Forget South Australia, NSW is the original birthplace of Australian wine, with grapevines thought to have come ashore with the First Fleet in 1788. While the original Sydney vines haven't survived, further north in the Hunter Valley vineyards have flourished, with the Hunter now boasting an unbroken wine history of over 180 years.

But there is more to NSW wine than just the Hunter Valley. Indeed there is a significant diversity of wine regions within the state, ranging from the heat and humidity of the Hunter, to vineyards that touch the sea in the Shoalhaven, and then up to the chilly heights above the snowline in Orange.

Discover the diversity of NSW wine.

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Hunter Valley

With some of the oldest vineyards in the country and the oldest winemaking families, the Hunter Valley will always play a special role in not just NSW wine, but that of the whole country.

Still, what's interesting about the Hunter is that it is not an easy place to make wine. Summers here are very hot and humid, with rain often falling right at harvest to make things even more challenging, the conditions resulting in the Hunter being nicknamed as the 'Hellhole'.

To get around the unpredictable late summer weather, however, Hunter vignerons ten to pick grapes earlier and focus on three main grapes that work well on the sand and red clay soils - Semillon, Chardonnay and Shiraz. The resulting wines are typically fresher, more vibrant and more long-lived than almost anywhere in the country.

Semillon is the real hero though, with the best wines having an almost mythical reputation for longevity. You want wines for the grandkids? Buy Hunter Semillon. Tart and taut in their youth, these stunning low alcohol wines unfurl like butterflies after four or five years in the bottle.

Family winemakers dominate here (with a few notable exceptions). Our favourite producers to look out for: Tyrrell's, McWilliam's, Mount Pleasant, Brokenwood, Gundog Estate.

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Mudgee

Located west of the Hunter Valley and with a more continental climate, Mudgee has a celebrated winemaking history just like the Hunter, dating all the way back to 1858.

Unlike the Hunter Valley, Mudgee's focus is very much on red wines, with Cabernet Sauvignon and to a lesser extent Shiraz the hero, with blends of the two grapes a local speciality. You can expect robust, savoury reds here too, with dark colours and impressive tannins helping the age-worthiness.

Intriguingly, Mudgee can lay claim to some of Australia's oldest Chardonnay vines and produces some excellent wines. The region also has a celebrated history with Italian grapes including Sangiovese too.

Mudgee has endured some challenging years recently, but with a newer generation of producers championing and evolution of style, some of the more contemporary wines released of late are incredibly impressive - real game-changing food-friendly reds and textured whites.

Many Mudgee vignerons also have connections to Orange, sourcing whites from Orange's heights and reds from Mudgee. Our favourite producers to look out for: Robert Stein, Huntington Estate & Montrose.

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Tumbarumba

Despite setbacks with bushfires threatening vineyards and wineries, this region located on the western side of the NSW Snowy Mountains continues its meteoric rise, with the reputation for Tumbarumba's exceptional ultra cool climate wines only growing.

Sparkling wine production was the region's first focus, turning away from Tumbarumba's traditional crop of apples and into Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. These two grapes continue to be the most important, although Chardonnay is more likely to be the real hero in recent years.

Dominated by growers rather than big wineries, one of the enduring challenges of this region is its frost-prone nature, which means crop losses are not unusual. Yet the trade-off in quality for the delicate and frankly beautiful wines are worth the heartache.

Our favourite producers to look out for: Coppabella, Courabyra Wines, Obsession Wines.

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Orange

Further west again you'll come to Orange, the wine region centred around extinct volcano Mt Canobolas. What's really distinctive about Orange is that's one of the only wine regions in the world where altitude is part of the regional boundaries. Below 550m and you're out of Orange and into the less fashionable 'Central Ranges'.

While white wines - particularly Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay - are the focus for many vignerons in the higher parts of the region, Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz also feature heavily.

Again, altitude plays a big part, with producers high up on the mountain (over 1000m) crafting delicate wines including sparkling and Pinot Noir, while further down the hill it is all fuller-bodied reds.

Orange enjoys a vibrant restaurant scene which only helps fuel the region's wine diversity, encouraging more experimentation and fostering a food-friendly wine ethos.

Small producers dominate Orange, with many growing grapes in old apple orchards (a nod to the history of Orange as apple country) and making wines in converted apple stores turned wineries.

Our favourite producers to look out for: De Salis, Cumulus, Bloodwood & Ross Hill.