You’d be forgiven for not associating wine with New South Wales’ Shoalhaven Coast – pristine white beaches and stunning coastlines probably jump to mind first. But the Shoalhaven Coast is also home to an emerging wine industry, with local winemakers and viticulturists firmly putting themselves on the wine map through their dedication to their coastal location, resulting in a new wave of exciting, terroir-driven wine.
The Shoalhaven Coast’s connection with wine dates back to the 19th century, when Dr Alexander Berry – close friend of Australian wine pioneer James Busby – was reported to have planted vineyards and produced wine on the foothills of Coolangatta Mountain. But it wasn’t until the 1980s that the Shoalhaven Coast’s wine industry truly took off, with Greg Bishop, owner and viticulturist of Coolangatta Estate, re-establishing sauvignon blanc vineyards on the historic site, producing his first vintage in 1990. With other locals Silos Estate and Jasper Valley Wines also developing vines around the time, the three became the driving force in evolving the Shoalhaven Coast winemaking scene.
The Shoalhaven Coast is now home to 16 wineries, all producing a range of wine styles expressive of the maritime climate of the southern coastline. Speak to any viticulturist and they’ll be the first to admit the climate can present challenges, but also provide opportunity for winemaking in the region.
“Choosing the correct varieties is critical for winemaking in the Shoalhaven Coast,” says Greg Bishop. “The cooling breezes from the ocean have a moderating effect on temperature which leads to the wines often appearing to be from a ‘cool climate’ with great acid levels. Alongside this, the summer rainfall climate can create challenges in the vineyard, but with good viticultural practices a lot of the potential problems can be overcome.”
Viticulturists in the Shoalhaven Coast have already gained a thorough understanding of the region’s summer rainfall, strong coastal winds and high humidity to now grow a range of varieties including semillon, verdelho, savagnin, chardonnay, tannat, and tempranillo. Another key variety in the region is chambourcin, a French red hybrid variety highly resistant to mildew, making it a grape suited to the Shoalhaven’s summer rainfall. The variety is widely planted across the region with winemakers using it to make varietal wines – producing a medium-bodied style with vibrant purple hue and plum and cherry characters – and also in blends, rosé and sparkling red wine.
“We’ve come to a pretty good understanding of the climatic conditions here in the Shoalhaven Coast,” says Wally Cupitt, head winemaker at Cupitt’s. “We think the region holds a lot of potential moving into the future with planting new varieties.” With Cupitt’s planning to put in gamay, cabernet franc and albariño vines and Coolangatta Estate putting in riesling vines, it’s clear this region isn’t slowing down any time soon.
Shoalhaven Coast wineries are also leading the way in sustainable winemaking and cellar door practices. Silos Estate is one of these wineries, becoming carbon neutral in 2008 and fast approaching a stage of being carbon negative. The cellar door, winery and estate accommodation all run off 100% renewable energy sources of wind and solar; rainwater and recycled water is used throughout the estate; and the company is also part of a tree planting scheme with over 4,000 trees planted since 2007.
Mountain Ridge Wines is another leader in sustainability, with owner Tom Davies, also Chairman and Co-founder of sustainability consulting company Edge Environment, implementing energy-efficient methods across the vineyards, winery and cellar door.
“The vision at Mountain Ridge is to create a destination where people can come and experience good food and wine and also learn about sustainability, which is one of our core values,” says Davies. “We hope to connect with people to inspire them to do a little bit more for the environment.”
At Mountain Ridge, Davies has made recycling wine bottles a strong focus, launching a program for bottles to be returned and reused. He’s also focusing on limiting the intake of single-use wine boxes and utilising wind and solar power across the vineyard, winery and cellar door.
In November, Mountain Ridge Wines, in conjunction with Jaunt Motors, is also launching the country’s first electric Land Rover for hire. The plan is to not just be a sustainable winery, but also allow visitors to do their part and reduce their impact on the Shoalhaven Coast environment.
The Shoalhaven Coast is only a two-hour drive from Sydney and a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Canberra, making it the perfect weekend escape. Wineries stretch along the coast from Berry to Bawley Point – you can drive this comfortably in around an hour and a half. We recommend tackling the route by car, to truly take in the stunning coastal views and lush countryside scenery.
The region’s largest and oldest winery, Coolangatta Estate (coolangattaestate.com.au) is the perfect place to visit for an introduction to Shoalhaven Coast wine. The cellar door offers an authentic experience, with a range of terroir-focused wines on tasting. The list is impressive and offers plenty of options, but you can’t go past the Tannat or Alexander Berry Chardonnay – ultimately paired with a meat or seafood dish at the on-site Alexander’s Grill.
Set atop the Mount Coolangatta foothills, Two Figs (twofigs.com.au) is the perfect place to sip with a view, hosting panoramas of the Shoalhaven River and beyond. Two Figs has a wide range of wines from sparkling, white, rosé and red along with their signature fortified wines – the Sticky Fig fortified is a must try for any sweet tooth. Grab one of the cellar door’s local produce platters, a bottle of your favourite wine and watch the sunset across the river.
Mountain Ridge Wines (mountainridgewines.com.au) is a winery to watch in the Shoalhaven Coast, with Tom Davies’ passion for sustainability and his winery evident in every aspect of the experience. A must try is the Sparkling Chambourcin (aka Christmas in a bottle) for a true example of how winemakers are further experimenting with the variety. The cellar door offers breakfast and lunch at the on-site restaurant, or a chance to sit out on the scenic deck with a bottle overlooking Coolangatta Mountain and its surrounding ranges.
