Canberra District Wines
A trip out to Canberra’s Wine District to taste the best local drops is a wonderful addition to any weekend in the nation’s capital.
Canberra vineyards and the wines produced are blessed with cool climate conditions across a range of altitudes, aspects and soils. This produces an impressive class of wines in such a small geographic region. Many of the pioneers in the district have brought a distinct approach to creating wine that is rapidly gaining world wide attention and accolades. The Canberra District has a reputation for producing excellent Shiraz and Riesling along with Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, Viognier, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Gruner Veltliner and Sangiovese.
Canberra District wine makers and their regions
No trip to the district would be complete without a visit to Helm Wines. Husband-and-wife team Ken and Judith Helm started the vineyard, winery and cellar door in 1973 and it continues to be a family affair with all of the family playing an integral part in the business. Helm Wines is renowned for its classic dry-style of Riesling. The winery uses a combination of modern and traditional equipment and adopts a minimalist approach to winemaking, so that what is in the bottle is as close as possible to what came out of the vine.
Next on your list should be a visit to Clonakilla winery in Murrumbateman famed for its Shiraz Viognier. John Kirk planted the vineyard in 1971 on a 44 acre farm 40 kilometres north of Canberra. His son Tim now runs the family business and was the one who pushed to make a Shiraz Viognier blend after he was inspired by a trip to the Rhone Valley, France in 1991.
The family’s hard work over the years has paid off with numerous accolades and awards, the most recent being a record 98 points for the Clonakilla 2013 Shiraz Viognier by James Halliday. Tim was also named Gourmet Traveller WINE magazine’s Winemaker of the Year in 2013.
Other important vineyards with cellar doors to visit in the region include Jeir Creek Wines, Gallagher Wines, Shaw Vineyard Estate, Murrumbateman Winery, Granitevale Estate, Yarrh Wines, Four Winds Vineyard, Dionysus Winery, McKellar Ridge and Wily Trout Vineyard.
Lake George Wineries
When driving to Canberra along the Federal Highway, you will pass along the escarpment of Lake George. Stop in to discover Lerida Estate run by Jim Lumbers and Anne Caine. Their vineyard and cellar, designed by the distinguished Australian architect Glenn Murcutt nestles gently into the land overlooking the mysterious Lake George. Lerida produces wines from low yielding vines with minimal intervention to allow the terroir and flavours to shine.
Closer to home, you can explore a vineyard without leaving Canberra at the Mount Majura Vineyard, just 11 kilometres from the city centre. Mount Majura Vineyard offers a variety of experiences such as gumboot tours around the vineyard and structured tastings.
The gumboot tour is a self-guided nature trail through the vineyard, where you'll learn about the site, viticulture, and have a chance to take in the best view from the top of the vineyard. Once a month there is also the chance to join guided vineyard excursions.
Stop in to vineyards and cellars near Hall on the way to Murrumbateman. Keep an eye out for Pankhurst and Brindabella Hills Wineries. Take a welcome break near the historic village of Bungendore on your way to the NSW South Coast and visit Lark Hill Biodynamic Winery and Lambert Vineyards. Heading northeast past Lake George you should visit Gundaroo and surrounds for Capital Wines and Tallagandra Hill.
There are more than 30 cellar doors within 30 minutes of the city centre. Take a drive. Follow that unobtrusive sign down the lane. Step into a world where the focus of Canberra District wineries is on wine making. As a welcome visitor, you will most likely be greeted by the actual winemakers and be among the winemaking process.
Come and sample what is known as liquid geography.
For a handy drive map, seasonal and annual events and a comprehensive list of wineries, check out the Canberra District Wine Association page.