To the southwest of Sydney along the Great Dividing Range, the Southern Highlands is blessed with complex viticultural soils, which help to grow excellent pinot gris and pinot noir grapes in particular for the region’s most beloved wines.
It’s not just about these wine styles though – wineries are increasingly producing balanced, organically certified wines, alternative styles and a fantastic range of cabernet sauvignon blends and shiraz too. The region welcomes visitors to sample other key varietals directly through their cellar doors, including high-altitude chardonnay and sauvignon blanc.
The scenery in this part of New South Wales is just as exciting as the wine. Wander through vineyards and soak up the views of the Wollemi National Park on the horizon. Take in the region’s natural beauty and historical townships dotted around the area, stretching the length of the Wingecarribee Shire. Think lush forests and cascading waterfalls, picnic opportunities and a chance to zipline through the treetops. For those seeking a paddock-to-plate experience, taste the region’s selection of local produce or find a quiet corner with a good book surrounded by the untouched beauty of the Southern Highlands.
James Halliday on the Southern Highlands
The government records for 1886 show a wine-grape harvest of 950 gallons (4275 litres) for the Berrima district, suggesting the first vineyards were planted in the 1870s. (Table grapes had been established earlier in that decade.) German vineyard workers from the Vogt family came from vineyards at Camden to establish plantings on Joadja Road in the 1890s, which remained in cultivation for a considerable time thereafter. Yet further vineyards were planted around the turn of the century, leading to exports to Europe.
It was not until the 1950s that all commercial grape growing ceased; in 1983 it resumed with the establishment of Joadja Vineyards and Winery. It and Eling Forest Winery began wine sales in 1990, and development accelerated thereafter. By 2005 there were 40 vineyards, most still coming into bearing, and 13 wineries.
When successfully seeking registration as a Geographic Indication region, it was decided to adopt the boundaries of the Shire of Wingecarribee for that of the region, thus taking in the towns of Mittagong, Bowral, Moss Vale and Berrima. Southern Highlands sits astride the Hume and Illawarra highways, along the spine of the Great Dividing Range, west to the Wollondilly River and east to the escarpment overlooking Wollongong on the coast.
It is rolling hill country, with abundant tree and vegetation cover, both native and exotic, which remains green for much of the year, and it is not surprising it should be a favoured country retreat for wealthy Sydney-siders. After an uncertain start, and notwithstanding some climatic challenges, its professionally run vineyards and wineries are providing some very impressive wines.
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Late March to early May