburn contains many waterways, and lakes with considerable tourism growing in the area in recent year. Upper Goulburn wine region also stretches to Mount Buller, a very popular ski resort town, which means that this regions boutique wineries are now visited even in Winter, as tourists pass through towards the ski-fields.
North-East Victoria is a zone home to several unique regions for wine growing, as it includes several sub-alpine and alpine areas where it's possible to produce all manner of different wine styles.
The region has been producing wine for over 150 years in some parts, and is rich in history, including the gold rush boom and the notorious Ned Kelly Gang.
The Alpine Valley region of Victoria is, along with Beechworth and the Strathbogie Ranges, one of the coolest regions in all of Victoria. This area consists of the catchment areas of two major river basins that have been carved out of an old plateau extending over a large part of North East Victoria. The two main rivers, Ovens and Kiewa, and their tributaries, Buffalo & Buckland Rivers, have narrow deep valleys at the upper part of their catchment and widen into terraces and flood plains further downstream.
This region has grown grapes since the mid 19th Century, and saw a resurgence in plantings during the 1980's when the first modern, commercial wineries were established.
Roughly 600ha of vineyards are planted amongst the Alpine Valleys, with more than 50 growers supplying just under 20 wineries.
The sub-alpine nature here, creates a long, moderate growing season with cool nights, allowing for wines with structure, delicate and elegant fruit characters as well as high natural acidity.
Vineyards range from 180m-600m (590ft-1670ft) above sea level, allowing for many varieties to be experimented with.
Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz are ever popular, Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc also have considerable plantings.
Recently, many Italian varieties have taken root in the Alpine Valleys, including Sangiovese, Nebbiolo and Barbera.
At the Northern end of the Alpine Valleys we have the small and historic wine region of Beechworth, amongst Australia's oldest, with the original plantings taking place in 1856.
Unfortunately several setbacks including economic difficulties and the rampage of Phylloxera across Australia, meant Beechworth stopped producing wine for most of the 20th Century.
Beechworth has great potential however, and many believe the region will soon rise to prominence once again.
Altitudes in this area range between 300m-720m (985ft-2300ft) with several producers spread across the granitic sand soils of the steep foothills of the Victoria Alps.
The grapes here have a nice long growing season and the region is capable of growing many styles, from elegant styles of Cabernet Sauvignon to crisp Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and several others.
The small Rutherglen wine region is found along the border of Victoria and New South Wales and has a wine-growing history spanning back 150 years.
Home to 19 very passionate producers, the Rutherglen region has been hailed for many years for it's high sunshine hours (about the same as the Gold Coast, Queensland) and it's combination of hot days and cool nights.
An interesting diversity of grapes are grown amongst this tight-knit community of growers, including sweet styles made from Muscat and Tokay/Topaque (actually Muscadelle), and several red varieties, with the most prized being Shiraz and Durif (also known as Petite Sirah), which are made both as rich, full still reds and as fortified, tawny port styles.
The winemakers here are known for their pride ans skill, as many of these families have been growing in this region for four, five or even six generations!
They gather frequently to discuss trends and make sure their region is always at the cutting edge of the wine industry, which means constantly experimenting with new styles and varieties, while also honing their classic styles.
This commitment to the area also includes their own unique vine nursery for testing out and raising new grapes from around the world.
Additionally, please enjoy this pleasant video, put together by the esteemed Winemakers of the Rutherglen wine region.
While Glenrowan is better known for the infamous exploits of bush ranger Ned Kelly, this small wine region has been growing vines since Mr Kelly was just a young man.
Baileys of Glenrowan produced their first vintage in 1870, not long before the Phylloxera outbreak devastated the area in 1890's. Their 1904 replanting of Shiraz continues to produce wines to this day.
Most of the prominent vineyards in this area are located in between Lake Makoan and the Warby Range and specialize in many of the same varieties as Rutherglen, it's neighbour to the North.
Vineyards in Glenrowan are grown primarily upon deep, well-drained soils derived from the eroding granite of the Warby Range, which allow the vines to grow well with little to no irrigation.
The kings here are Shiraz, Durif and fortified styles made from Muscat and Topaque (Muscadelle), though there are several successful plantings of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Mourvedre (Mataro).
Many consider the King Valley region to be one of the most interesting environments for wine production in Victoria.
This area has a mix of micro-climates, from the warm valley floor to the North (where this region directly borders Glenrowan), to the cool, sub-alpine slopes to the South. Vineyards can be found between 155m-860m (500ft-2800ft) with huge ranges of temperature, rainfall levels and soil types. This diversity has lead to the King Valley playing host to the widest range of alternative varieties planted anywhere in Australia.
