Savour the Flavours of NSW

Wine tasting. Image courtesy of Destination NSW.
By Rachel Pinder

Hundreds of cellar doors, award-winning fresh produce, luxury getaways, stellar restaurants and fine wines from 14 very different regions: New South Wales is the gourmet state with the lot.

Wherever your journey takes you in NSW, you’ll be impressed by the amazing diversity on offer. With a wide range in temperatures and altitudes, the state is perfect for farming everything from finger limes to truffles, olive oil to mushrooms, cherries to coffee and macadamias to oysters.

While the Hunter Valley, Mudgee and Orange are known internationally as fine wine regions, there are also discoveries to be made with vineyards stretching from New England in the north to Tumbarumbain the south and wine styles ranging from big reds to elegant aromatic whites.

There’s every chance you’ll stumble across an artisan cheese maker, or a family-run cellar door, offering tastings - experiences that will remain with you forever.

From fabulous freshly-shucked Hawkesbury oysters to lunch overlooking Hunter Valley vines to dining in a bush camp, you'll be sure to experience a range of amazing taste sensations. Visitors will meet passionate producers, learn their secrets and take away fantastic memories.

Famous Wine Regions

Hunter Valley is the best-known wine region in NSW, and one recognised worldwide for the quality of its shiraz and semillon, a two-hour drive north of Sydney. They’ve been tending vines here since 1828. The Hunter is home to some of the biggest and best cellar door operations in the country with Tyrrell’s, McWilliam’s Mount Pleasant and Brokenwood at the top of the list along with Tulloch, McGuigan and Drayton’s. A visit to ROCK restaurant is also de rigueur.

The Hunter has a lot more to offer than just the big names, with several dozen artisan wine (and food) producers.  Explore roads less travelled and visit small wineries like Allandale, Briar Ridge, Wandin Valley, Mistletoe, Thomas Wines, Pepper Tree, Tintilla, Meerea Park, Glandore Estateand De Iuliis, all of which have welcoming cellar doors.

Orange and Mudgee in the Central West of the state are two other “must visit” wine regions.  Situated three and a half hours west of Sydney, the Orange region was previously known for its fruit production; apples, cherries and stone fruit all thrive but it was not until the early 1980s that wine grapes were planted commercially. 

Today Orange has a reputation as one of Australia’s finest cool-climate regions with star wineries including Bloodwood, Printhie, Word of Mouth, Robert Oatley/Wild Oats, Patina, Cargo Road CanobolasSmith, Cumulus and Philip Shaw.

Mudgee, a four-hour drive west of Sydney, is home to chic boutique hotels and bed and breakfasts, wine bars and restaurants thanks to its wine tourism boom. The region is home to more than 50 wineries and a busy little downtown precinct. Names to look out for here include Pieter van Gent, di Lusso, Robert Stein, Frog Rock, Andrew Harris, Logan, Lowe Family Wines and Burnbrae, along with organic wineries Thistle Hilland Botobolar.

Images courtesy of Destination NSW.

Regional Restaurants

NSW is alive with regional restaurants whose chefs concentrate on serving local produce, sometimes using vegetables and herbs from their own kitchen gardens. Stefano Manfredi at Bells of Killcareon the Central Coast, Steve Snow at Fins on the Tweed Coast and the team at Mavis’s Kitchen at Uki in the north of the state lead the way.

Regional restaurants worth a visit include the Journey man and Katers in the Southern Highlands, Lolli Redini at Orange, No.2 Oak Street at Bellingen, Satiateat Bangalow and source dining in Albury.

Others showcasing innovative cuisine and local produce are Tonic at Millthorpe, Grazing at Gundaroo, Neila at Cowra, Racine at La Colline in Orange and Sajo’s at Mudgee.

The Hunter is home to two-hat ROCK and boutique eateries like Leaves and Fishes, Majors Lane and Mojo’s, while the Mount View sub-region is blossoming with the Briar Grillade restaurant and the superb Bistro Molines the major attractions.

For seafood, Rick Stein at Bannisters on the South Coast is a maestro.

There also plenty of simpler, and affordable, pleasures – like wood-fired pizzas from Di Lusso Estate in Mudgee and fish and chips from Fishmongers at Byron Bay, smoked meats from the Poachers Pantry near Yass or dining in the bush at The Gunyah on the South Coast. 

Farmers' Markets

Anyone wanting to try the freshest possible produce should check out the dozens farmers’ markets dotted throughout regional NSW. These markets offer fresh food from farmers within a community, so from vegetables dug fresh from the ground that morning to tree-ripened fruit or freshly made curd – it doesn’t get any better, or more local.

Many of the farmers’ markets are held weekly, including those at Byron Bay and Grafton (Thursday mornings). In Byron, seek out the array of organic herbs and spices and colourful tropical fruits while in Grafton stock up on local olive oil and honey.

Bangalow and Lismore (Saturday mornings) showcase the best of the array of what’s on offer locally including Macadamia nuts, tomatoes and olives. Others, like Dubbo are held fortnightly (first and third Saturdays each month) and some, including some of the most popular, are just once a month. Check out Orange and Wagga Wagga, both on the second Saturday of each month or the Hastings market at Wauchope (fourth Saturday). Orange and organic go hand in hand, and you can’t go past the amazing range of vegetables, bread, venison and hazelnuts all sold by local producers. A highlight in Wagga is cheese with native Australian bush flavouring from Barry Lilly White’s Charles Sturt University cheese factory.

