New South Wales (NSW) is Australia’s most populous state, and is where the first grape vines were planted in 1788 by Governor Arthur Phillip around what is now modern-day Sydney. James Busby planted the first cuttings in New South Wales, brought from France and Spain, which likely including Grenache and the now iconic Shiraz. New South Wales now produces approximately 1/3 of the total volume of wine in Australia at around 500 million bottles annually with an export value of around A$500 million.
New South Wales is home to 16 wine regions with a wide array of soil types, climates, geologic influences, and resulting styles of wine. From the Hunter Valley, a two hour drive north of Sydney, where some of the country’s best Semillon is grown in humid, sub-tropical conditions, to the cool-climate region of Tumbarumba where Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are historically grown for some of the top sparkling wines in the country. The Canberra District, surrounding the capitol of Australia, produces elegant blends of Shiraz and Viognier in a Northern Rhône style. Riverina and Murray Darling are home to both large-scale and boutique wineries and provide much of the world with archetypical Shiraz at accessible prices, and also produce tiny amounts of premium dessert wines made of botrytis affected Semillon, referred to locally as “stickies” in reference to their unctuous sweetness.
With the diversity of soils, climate and winemaking over the 34,000 hectares (85,000 acres) of vineyards across New South Wales, it has become an incubator for new technology, techniques and varieties. Grapes like Nebbiolo, Sangiovese, Tempranillo and Malbec, traditionally at home in other countries, have become darlings of wineries looking to take advantage of the varied terroir that New South Wales provides.