This area is home to the well-known Brown Brothers winery (established at Milawa in 1889), one of the largest family owned producers in Australia, and many of their trial plantings here have now expanded to their other vineyards around the country.
Also of note is the smaller Symphonia vineyard, where Peter Read pioneered a number of varieties in the region, especially Petit Manseng and Saperavi which have now flourished.
The King Valley was originally a region of Tobacco farmers, many of Italian origins, but these crops were replaced with vines after the downturn of the Australian Tobacco industry in the late 1970's, and today many Italian varieties are grown in the region.
Some of the alternative grapes grown in the King Valley include: Sangiovese, Saperavi, Tempranillo, Chenin Blanc, Verdelho, Barbera, Dolcetto, Petit Manseng, Arneis, Vermentino, Roussanne and many others!
Far inland from the capital of the state and home to some of Australia's largest production vineyards, the North-West wine zone of Victoria is only made possible by massive irrigation projects from the Murray and Darling Rivers. These two massive and slow-flowing rivers meet in the West of this zone, and increase the water available to growers.
The Murray Darling wine region (centred around Mildura and the confluence of the Murray and Darling Rivers) is among the largest wine regions in Australia, with more 800 growers and 15,000 hectares under vine*.
This large production area is located roughly 540km (335mi) to the North-East of Melbourne and directly shares borders with New South Wales, the Riverlands region of South Australia to the West and the Swan Hill wine region to the South-West.
The Murray Darling region is dominated by Chardonnay (over 100,000 metric tonnes are harvested around Mildura each year!), with Australia's two other main varieties, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon, also heavily represented.
This high yielding area is classified as a continental climate, hot and dry, with very little rainfall, so this region's production (as with many others across Australia), depends entirely on the life-giving waters of these two important rivers, which are then used to irrigate this area.
*note: This wine region is shared with the state of New South Wales, and there are many producers on the NSW side of the river. These 200 producers will be referred to in the New South Wales section of our Australian Wine Regions guide.
Swan Hill district (formerly known as Mid-Murray) is another large production region that straddles the Murray River that creates the border between Victoria and New South Wales. Similar to the Murray Darling region (which borders it along the river to the North/North-West), Swan Hill's vineyards are heavily irrigated with water from the slow flowing Murray River, to allow for high yield and consistent production.
This area was named Swan Hill by explorer Major Thomas Mitchell, for the abundance of Swan and other waterfowl found along this portion of the the river.
As this region is marginally cooler than the adjacent Murray Darling region, several of Victoria's producers based in small regions to the South, have their second production wineries/vineyards located in Swan Hill.
These include Best's (whose main winery is located in the Grampians region), who have vineyards near Lake Boga and Buller Wines (located mainly in Rutherglen) who have another winery in Beverford.
The soil is red-brown loamy sand, which is very rich and was described by Major Thomas Mitchell, when he surveyed the region in 1836, as "capable of being easily irrigated by the river", a prediction which, by 1900, had already come to pass with Muscat being planted, as well as sultanas for dried fruit.
The principal grape varieties as with other bulk production areas, are Chardonnay, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Western Victoria is a geographic region marked by flat pastures and granite escarpments, with low rainfall each year meaning many vineyards rely heavily on irrigation.
Springtime frost can be a significant hazard, following cool, wet Winters.
The Grampians region and it's sub-region of Great Western, have become the most well-known areas of Western Victoria and have been producing wine since the early 1860's, when a small group of Frenchmen planted the first vineyard, after meeting at the gold diggings at Daylesford.
The two main plantings by 1865 were the vineyards of the brothers Henry Best (Concongella Vineyard, still called Best's today), and Joseph Best (Great Western Vineyard, owned by Seppelt since 1918).
Several producers in this area have focused on sparkling wine since the late 1800's, starting with Hans Irvine (who purchased Great Western vineyard after Joseph Best's death in 1888), and continued by Irvine's friend and Australian wine pioneer Benno Seppelt.The legacy of all these pioneers, Seppelt's Sparkling Shiraz, is still produced today, among several other style of sparkling wine.
The Henty wine region (previously known as Drumborg) is the furthest South-West of all Victorian wine regions, located approx 300km (185mi) from Melbourne and approx 500km(310mi) from Adelaide, Henty occupies a large area at the border with South Australia.
Named for the Henty brothers, who arrived at Portland Bay in the South of the region in 1834 and established the first permanent settlement in Victoria.
These two brothers, according to the cargo manifest of the schooner 'Thistle' that they arrived in, also brought the first grapevine cuttings into the state of Victoria.
In the early 1960's Seppelt established 100ha (250 acres), at Drumborg, and now the region has flourished with Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc being planted amongst many others.
