Winemaking is the most sensual way to understand a piece of land. Canberra District wines deliver unique qualities derived from an environment like no other in Australia.
The tranquil rural countryside around the ACT is home to 140 vineyards with more than 33 wineries within 35 minutes of Canberra.
The wineries are small and intimate providing an original interactive visitor experience.
The range in temperature, vineyard elevations, soil types and the careful influence of the winemakers skill and individual character help to shape the refined, unique qualities of the final product.
The topography of the region is quite varied with undulating hills and distant views of the Snowy Mountains forming a picturesque backdrop to many of the vineyards. Slope and aspect are all important. Soils in the district are typically brownish, shallow clay loams, often overlying shale or clay with a pH ranging from neutral to mildly acidic. The sub-soils are not particularly water-retentive and thus increase the need for irrigation.
The Canberra District covers a large geographical area made up of 3 subregions, and despite the name all but one of the local wineries are across the border in New South Wales.
ACT and Hall
Mount Majura Vineyard is the only winery situated within the ACT border, on Majura Road, past the Canberra Airport.
No more than 10 minutes’ drive from Canberra’s city centre are cellar doors offering high quality wines and great views of Canberra. The wineries in the rolling hills of Hall provide magnificent vistas of the Brindabella Mountains. The perfect place to relax with a glass of wine and take in the surrounds.
Murrumbateman and Yass
A pleasant 30-minute drive along the Barton Highway brings you to picturesque Murrumbateman, a former goldmining town, where you can enjoy rural scenery, soak up the ambience of village life and sample delicious regional produce at cosy cafes and fine dining restaurants. The region of Murrumbateman is home to more than 15 wineries, where wines of international acclaim are crafted. Cellar doors range from delightfully rustic family affairs to sleek and modern and all shades of in between, but each offering you a very warm welcome.
Bungendore, Wamboin, Lake George and Collector
Along the Federal Highway to the north of Canberra, the Lake George vignerons tend to their cool climate vineyards and wines. There are a number of award-winning restaurants and great wine bars in and around the historic villages of Gundaroo and Collector, where you can relax and meet the locals. The high altitude wineries around the historic town of Bungendore and the Wamboin region offer beautiful scenic outlooks, to be admired as you sample some of the coolest of the cool climate wines and enjoy fine dining at cellar door restaurants.
“The wineries are small and intimate providing an original interactive visitor experience..”
With the constant threat and frequent occurrence of spring frosts, recurring droughts in spring and summer, a high diurnal temperature range (cold nights and hot summer days), and a generally cool harvest season, the region has one of the most strongly continental climates in Australia.
It is a climate of extremes and one where irrigation is highly desirable if any semblance of yield consistency is to be maintained. Nevertheless, it is here that Riesling, Chardonnay, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and quite often Pinot Noir all produce wines of considerable personality.
Some of the region’s vineyards are planted on near-alpine slopes and cool autumn temperatures contribute to typical cool-climate wines, tending to the austere and elegant. Lower down the slopes, spilling into New South Wales, winemakers create fine, full-flavoured Chardonnays and Shiraz.
Grapes have been grown and wine made in the Canberra District since the 1840s, although in common with a number of other smaller Australian wine regions, the industry went into decline for several decades from the turn of the 20th Century.
Interest in viticulture and winemaking in the Canberra District was rekindled in the 1970s and 1980s with a number of what are now highly regarded vineyards and wineries being established around Lake George, the Bungendore Escarpement, Hall and Murrumbateman/Yass. Over the past 15-20 years the number of vineyards has continued to grow right across what is now formally recognised as the Canberra District. It is estimated that there are some 110 vineyards with approximately 450 hectares under vine.
Over that 40 year period the District has gradually gained both a national and international reputation for the high quality of its elegant, cool climate wines, most notably its Shiraz, Shiraz Viognier and Riesling, but other varieties, both established and emerging, are also held in high regard and attracting attention.
