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Welcome to the New South Wales Wine Region series, where every week we feature select wine regions from the expanse of New South Wales' lush greenery and rolling hills. Subscribe to our newsletter today or view other articles in this series to learn more about the wines of the region.


Surrounding the township of Young in the Southern New South Wales wine zone, the Hilltops region is bordered by the Gundagai region to the south-west, and the Canberra District to the south-east, with the Cowra and Orange wine regions to the north. It’s about two hours’ drive from Canberra, and four hours from Sydney.

The region lies on the southwestern slopes of the Great Dividing Range and is a real hidden gem in terms of emerging wine regions, with its focus on cool-climate Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz.

With its array of outstanding local produce, undulating hills patchworked with vines, and the spectacular backdrop of the Great Dividing Range, this young wine region is certainly on the rise. While the Hilltops may not have the star power of other regions in Australia, it is a quiet achiever, pulling in a string of awards without fuss or fanfare.


Like many of the regions around it, the Hilltops enjoys a cool continental climate, with a high diurnal temperature range. Warm days with plenty of sunlight hours are juxtaposed by cool nights, which leads to a long, even ripening period. This allows the fruit to achieve full phenolic ripeness, while still retaining acidity and freshness, resulting in wines of elegance and finesse.

Altitude across the region is also an important factor, with the majority of the vineyards sitting at over 450m above sea level. This altitude brings cooler average temperatures, but also provides a range of differing gradients and aspects for growers to employ.

The soils throughout the region vary, but most vineyards are planted on rich, deep granite clay soils that offer good water retention – important throughout the dry summer season. Basalt and weathered granite soils are found across the higher areas, with these soils formed from the degraded granitic rocks that dominate the region. The soils in the Hilltops region are free-draining and support strong vine growth, which means irrigation can be necessary in dry years, as well as the management of vine vigour.


Cabernet and Shiraz are the two varieties that really put the Hilltops on the viticultural map. Both of these grapes produce stunning cool-climate wines, many of which have won a raft of awards over the years. In fact, the Hilltops is the only NSW region to have won the Jimmy Watson Trophy and be a two-time Winner of the Great Australian Shiraz Challenge.

For white wines, Chardonnay is the clear leader in the region. Hilltops Chardonnay tends to be lighter in body, with citrus and stone fruit characters, underpinned by stony mineral characters. They are often given subtle oak handling adding complexity and nuance, and the best examples will cellar over the medium term.

Aside from these main varieties, many growers and producers are achieving success with a host of Italian varieties. Grapes such as Barbera and Nebbiolo, but also more obscure grapes such as Corvina and Rondinella. These Mediterranean varieties are thriving in the region, enjoying the long and even ripening periods that the Hilltops region offers.


Freeman Vineyards, Moppity Vineyards


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