Don’t for a second think that Australia is home solely to amazing red wines such as Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon, oh no. We here Down Under are also masters of white wines, from crisp and thirst-quenching light and dry whites all the way through to fuller, medium-bodied varietals.
The most popular bottles in Australia are without doubt Chardonnay, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc, although others such as the Sémillion grape are becoming increasingly popular, especially in the Hunter Valley region. South Australia, however, is easily the most important wine-growing region (although, not just for white wine, but all Australian wine) with the different sub-regions producing white wines of varying tastes and textures.
Unlike with Australian red wine, which has an overarching producer in the form of Penfolds, there is no real main producer of Australian white wine (although Penfolds does produce some exemplary Chardonnays).
As we’d always say, finding the best Australian white wine for you is as easy as going to some Cellar Doors, trying the wines on offer and seeing how your tastebuds react. After all, wine can become an incredibly expensive hobby if you don’t know what you’re doing (or even if you do, as it happens).
To help make your search for some amazing white wines that bit easier, we’ve put together this list of the best Australian white wines currently available, encompassing different grape varietals and various budgets.
For some extra help and insider knowledge, we’ve previously reached out to some expert Australian sommeliers, to spill the grapes with regards to how to pick a great white wine.
How To Pick A Great White Wine
- When selecting, start with varietal, then region: “There’s a reason Chardonnay and Riesling attract the most attention from wine lovers worldwide; they are without a doubt the two greatest white wine varietals – and lucky for us they both fare well here in Australia,” (Nick Stamford, Managing Director of MW Wines).
- Don’t write off vintages from cooler regions. Nick also told us that. “In places like Victoria’s Yarra Valley and Macedon –or even down in Tasmania – the cool climate means grapes are given time to ripen slowly on the vine, developing delicate fruit flavours. These aren’t your 1990s style big buttery chardonnays; it’s a leaner and crisper style.”
- In the mouth you’re looking for good acid, almost sharp in your mouth (the opposite, a more velvet finish, is known as ‘flabby’ acid and won’t give you the refreshment you need in a summer white).
- In the store, select a vintage with good quality grapes and minimal intervention in the cellar.
- If you plan on letting it age, Chiara Danieli, Head Sommelier at Matteo Downtown, says to make sure you buy something acidic: “It’s always very important that a white has high acidity for ageing.” It also, “Needs to be true to the region where it comes from and reflect into the glass the characteristics of the soils and climate.”
Now that you’ve had your crash course in grape slurping, it’s time to step up your summer cellar selection: here are the best white wines in Australia, starting at the lower end of the price range, and working our way up to a wallet-stinging (but oh so rewarding) climax.
A green-skinned grape that hails from the Burgundy wine region of Eastern France, Chardonnay grapes can, in fact, be grown anywhere there is soil. The vast majority of winemakers will have a Chardonnay on their books, and each should taste different to the next since the grape takes on most of its flavours from the terroir in which it’s grown.
South Australia, the Hunter and Victoria are the areas you want to be buying your Australian Chardonnay from. Cooler climates tend to produce crisper wines with hints of lime, however, examples from the Hunter will be richer and have smoky notes.
Brokenwood, Umpires Vineyard Chardonnay 2018, Hunter Valley $18.99 – Brokenwood produces wine all over the southern half of Australia, but the regions in NSW, including one in the Hunter are superb for making bottles such as this Chardonnay. Smooth and easy-drinking, this Chardonnay exhibits the oaky flavours varietals from the region are known for. Throw in notes of melon and peach and you have yourself a delectable drop.
$20 – $50:
Bay Of Fires, Chardonnay 2017, Tasmania $40.99 – Possibly one of the finest examples of a Chardonnay to not only come from Tasmania, but cooler climate regions as a whole. Bay of Fires perfectly blends flavours of fruit and oak to result in a wine that also rocks a buttery soft mouthfeel.
$50 – $100:
Oakridge, 864 Funder & Diamond Vineyard Drive Block Chardonnay, 2012 Yarra Valley $89.99 – Oakridge’s 864 family of wines come from the winemaker’s single vineyard sites, meaning the grapes can be grown in more specific conditions and have greater attention paid to them. In the case of this Chardonnay, that results in a drop that crisp, dry and bursting with fruit flavours, and one that you’ll certainly want to savour. It could also benefit from a few years of ageing, too.
Leeuwin Estate, Art Series Chardonnay 2017, Maragret River $109.90 – Leeuwin Estate launched its Art Series Chadonnay in 1979 and has since become one of the true pioneers of the varietal around the world. This drop is regularly rated among the very best examples of a Chardonnay in the world each year and one you, quite literally, cannot ignore. As one reviewer says, “You haven’t drunk Chardonnay until you have had Leeuwin’s Art Series.”
Originating in Rhine, Germany, the Riesling grape became the most planted in Australia following its arrival in 1838, until the Chardonnay became vastly more popular. Today, some of the best Australian Riesling’s come from South Australia, particularly Eden Valley and Clare Valley, but the country’s warmer climates also produce some fine examples.
Pewsey Vale, Riesling 2019, Eden Valley $19.99 – Representing exceptional value for money, this wine presents you with notes of lime, rosemary and white pepper with just the right amount of tropical fruit. It’s a simple Riesling for sure, but sometimes the simplest things are the best.
