Wine Regions

Canberra District Wine

The Canberra District wine region is predominately in New South Wales on the fringe of the Australian Capital Territory. Canberra District wineries fi…

The Canberra District wine region is predominately in New South Wales on the fringe of the Australian Capital Territory. Canberra District wineries first emerged in the 1970s, following the first plantings by Canberra District wine pioneer, Dr Edgar Riek. Riek was followed by Dr John Kirk, who first planted vines at Murrumbateman, naming his vineyard Clonakilla.

The Canberra District wine region map stretches some distance and across a variety of elevations, soil types and two distinct vineyard areas. Canberra District wine is known for its high quality, cool climate expressions. Canberra District wineries are typically small, boutique operations, many of which were founded by local civil servants, academics and scientists from CSIRO.

The Canberra District wine region is proximate to Canberra city itself, and enjoys good local and tourist trade, bolstered by its growing reputation as a significant hub for some of New South Wales’ most exciting fine wines.

Get to Canberra District

Canberra District wine region is located north of Canberra’s central CBD with most Canberra District wineries less than an hour’s drive from Canberra city. Sydney is approximately a three-hour drive from Canberra District wine region. Many wineries are easy to reach from the Federal and Barton Highways.  

Climate and style in Canberra District

Canberra District wine region is decidedly cool climate, with high diurnal temperature range that sees an oscillation between hot summer days and very cool nights. The region is decidedly continental in its climate, and vineyards are planted at between 300 and 800 metres above sea level. Spring frosts are common, as are summer and spring droughts, while the harvest season itself is generally quite cool.

Canberra District wineries are known for their cool climate wine styles, particularly medium bodied, savoury Shiraz and crisp, age-worthy Riesling, which are arguably the Canberra District wine region regional hero varieties. Other Canberra District wine varieties of significance include Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, both of which are planted to relative volume in the region.

Red wines tend to be medium weight and show black cherry, anise and spice characters, with occasional herbal inflection. White wines tend to show cooler climate affectations, including citrusy acidity and light herbal notes. An increase in ‘alternative varieties’ is also notable, though off a smaller base, with Tempranillo, Grenache and Viognier as highlights.

Key Canberra District varietals

The Canberra District wine region is renowned for fine Shiraz and Riesling, but older plantings of Pinot noir and Cabernet Sauvignon are also noteworthy. While the Canberra District wine style has evolved since original plantings in the 1970s, it is clear that regional stars of medium bodied, spicy Shiraz and linear, acid-driven Riesling have proved to be halo varieties for the Canberra District wine region.

Canberra District wine map shows that there are distinct changes in elevation, with producers reaching up to 800 metres above sea level, where true cool climate wine growing occurs. The wines from the cooler sites are leaner, but also have potential for finer-boned structure and svelte tannin profile. The lower reaches of Canberra District produce wines of more concentration and richness.

Canberra District Shiraz

Nearly all Canberra District wineries work with plantings of Shiraz grapes. Shiraz and Viognier co-ferments emulating the wines of the northern Rhone Valley are also commonly found. The styles tend to aptly reflect the coolness and continental influence of Canberra District wine region, being lighter in body, showing currant, black cherry, spice and licorice character, typically. The wines often have silky texture and delightful length of flavour. They tend to cellar mid-term.

Canberra District Riesling

Canberra District wine region produces arguably some of Australia’s best Riesling wines. While Clare Valley, Eden Valley and Great Southern might argue against that statement, it seems that the roll call of fine, age-worthy Riesling has been a staple of Canberra District wineries almost since the inception of the region. Wines tend to be in the green apple and citrus spectrum, with medium volume of perfume and soft yet racy acidity.

Canberra Wine Region

Canberra District wineries

Canberra District wineries were first established by Dr Edgar Riek on Lake George and in Murrumbateman by Dr John Kirk. Riek’s Lake George winery had a proud early tradition of fine Pinot Noir, while Kirk’s winery, Clonakilla, has set an Australian (and international!) benchmark for cool climate shiraz, specifically with their Clonakilla Shiraz Viognier wine.

There are many notable smaller wine producers in Canberra District wine region, particularly since the dissolving of the Hardy’s winery and vineyard influence in the region. Canberra District wineries of note include Eden Road, Ravensworth, Mount Majura, Nick O’Leary Wines, Collector, Lark Hill, Lerida Estate, Capital Wines, Riversdale Estate and Helm, the latter whose extraordinary Rieslings reinforce the region as a significant area for that white grape.

The future of Canberra District

The Canberra District wine region is in a privileged position physically, and in the status of its premium, prestige wine offering. Proximity to Canberra city has meant that wine tourism, both cellar door and winery restaurant focused, has flourished, and shall continue to support and enhance the region.

Younger generation wine producers, like Nick Spencer of Eden Road, Nick O’Leary of Nick O’Leary wines, Bryan Martin of Ravensworth, Alex McKay of Collector wines, have created a small subculture of fine wines within the general wine offering of the region. Their enviable position and current status will pave the way for more boutique producers to ascend the fine wine rungs, and to do so with some healthy experimentation. The Canberra District wine region is set to produce even more thrilling wines as new varieties, better vineyard management, and more new-generation wine producers collude.