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Explore Melbourne’s best wine routes

Helen Alexander

Senior Contributor

Thanks to its varied terroir and a number of microclimates, the state of Victoria is the perfect place for growing a variety of grapes. As a result, the countryside around Melbourne is crisscrossed by wine routes – simply select the area (and the wine) that most interests you and start sampling.

King Valley

Home to some of the highest vineyards in the country, this area is renowned for its Italian-style wines such as pinot grigio and sangiovese. In fact, with so many family-run wineries making their own fizz here, the route is often referred to as the 'Prosecco Road'. Start at Dal Zotto, the first prosecco producers in the area, before expanding your Italian education with a pasta-making masterclass at Pizzini’s cellar door, stocking up on Sicilian cannoli at Politini and then feasting at Chrismont’s restaurant and larder, where regional Italian dishes are served each weekend. Situated about 280 kilometres from Melbourne, the most scenic way to reach this area is via the stunning Mansfield-Whitfield Road, which leads to the Victorian Alps. In between tastings, stop off at the summit of Mount Glenrowan to soak up the scenery and come face-to-face with Ned Kelly, one of Australia’s most infamous historical figures, as this charming town was the site of his renowned ‘last stand’ in 1880.   

Rutherglen

For dessert wines to rival France – although in Australia, they are referred to as ‘stickies’ – this area is known for its luscious muscat wines. More than 20 wineries call the area home and, thanks to the Pedal to Produce Cycle Trail, which winds its way along country lanes and through fruit orchards, you don't have to worry about who's driving. Sip an award-winning muscat at All Saints winery before trying traditional French dishes with a modern twist at Jones winery’s restaurant. Their J6 Muscat Sec is a drier version of the typical fruity and juicy dessert wine and is made by the youngest generation of the Jones family. Situated in the north-east of Victoria, the rolling hills of Rutherglen are the perfect backdrop to a weekend break or a gourmet stop on the Sydney-Melbourne Touring Route.

Pinot Coast

Melbourne’s Port Phillip Bay, which is home to popular city beaches such as St Kilda and Brighton, is hugged by two must-visit peninsulas – the Bellarine and Mornington – that together make up the Pinot Coast. Both areas offer their own outdoor attractions – from Mornington’s bushland tracks and bayside boardwalks to the Bellarine’s sweeping sandy beaches – however they both share a cool maritime climate, which is responsible for many premium pinot noir bottlings. Explore one or both of these routes to combine your wine tasting with views of the spectacular Southern Ocean coastline and enjoy plenty of opportunities for delicious dining and art appreciation. Several winery restaurants, such as Paringa Estate, have been awarded a chef’s hat (Australia's answer to a Michelin Bib Gourmand), while the cellar doors at Pt Leo Estate and Montalto lead to vast outdoor sculpture parks. 

Yarra Valley

Just a 50km drive from Melbourne, the Yarra Valley makes for a great day trip although many people choose to spend the night there and get up at dawn in order to take a hot-air balloon trip – seeing the first rays of sunlight illuminating the vines is guaranteed to get your wine tour off to a memorable start. A number of different grape varieties are grown in this cool-climate region, but it’s best known for its award-winning chardonnays. Hop between the charming towns of Coldstream, Healesville and Seville, and try delicious drops from famous producers – like Innocent Bystander at their chic restaurant and produce shop – and cosy cellar doors located at the end of country tracks, such Madden’s Rise. 

The Goldfields

Grand red-brick buildings adorned with latticework balconies, rusty windpumps slowly rotating in fields that stretch as far as the eye can see, old clock towers and antique shops filled with treasure. Australia’s atmospheric gold rush towns, and the idyllic countryside that surrounds them, are bursting with attractions. However, visitors today are more interested in the riches contained in the nearby wineries than they are the precious metal that were being mined here in the 1850s and 60s. Experiencing hotter and drier conditions compared with the rest of the state, the grand city of Bendigo sits at the centre of Victoria’s big and bold shiraz producers. Head towards the fruit-growing valley of Harcourt to enjoy a sip while overlooking the lake at Blackjack Vineyard or make for Glenwillow’s cellar door that’s situated in the middle of Australia’s oldest working pottery. When it comes to getting your tasting notes ready, look out for spicy bouquets, blackberry notes and sumptuous rounded tannins.

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