As the region is cool, relatively coastal, and has a long cool autumn ripening period, the wines from Henty are known for varietal purity, elegance and high acidity, making them approachable young, and are able to be cellared for plenty of years.
The Pyrenees wine region of Victoria is located in between the Grampians and Bendigo regions, to the North West of Ballarat and the state capital, Melbourne.
Named by Major Thomas Mitchell (as much of Western Victoria was), as the rugged hills, ranges and mountains of this area reminded him of the European Pyrenees that separate France and Spain.
Indeed the Pyrenees here can range from 200-750m (650-2460ft), their foothills allowing for a mix of micro-climates, encouraging a diverse selection of grape varieties to be planted.
Soils can range from fertile brown and grey loam, to red clay quartz and red sandstone, allowing for greater drainage and mineral access for the roots of the vines.
This region first saw proper winemaking after gold was discovered in 1854, and this continued until the late 1940's, when disease and phylloxera destroyed the vineyards.
A resurgence was felt soon after in the 1960's, building the region up steadily until today.
Pyrenees is primarily known for it's Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon, and has much in common with Bendigo and Heathcote to the East.
In the cooler, higher altitude plantings, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Sangiovese and Pinot Gris have started to become popular plantings.
Port Phillip Zone is the region around the state capital Melbourne, comprising of 5 distinct and very popular wine regions.
Maritime influences have a big influence, especially in Yarra Valley and Mornington Peninsula, which have become famous for their Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
Yarra Valley is perhaps the most well known and popular wine region in all of Victoria.
Located in proximity to the urban centre of state capital Melbourne ( just 45km/27mi away), this region is incredibly important for Australia's enotourism business, attracting over 3 million visitors every year.
Productions here focus on cooler climate varieties, especially the Burgundian grapes of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, though different expressions of Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Sauvignon Blanc are also very popular.
The climate of the Yarra Valley itself could be described on average as being cooler than Bordeaux, yet warmer than Burgundy, with elevations ranging from 50m-400m (165ft-1300ft).
Rain most commonly falls in Winter and Spring, with a relative coolness to Summer (important as Pinot Noir grapes here usually start being harvested, late Summer in mid-February).
Soils in the Yarra Valley vary depending on region, with Middle Yarra featuring ancient, mountain-derived sandy clay loams interspersed with broken sandstone. Both Upper and Lower Yarra have a wide dispersal of younger, red volcanic soils.
The history of Yarra Valley's vineyards can be traced back to 1838 when the Ryrie Brothers, planted Victoria's first vineyard at Yering Station, with the first wine being made by James Dardel in 1845.
By the turn of the century, there were already 400ha (1000acres) of vineyards planted in the Yarra Valley with awards coming from around the country and the world.
In 1937, economic depression and adverse natural conditions resulted in the conversion of most vineyards to pasture, signalling the end of Yarra's classic vineyards.
In 1963, Wantirna Estate, the first of the new generation of wineries, was established, paving the way for the re-establishment of several old wineries and new estates between 1968 and 1975.
The Yarra Valley now consists of roughly 3,000ha (7,400acres) under vine, with at least 80 wineries based in the regions, and many more growers.
The Macedon Ranges wine region is located less than an hour from Melbourne and is another area of Victoria that is well known for the wide variety of different grapes it can produce.
The region's vineyards are often elevated, most often found between 400-700m (1300-2300ft) and are located on either side of the Great Dividing Ranges.
This vineyard region has heavy winter rainfall, with a cool Summer and a long, extended growing season, with vintage often taking place here later than almost anywhere else in Australia.
According to those that produce there, while there is definitely a diversity in the Macedon Ranges, the predominant characters of their wines are a natural lively acidity and steely backbone; fine, intense but delicate fruit characters and soft tannins in the red wines.
Viticulture first started in the Macedon Ranges in the 1840's and 1850's with plantings at Riddells Creek, Carlsruhe and Darraweit Guim.
As with many wine regions around Australia, recession in the late 1800's and early 1900's lead to the abandonment of most vineyards.
Plantings were revived and new wineries established starting in the late 1960's and early 1970's, and the region has continued to expand into the modern era.
As a cooler region, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are the most populous plantings, with much of it used for the region's excellent Sparkling wines.
Several high profile wineries have also produced fine, mineral based styles of both Burgundian varieties.
The usual suspects of Shiraz, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon are as important here as anywhere else, but are backed up by small but wonderful plantings of Riesling.
Several new varieties have sprung up recently, with Tempranillo, Nebbiolo, Dolcetto, Gewürztraminer and even Lagrein.
Sunbury is another cool climate wine region, located between the suburbs of Melbourne City and the Macedon Ranges wine region.
The geography and climate of this region is diverse, from grasslands on volcanic plains to the East, deep valleys and steep hills near the South-East, to rolling foothills in the North.
