Riverina Wine Region
The country plains of the Riverina is New South Wales’ chief wine-producing region, celebrated for its rich horticultural expanse, holding around half of the state’s vineyards.
Drawing visitors through heritage and agricultural tourism, the Riverina’s burgeoning diversity in food and wine is also attracting curious travellers. In a Mediterranean-like climate, the viticultural scene saw a particular spike with Italian migration in the early 20th century, and family-owned estates continue this wine legacy today. Top-performing varieties here include shiraz and cabernet sauvignon, plus semillon as seen in the region’s flagship dessert wine styles.
Although one of the largest grape producers, this region remains somewhat under the tourism radar. Wineries are increasingly producing a fantastic range of red and white wine styles, with the Riverina redefining itself with alternative varieties, including durif and petit verdot.
James Halliday on the Riverina
The birth of the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Scheme Area between 1906 and 1912 stands as a lasting testament to the skills and the vision of a group of dedicated Australians, all inspired by the imagination of Sir Samuel McCaughey. In securing the passage of legislation for the immense scheme through the New South Wales Parliament he said, ‘In my opinion the waters of the rivers of the Commonwealth, if placed on the surface of the ground so that they could be utilised for irrigation, together with a supply for stock and household purposes, would be of more value to Australia than the discovery of gold; for gold will eventually become exhausted while water will continue as long as the world lasts.
Alas, Sir Samuel did not take into account the Indian Jain religious belief that doubt should accompany every certainty: water shortage is now the major issue confronting all Australian irrigation regions. For the time being, the Murrumbidgee River is in far better shape than the Murray River, but how long this will last is far from clear. As at 2008, the Riverina’s importance in supplying grapes for the all-conquering [yellow tail] brand of Casella, and the very large production of both McWilliam’s and De Bortoli, gave it a massive competitive advantage.
The development of the Riverina as a major wine-producing area was primarily due to the remarkable McWilliam family, even if two successive waves of Italian immigrants (after the World War I and II) built on the opportunities created by the McWilliams.
Until the second half of the 1950s, production in the area was almost entirely of fortified wine. Just as John James McWilliam had led the way in 1912, so Glen McWilliam thereafter pioneered the move to table wine. Not only was he responsible for the trial of premium varieties previously unknown in the district, but he was also responsible for leading the way in developing the winery technology necessary to produce modern table wine in a fiercely hot summer climate.
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Early February to early March
MARGARET RIVER wines to try
White | 2017
R. Paulazzo M-2305 Tumbarumba ChardonnayR. Paulazzo
Red | 2016
R. Paulazzo S-3011 Hilltops Cabernet SauvignonR. Paulazzo
De Bortoli Noble One Botrytis SemillonDe Bortoli
White | 2018
De Bortoli Sacred Hill ChardonnayDe Bortoli