In 2002, the two most-planted varieties were Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon. Since that time, the popularity of Shiraz has grown and Cabernet Sauvignon has declined. Some Cabernet has since been grafted over to more saleable varieties, some has been removed and the plantings of emerging varieties have also increased. These include small acreages of Sangiovese, Tempranillo, Malbec, Marsanne, Rousanne, Graciano and a small plot of Grüner Vetliner.
It is also important to acknowledge that some Canberra District wineries utilise fruit from Tumbarumba and the Hilltops wine region—Chardonnay in particular from the former and Shiraz from the latter.
The first vines were planted in the 1840’s when early European settlers established small vineyards in the Gunning/Yass region and produced wines for local consumption.
With the opening up of land to viticulture and subsequent wine production in South Australia a decade or so later, the local vineyards soon become unprofitable and were largely abandoned. As an interesting hint of things to come, some of the remaining small ventures produced outstanding wines, with Dr Benjamin Clayton winning an award in France for wine of excellent quality.
The Canberra District, had its rebirth in the 1970’s when a number of scientists, many from CSIRO, experimented with establishing small blocks of grapes. Dr Edgar Reik AO planted at Lake George vineyard, Ken Helm and Dr John Kirk planted vines in the Murrumbateman creating Helm Wines and Clonakilla respectively.
The district’s vineyards now cover a large altitudinal range of 300 to 800 metres, facilitating the production of exquisite, award winning cool climate wines.
The range in temperature, vineyard elevations, varying soil types and the application of the winemaker’s skill and individual character enables production of a wide range of varieties – from Riesling and Chardonnay to Pinot Noir and Shiraz, and more recently Sangiovese and Tempranillo, to name just a few. The ability to ripen the same fruit across the whole region provides great diversity within styles.
Every cellar door provides a quality interpretation with individual character. A journey through the Canberra District tasting a single variety is an experience in itself.
How to get there
Visiting the Canberra District wine regions is easy. Most wineries are less than an hour’s drive from Canberra city, within easy reach of the Barton Highway between Canberra and Yass or the Federal Highway between Sydney and Canberra.
You can take one of the many winery tours to meet the winemakers, see the vineyards and taste the wines, or pick up a guide to find your own way around.
The Canberra District Wineries Guide provides an easy to follow map of the region’s vineyards, cellar doors, cafes, regional producers and accommodation, as well as helpful information about festivals, markets, guided tours and transport, shopping and much more.
The guide is available from these visitors centres listed below and also from cellar doors around the region.
Canberra and Region Visitors Centre
Find all there is to know about the wealth of attractions, events, food, entertainment and wineries in Canberra and the surrounding region.
Address: Regatta Point, Barrine Drive, Parkes ACT 2600
Phone: 1300 554 114
Open: 9am-5pm Mon-Fri, 9am-4pm weekends & pub hols. Closed Christmas Day.
Yass Valley Visitor Information Centre
Escape to the country and make your first stop the Yass Valley Visitor Information Centre. Ask one of our helpful staff for information on local events, accommodation, wineries, maps and other tourist information.
Address: Coronation Park, Comur Street, Yass NSW 2582
Phone: 1300 886 014
Goulburn Visitor Information Centre
We stock a great range of regional wines, ales, produce, arts, crafts, books, maps and souvenirs. Free internet/wi-fi hot spot available.
Address: 201 Sloane Street, Goulburn NSW 2580
Phone: (02) 4823 4492
Open: 9am-5pm weekdays, 10am-4pm weekends & pub hols. Closed Christmas Day.
Queanbeyan Visitor Information Centre
The Queanbeyan Visitor Information Centre is situated in one of the city’s iconic heritage listed buildings in the middle of town. The centre has an array of souvenirs, local historic books, caravan and camping publications and regional National Parks maps on sale.
Address: Farrer Place, Queanbeyan, NSW 2620
Phone: (02) 6285 6307
Opening times: 9am – 5pm Weekdays. 9am – 12 midday Weekends 9am – 12 midday