Cambewarra Estate (cambewarraestate.com.au) is a second-generation-owned winery, with all the country charm of the Shoalhaven Coast. The homely cellar door offers tasting of the estate range, including sparkling, white, rosé, red and both white and red fortified. Book in for the Cambewarra Estate High Tea to enjoy wine, tea and nibbles among the scenic estate vines.
Silos Estate (silosestate.com) is another much-loved winery in the Shoalhaven Coast. It holds a strong focus on sustainability and charity, with the Silos Foundation aiming to support local charities through fundraising and financial support. As well as the cellar door, the estate also has the acclaimed Silos Restaurant, boutique accommodation and a working alpaca farm.
Further south, in Ulladulla you’ll find Cupitt’s (cupitt.com.au), the family-owned-and-run boutique winery, microbrewery, fromagerie and restaurant. You can easily spend a whole day here, kicking off with a Tour and Taste Experience (led by Wally Cupitt himself) and followed by a seasonal lunch at Cupitt’s Kitchen. You can also spend the afternoon with a cheese platter from the fromagerie and a Cupitt Craft Brewers tasting paddle, which includes the unique Oyster Stout made from local Appellation Oysters. Make sure you leave enough space for the countless wines you’ll be taking with you – the Alphonse Sauvignon and Hilltops Nebbiolo are both highlights of the range.
Whether you’re after a coastal escape or a humble country vineyard stay, the Shoalhaven Coast truly has you covered; offering beachside villas, luxurious coastal hotels, quaint vineyard cottages and authentic country homesteads.
The Shoalhaven Coast also boasts premium culinary experiences with its seafood – in particular oysters – at the forefront. You’ll find many established eateries in the area, with chefs experimenting with their backyard produce to create dining experiences like no other. Be sure to try any degustations on offer, with local eateries taking the opportunity to showcase Shoalhaven Coast wine through exquisite food and wine matches.
Bangalay Luxury Villas (bangalayvillas.com.au) is the ultimate elegant beach escape. Only a short walk from Seven Mile Beach, the private villas possess stunning coastal interior design and modern architecture truly expressing owners Michelle and Tom Bishop’s local connection with the Shoalhaven Coast.
During your stay, you can’t go past a visit to Bangalay Dining (bangalayvillas.com.au/restaurant) for a memorable dining experience. Led by local respected chef Brent Strong, who takes his inspiration from the coast’s premium produce and the native ingredients of the land. The venue also supports the local wineries and beyond with a well-researched wine list to match the equally incredible food.
Bannisters (bannisters.com.au) is a name associated with quality and luxury, and in the Shoalhaven Coast they offer two stunning hotels for your stay. Both based in Mollymook in the heart of the southern Shoalhaven Coast, The Pavilion is the newest venue in the Bannisters family, with modern rooms, and a hip rooftop pool, bar and grill perfect for those summer nights. Bannisters By the Sea is just down the road with scenic views of Mollymook Beach and is home to the renowned Rick Stein at Bannisters restaurant (bannisters.com.au/rick-stein) – a true culinary highlight of the coast.
For a boutique winery stay you can’t go past Cupitt’s Cottage (cupitt.com.au/accommodation), a 100-year-old renovated slab cottage with all the charm of the Cupitt family. If the vineyard views and open fireplace aren’t drawcard enough, the cottage is on the Cupitt’s property making Cupitt’s Kitchen, cellar door, fromagerie and brewery all just a short stroll away from your doorstep.
Local favourite Milk Haus (milkhaus.com.au) is a must visit for a hearty, organic and preservative-free breakfast or lunch, with the coffee also a local favourite. Based in an old cheese factory in Woodstock, you can also stay at the refurbished 1930s-era farmhouse overlooking the kitchen garden for a true Shoalhaven Coast country stay.
Silos Estate (silosestate.com/accommodation) has a homestead stay overlooking the rolling hills and estate vines. It’s got classic country charm and is just a short stroll from the Silos Estate Cellar Door and Silos Restaurant.
The Garden Berry (facebook.com/TheGardenBerry) is in the heart of Berry on the main street and offers seasonal meals showcasing the region’s best meats, cheese and seafood. It also has live music and events on the weekend in its stylish courtyard, and is perfect for relaxed dining experiences all year round.
Hungry Duck (hungryduck.com.au) is another of Berry’s iconic dining venues, and is a must visit for Asian cuisine highlighting the premium south coast seafood and produce. You’ll find an abundance of locals at the restaurant (which is always a good sign) with all the produce coming from local producers and the on-site organic herb and vegetable garden.
From Shoalhaven Coast culinary heroes St Isidore, comes the new wine bar and eatery Small Town Food + Wine (instagram.com/smalltownmilton) in Milton. It’s not open yet, but the plan for owners Alex Delly and Jo Thomas is to retain the classic, much-loved food philosophy from the now-closed St Isidore. The cosy 20-seater will provide a modern, city vibe for those evening cocktails.
Tallwood (tallwoodeat.com.au) in Mollymook is another favourite of Shoalhaven Coast locals. Owner Matt Upson has created a seasonal, free-form dining experience showcasing the local producers of the NSW South Coast and taking inspiration from his work throughout Asia and Europe.
For more information about travelling to the Shoalhaven Coast head to visitnsw.com/destinations/south-coast/unspoilt