State of change State of change

From the Hunter Valley to New England, NSW is shaping up to be one of Australia’s most exciting – and diverse – wine regions.

New South Wales has more viticultural history than any other state. Australia’s first vineyard was planted in 1788 at Sydney Cove, where the Intercontinental now stands.

Sadly, it fell to disease soon after. It was the first clue that winemaking in Australia would not be without its challenges.

But, over the course of 234 years, things have come together. As a state, NSW is second only to South Australia in volume of production, is home to 16 official wine regions and boasts 634 wineries.

With the second hottest region in the country (Hunter Valley), the highest vineyard above sea level (New England) and 34,000 hectares under vine, it’s also an increasingly diverse region with a lot to offer.

Group of people clinking glasses of white wine
Red wine being poured into a glass
Three bottles of wine on white background

A focus on tradition

Some of the oldest vines on the planet can be found in this state. The Hunter Valley is home to shiraz vines dating to 1867 as well as chardonnay planted in 1908 – the oldest in existence. With such valued vines available, winemakers have been dedicated to making classic styles and premium wines.

This focus has been well received. Average spends are on the rise across cellar doors but for fewer bottles – we’re buying less wine but better quality. We’re finally beginning to appreciate just how good wine from this state can be.

Group of friends toasting with red wine
Close up of wine corks
Woman holding glass of rose in sun
Glass of red and white wine toasting

New styles

While some regions and producers have the weight of history and tradition behind them, others are making modern wines suitable to our climate and drinking habits. Where bold reds were the obvious choice in days gone by, producers are increasingly releasing rosés and light dry reds, particularly from Murrumbateman and Gundagai. The reason is simple – in the hotter months, a big red simply won’t do. A thirst-quenching wine, though, is just the ticket.

These styles shone at the 2021 NSW Wine Show, with Chair of Judges Nick Spencer saying that “the quality of [these styles] has grown exponentially, demonstrating the skill of winemakers across the regions to craft produce that is responsive to consumer trends while maintaining quality and integrity.”



Alex Quinton of Printhie Wines, however, has noticed more customers choosing to buy ethically. “There’s definitely a greater focus on sustainability amongst consumers. People are becoming more conscientious of where their wine is coming from and its impact on the world around them.”

Sustainability can take different forms, such as organic farming and regenerative agriculture. The most common trend, though, is planting ‘alternative’ varieties. These grapes, typically from the Mediterranean, are naturally tolerant of extreme heat and drought, making them water efficient and more suitable to our climate – so not alternative at all, really!

While shiraz, semillon and chardonnay continue to reign, fiano, vermentino, tempranillo and nero d’avola are all on the rise. Look for wines from Mudgee, Orange and the Riverina in particular. Their increasing calibre is a sign that they have struck a chord with drinkers too.

While there is a lot of heritage in NSW worth celebrating, there is a lot of innovation as well. Whether you like your wine from old vines, want to drink refreshing styles or are interested in exploring different varieties, the wines of NSW offer options in abundance. With 378 cellar doors, there is something for everyone.


Originally published in The Costco Connection, Jul/Aug 2022. Pick up the latest copy at your local warehouse or read it online.