Get to know the Riverina wine region

By Cad Bentvelzen

8 Mar, 2022

The Riverina is the unsung hero of the Australian winemaking world. Learn more about New South Wales' largest wine-producing region here. 

Chances are you have a bottle or two of Riverina wine in your cabinet or fridge. After all, approximately one in four glasses of Australia’s wine come from the region – De Bortoli, Calabria and Casella’s Yellow Tail are just some of the names you’re likely familiar with. Though it is the largest wine-producing area in New South Wales, sadly, this little gem within the heart of the state’s south-west doesn’t receive the same adulation and tourism numbers as some of the state’s other wine regions due only to its distance from the capital cities. 

That’s something that needs to change. If you’ve never visited the Riverina before, here’s why you should make your next wine trip to this unsung hero of the Australian winemaking world. It’s time you get a taste and discover this hidden gem.

Just an hour’s flight from Melbourne, or 90 minutes from Sydney, lies the city of Griffith in the centre of the Riverina wine region. Locals call it a little slice of Italy, and it’s no wonder. Most of the population (approximately 60 per cent) is Italian or of Italian heritage, for waves of Italian settlers made their way to this country city from the late 19th century, coming from regions such as Veneto, Sicily and Calabria. It’s therefore not surprising to find Mediterranean whites and reds the dominant varieties in the area.

Two hands cupping a bunch of grapesDurif, or petite sirah, is so important to the Riverina it's been honoured with its own day – June 10.

The region is famous for its Mediterranean-like climate, allowing grape varieties such as chardonnay, shiraz, and cabernet sauvignon to thrive, and noble rot to occur, delivering beautiful, botrytised semillons. Italianate whites such as fiano, vermentino and pinot grigio also find a comfortable home here, and are among the region’s backbone. 

The hero, durif (petite sirah), comes in a variety of personalities, delivering an intense, fruit-driven drop complemented by a touch of spice – anything from a floral bouquet with chocolate and spice notes to toasty oak, dark berries, plum and anise. Just about every winery in the Riverina offers their own style of this aromatic and full-bodied drop, which pairs well with barbecued beef, chargrilled dishes, and mature or vintage cheeses.

Of course, great wine demands great food to match, and you won’t be disappointed when it comes to dining and degustation options in the Riverina.

The Riverina has long been known as the food bowl of Australia and, with produce right at their doorstep, it’s easy to see why locals and tourists alike rave about the quality of their dining experiences. With locally grown fruit and vegetables, and handmade pastas, you’ll be salivating as you taste the freshness.

Three people sit around a wine barrel sipping wine and eating cheeseThe cellar door at Yarran Wines.

But here’s a fun day-trip to get a true taste of what’s on offer in the region: Start in Griffith and put together a gourmet picnic with cured meats and pickled vegetables from La Piccola Grosseria, with sweets and breads from Bertoldo’s. Drop in to Broome’s Fruit & Vegetables for local cheeses, then head down Kidman Way (you’ll want to complete your picnic with olives, oils, tapenade, and vinegars from Yarrow Park Olive Grove and Vineyard – it’s worth the trip!) before heading to Altina Wildlife Park for your picnic. Then, finish off the day with a trip to Whitton Malt House, and tick off some cellar doors from your list as you return to the city centre.

All up, the Riverina packs a punch with its fair share of unique and award-winning wine and dining experiences. Along with its sublime scenery, fertile earth and friendly people, you’ll find it hard to leave.