$20 – $50:
Leasingham, Classic Clare Riesling 2008, Clare Valley $49.99 – Leasingham is no stranger to making great wines, but this 2008 vintage Riesling is one of the real standout drops. Incredibly light, dry and crisp, this vintage hits you with citrusy flavours with hints of apple and honey. Great for drinking straight away or for ageing, this is a Riesling you really need to try.
$50 – $100:
Grosset, Polish Hill Riesling 2019, Clare Valley $58 – Grosset’s Rieslings are consistently regarded as some of the best to come from Australia, and while each year brings with it something new, the latest 2019 vintage is proving to be a class act. Exhibiting an abundance of floral aromas with hints of apple and citrus fruits. It’s incredibly dry and high in acidity, and could well be one of the very best Riesling’s in the world right now.
The Sauvingon blanc grape started life in the Bordeaux region of France and has since become popular througbout the world. Wines of this varietal are crisp, dry and refreshing (and best enjoyed on a summer’s day) and best enjoyed young. Fortunately, many Sauvignon blancs will come with a screw cap (and were one of the first wines to come with it in commercial quantities) so you can easily crack a bottle open and enjoy.
Savvy Bs from Australia will present a variety of flavours depending on the region they’re from, with some being more grassy or citrusy, while others can exhibit notes of passionfruit or other tropical fruits. It’s a great Australian white wine to experiment with.
Coldstream Hills, Sauvignon Blanc 2013, Yarra Valley $17 – Incredibly affordable and incredibly tasty, this drop from the Yarra Valley is a great example of how good a Sauvingon blanc with tropical fruit flavours can taste. Crisp, dry and the perfect accompaniment to a seafood lunch.
$20 – $50:
Shaw & Smith, Sauvignon Blanc 2020, Adelaide Hills $24.99 – For mid-priced Sauvignon blanc you can always rely on Shaw & Smith. The Australian wine producer continues to put out a great-tasting drop year after and year, and the 2020 vintage is no differnet. Another one to present tropical flavourings, this Australian white is also crisp and fresh and oh so easy to drink.
Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio are of the same grape variety, although the former has its roots in France’s Alsace region while the latter hails from Northern Italy. Both, however, stem from the Pinor Noir grape, and are simply a white mutation. Both varieties are still pretty new on the Australian wine scene, but are slowly becoming ingrained in the minds of sommeliers and wine enthusiasts alike.
Some of the best examples in Australia come from the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria and the Adelaide Hills is also an adept region, particularly for Pinot Grigio.
T’Gallant, Imogen Pinot Gris 2015, Mornington Peninsula $18.99 – T’Gallant is one the winemakers responsible for bringing Pinot Gris to Australia in the first place, so it should come as no surprise that its examples are some of the best. It’s definitely on the dry side of the sweetness scale, but with flavours of pear, apple and cinnamon, is unbelievably delicious.
$20 – $50:
Eddystone Point, Pinot Gris 2018, Tasmania $27.99 – Crisp, dry and a great bottle for pairing with a variety of food, what more could you want from a bottle of Pinot Gris? It’s high on the acidity scale and presents a great aftertaste, but you’ll love it for its notes of melon and pear. If you like your spicy food, try eating some with a glass of this to hand.
Sémillion grapes have actually been in Australia for some time, with the earliest vines said to be planted in around 1840. It’s life in Australia started in the Hunter Valley with the Barossa Valley also becoming a natural home for it. Wines from both regions are well-loved by wine enthusiasts.
Sémillion is versatile in the fact it can be used to produce both dry and sweet wines, but the dry examples from the Hunter Valley are some of the most revered.
Tyrrell’s, Brookdale Sémillion 2016, Hunter Valley $19.99 – Naturally, we have to start with a Sémillion from the Hunter, and Tyrrell’s is one of the best examples at this price point. Floral in nature and soft and fruity in taste, this crisp, light wine is a good entry-point into the world of the Sémillion varietal.
$20 – $50:
Mount Pleasant, Blue Label Sémillion 2010, Hunter Valley $29.99 – Mount Pleasant’s Sémillion wines are prime examples of just how good the variety can taste when it’s possible to age. Floral aromas with hints of beeswax make this easy on the nose, while multiple tasting layers put it in a similar region to Chardonnay, although this wine is more oaky and buttery on the palate.
$50 – $100:
Mount Pleasant, Lovedale Sémillion 2013, Hunter Valley $61.99 – As Australian wine reviewer Huon Hooke says, this Mount Pleasant drop is an “Excellent wine”. It can be enjoyed young but will also do well with ageing, expect a “delicate and intense” flavouring on the palate and one that is “dry and long”.
Tyrrell’s, Vat 1 Sémillion 2005, Hunter Valley $129.99 – If your budget allows, you simply must try this Sémillion. Expect flavours of lemon and lime that present perfectly with ageing at 15 years. A prime example of a fantastic Hunter Sémillon.
Australian White Wine FAQ
What is the most popular white wine in Australia?
Chardonnay is the most popular white wine in Australia, and even outsells the incredibly popular Shiraz. Chardonnay grapes can be grown virtually anywhere, and so the vast majority of Australian wine makers will have at least one example in their repertoire.
What white wines are dry?
Quite a lot of Australian white wine is dry, with Pinot Grigio, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay being prime examples.