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Despite its name, the Canberra District wine region lies mostly in New South Wales. It encircles the city of Canberra and encompasses the northern part of the ACT, before pushing north into NSW, taking in the towns of Yass, Murrumbateman and Lake George, and down past Queanbeyan in the south. The heart of the region is only 30 minutes drive from Canberra, making it a very popular destination for foodies and wine lovers alike.
Despite its relative youth and emerging status, the Canberra District is now home to around 140 wineries. The diverse landscape and cool climate are ideal for producing high-quality wines, and with a new generation of winemakers exploring alternative varieties and innovative techniques, the scene is set for a bold, bright future.
The Canberra District is classified as cool continental. The region enjoys warm, dry days during summer, but the temperatures drop significantly overnight, cooling the vines and helping to retain acidity in the fruit. A range of hills to the east acts as a buffer and protects the region from any maritime influences coming in from the Pacific Ocean. This lack of maritime influence means frosts in spring are a real threat, and droughts during summer can also be a problem.
The topography of the region is quite varied with undulating hills and distant views of the Snowy Mountains forming a picturesque backdrop to many of the vineyards. Vineyards range in altitude from around 300m to over 800m above sea level. This array of differing altitudes, along with varying slopes and aspects, creates a geographically diverse region and affords winemakers the opportunity to grow and produce a range of wines.
The region's soils are typically brownish-red, shallow clay loams, over shale and clay subsoils, with some granitic and volcanic-derived outcrops. The sub-soils do not retain water particularly well, and therefore irrigation can be necessary in drier years.
Being a cooler climate region, grapes such as Riesling and Shiraz both perform wonderfully well, the former producing crisp, mineral-driven, and delicately aromatic wines, with the latter making beautifully, savoury, pepper-spiced, elegant reds.
One of the most exciting things about the Canberra District is the emergence of a wide variety of alternative varieties. Grapes such as Viognier (often blended with Shiraz), Gruner Veltliner, Tempranillo, Marsanne, Roussanne and Malbec are all being grown and producing some outstanding cool-climate wines. The strong continental climate, coupled with the higher altitudes and relatively low rainfall, create the perfect terroir for crisp, aromatic whites and elegant, perfumed reds.