Images courtesy of Destination NSW.

Fresh Produce

A range of local produce is easily discovered in NSW – many of the farmers of gourmet goods welcome visitors, sell at local markets or have their products featured by local chefs.

Along the best boutique producers are Red gate Farm poultry (famous for their juicy quails) outside Raymond Terrace in the Hunter, Li-Sun Exotic Mushrooms housed in a disused railway tunnel in the Southern Highlands, Little General Olive Oil at Hanwood in the Riverina, exotic fruits and vegetables like kaffir limes from the Banana Cabana near Murwillumbah, Mandagery Creek farmed venison from Orange, the Berry wood-fired sourdough bakery on the South Coast and Bumbaldry rabbits from the Central West.

The Riverina is the nation’s food bowl,with grapes and citrus fruits in abundance. It produces the majority of Australia’s rice, over 25% of the state's fruit and vegetables and an amazing 80% of NSW wine/grape production as well as nearly 20% of all NSW crop production.

Emerging Wine Regions

There are 14 wine recognised regions in NSW stretching from New England to the Hilltops around Young and down to cool-climate Tumbarumba in the remote Snowy Mountains, which is producing outstanding chardonnays and pinot noirs.

The region surrounding Canberra is home to more than 40 wineries, including standouts like Clonakilla and Helm at Murrumbateman and Lerida Estate at Lake George. Clonakilla spearheaded the popularity of the shiraz/viognier blend, while Ken Helm makes outstanding rieslings.

The Southern Highlands (Centennial Vineyards is the star) continue to produce some very good wines, along with wineries on the South Coast (check out Coolangatta Estate). There are plenty of small cellar doors where you are sure to make some interesting discoveries.

Right across the state, winemakers are experimenting with new grape varieties, including several from Italy. Check out the Italian varietials from Di Lusso Estate in Mudgee, including vermentino, barbera, nebbiolo, lagrein, aleatico and picolit, the range of zinfandels from Cargo Road in Orange and Spanish variety tempranillo from Glandore Estate in the Hunter Valley.

Image courtesy of Destination NSW.

Award Winners

The diversity of styles from the state’s 14 wine regions is underlined by the different winners of the annual NSW Wine Awards, instigated in 1996. Since then, winners have come from districts as diverse as the Riverina, Hunter Valley, Mudgee, Canberra region, Tumbarumba and Orange.

Wines from New South Wales regularly shine on the international stage, with Tyrrell’s and McWilliam’s renowned for making some of the best semillons in the world.

Pub Crawls

There are hundreds of historic pubs around the state - making pub crawls a great way to spend a day exploring (make sure you have a designated driver).

In northern NSW, there are several old pubs, populated by colourful local characters, offering the chance to enjoy a taste of the bush. One such tour takes in the Billinudgel Hotel (decorated with old newspaper clippings and classic old beer mirrors and promotional material), the Art Deco Hotel Brunswick at Brunswick Heads (a great spot for a long lunch), the small town Victory Hotel in Mooball, and the riverfront Tumbulgum Tavern, which dates back to 1887.

Central Western New South Wales is another treasure trove of old pubs, many of them in and around Mudgee. Here an historic pub trail offers more than 20 options in rural hamlets like Rylstone, Hill End and Gulgong.

Among the best places for a cold one are: The Royal Hotel at Hill End, one of 27 hotels built during the 1870s gold rush but the only one still standing, the striking Globe Hotel and its beer garden at Rylstone, the historic Prince of Wales hotel in Gulgong, the town on the $10 note and newcomer the Mudgee Brewing Company, the town’s first and only brewery, which opened an impressive new restaurant last year.

Foodie Festivals

There are food and wine festivals throughout the year across regional NSW. Among the highlights are:

La Festa in Griffith (April), the mainstreet is transformed into a party celebrating the city’s has dynamic multicultural community and premium wine and food industry.                  

Orange F.O.O.D Week (April), one of NSW’s most high profile food events celebrating the abundance of local food and wine. 

Canberra District Harvest Festival (April), celebrate autumn in the vineyards of Canberra’s wine district. 

The Lovedale Long Lunch (May), wine and dine around seven participating wineries over the weekend enjoying a glass of wine, gourmet food, music and art.                  

unWINEd in the Riverina, Griffth (June), the winemakers of the Riverina invite you to indulge in a relaxed journey around the regions premium wineries - to explore, taste and unWINEd.

Shoalhaven Coast Wine Festival (June), series of events celebrating this dynamic wine region. 

Southern Highlands Food and Wine Festival (September), vineyards, restaurants and food band together to showcase the best of the regions food and wine.

Mudgee Wine Celebration (September), a great time to visit this emerging wine region and taste the range on offer. 

Orange Wine Week (October), great food, great wine and lots of fun all week long. 

Murrumbateman Moving Feast (October), select from 13 local wineries each offering a main meal and/or dessert, perfectly matched with one of their wines. 

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