Much of the soil of Sunbury is relatively poor, (especially from the old, weathered black basalt clays) but allows for excellent drainage, perfect for small, high-quality productions.
The Shiraz and Shiraz-Viognier blends of this region have gained plenty of acclaim of late, though Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon are all made with love and skill here.
This maritime influenced region is one of mainland Australia's most Southerly growing areas and is located about 1 hour South-West of Melbourne, accessed by following the coast of Port Philip Bay.
Geelong wine region includes several distinct regions, namely: The Bellarine Peninsula, The Moorabool Valley & Anakie, and The Surf Coast.
These three main wine-growing areas play host to countless different terriors and stylistic possibilities when it comes to producing quality wine. They vary so remarkably that we will have a short exploration of each of them.
The Bellarine Peninsula, (once known as the 'granary of the colony') juts out across Port Philip Bay and, with 'The Rip' separating them, almost meets the Mornington Peninsula on the other side of the bay, some 215km (133mi) away by car (though they are now also connected by an hour long ferry ride).
This Peninsula features rich, black basalt soils over limestone rock and a climate of warm days and cool nights, perfect for varieties such as Pinot Noir, Riesling, Pinot Gris and Cabernet Franc. As ever, Shiraz, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon are also present in large quantities.
The Moorabool Valley & Ankie wine growing areas are have a more continental climate than the others in Geelong which allows the small handful of well regarded producers her to produce a wide range of styles and varieties. About 20,000 years ago this area and was actually located at the bottom of the sea floor, only being reclaimed as land by over a millennia of volcanic activity. This evidence remains today in the tough limestone and basalt rocks that form the solid base of the soils in the region.
Pinot Noir and Chardonnay do well here, though the area is also known for it's experimentation, with many additional varieties planted in small amounts.
This region is home to Bannockburn Vineyards, one of Australia's most celebrated small wineries.
The final area of Geelong is the Surf Coast region found to the South, between the namesake city and the coastline of the Bass Strait.
This provides the vineyards of the area with cooling ocean breezes and a long, slow growing period.
The Surf Coast is possibly the most challenging of the three areas, as the wild weather of Bass Strait can cause much damage and is famous for being unpredictable. The sandy loam soil of the coastal plains can be difficult to produce quality fruit from, yet a cadre of passionate producers have managed to do just that.
Pinot Noir and Chadonnay are the heroes of this region, though there is even a vineyard that specializes in Grenache and Gewürztraminer, unlikely bedmates, yet the tenacious winemakers have achieved just that.
The Mornington Peninsula is located on the Eastern side of Port Philip Bay and is a cool-climate area that focuses primarily on Pinot Noir.
It's proximity to Melbourne city, provides easy access to large numbers of tourists, especially over the Summer months, allowing for a vibrant wine region, full of activities and fine food encounters to compliment the wine.
This peninsula features a maritime-influenced climate, that is more benign than most, due to the sheltered features of Port Philip Bay. The shelter of the bay keeps the average vintage temperature at around 20°C (68°F), perfect for a wide assortment of varieties.
Almost all the vineyards of this wine region are located in the rough, hilly centre of the peninsula, where sites have been planted up to 250m(820ft) above sea level.
Soil types can differ greatly depending on the location of the sites, with red volcanic soils around Red Hill and Main Ridge (deep and fertile), sandy soils at Moorooduc, brown duplex soils around Merricks and yellow duplex soils (with underlying well-drained clay) around Dromana.
Grapegrowing on the peninsula dates back to the late 1800's, but has had several set-backs over it's lifetime. In the 1920s, almost all the vineyards were abandoned, and after Seppelt and Seabrook re-invigorated the industry here in the 1950's their sites were destroyed by bushfires in 1967.
All these hardships did not deter the locals though, and commercial production began again in the late 1970's early 1980's.
Today more than 150 vineyards are operated in the area, and over 40 of these have cellar doors.
A special mention goes out to the Gippsland Zone which takes up most of the South-Eastern portion of the Victorian state.
Spread far and wide across the rolling coastal hills of Gippsland are small vineyards, family owned and operated with most open just by appointment and selling their wine in the local shops and restaurants. In South Gippsland, close to Melbourne and near to Mornington Peninsula, a vibrant community of growers is drawing tourists to this young and exciting region.
Victoria is covered!
There we have it folks, it took plenty of tireless research (and of course we have just scratched the surface) but now we have a great overview for the amazing Australian state of Victoria!
I would urge you to visit this area yourself and travel to the tiny wine regions to see just what these family growers can produce from coastline to alpine mountains!
If you have any other wine regions you would like to learn about please feel free to contact me!