wining and dining

Australia's weirdest wineries

Kim Wildman
Monday, April 14, 2008
Weird winery: Sevenhill Cellars (Photo: Lonely Planet Images)

For a truly unique drinking experience, stop in at one of the country's most unusual wineries.

We Aussies may have a reputation as a nation of beer lovers, but wine has fast become an integral part of our everyday life. Yet while we've learnt the traditional techniques, we're not above breaking the rules to add our own quirky, offbeat flavour.

Little Morgue Winery, Queensland

Halfway between Nambour and Yandina on Queensland's Sunshine Coast, Australia's quirkiest winery has a sense of humour that defies the usual stuffiness associated with wine tasting rooms. But if you believe the tales, there's more than one kind of spirit flowing at the Little Morgue Winery. This one-time morgue has been transformed into one of the most unique cellar doors in the country. The morgue's embalmment area is now the boutique winery, with its original Gothic chapel serving as a memorable wine tasting room and art gallery. At the Cadavery Cafe you can enjoy a Morgue Munchie while sampling your way through the wine list which includes Eternal Flame Rose, A Touch 'o Coffin Chardonnay (a little heavy on the coffin for my palate!) and Supreme Afterlife Shiraz. The winery also hosts popular Black Friday dinners, Halloween parties and Murder in the Morgue Mystery dinners.

Find out more: Little Morgue Winery

Murrin Bridge Wines, NSW

While reds and whites are the staples of most Australian wineries, in Wiradjuri country in the Riverina region of western NSW ''black'' wine is the drop of choice. Australia's only indigenous winery, Murrin Bridge Wines was established on the banks of the Lachlan River in 1999 as part of a TAFE-run community initiate to help young jobless people learn a new skill. Three years later, Murrin Bridge Wines' first vintage of shiraz made its debut. Since then the estate has grown from a 25-acre site to a 100 hectare full-scale commercial property and now produces both shiraz and an award-winning chardonnay.

Find out more: Murrin Bridge Wines

Sevenhill Cellars, SA

Down in South Australia's Clare Valley, the region's oldest winery, Sevenhill Cellars, is also one of the country's most unusual and picturesque. Founded in 1851 by Jesuits Priests who fled Austria to escape religious persecution during the late 1840s, the winery is famous for its sacramental wine which is still produced today. Since its humble beginnings, the winery has branched out into table wines and now produces a wide range including riesling, chardonnay, verdelho, cabernet sauvignon, merlot and grenache, as well as sherries, ports and liqueurs. If you have time, take a tour of the beautiful old stone winery with winemaker Brother John May or wander around the estate's magnificent Anglo-gothic St Aloysius Church with its Crypt.

Find out more: Sevenhill Cellars

Red Centre Farm, NT

This cheeky, irreverent winery unabashedly pokes fun at its lack of full-bodied breeding with its light-hearted proclamation that it is merely ''a tin shed in the bush, not a castle in France''. Located at Ti-Tree on the Stuart Highway in central Australia, 180km north of Alice Springs, since 1988 ''Shatto Mango'', as is affectionately known as, has carved itself out a reputation as one of the country's most offbeat, off-the-beaten-path wineries. Renowned more for novelty than perhaps palate-pleasing taste, their wines include the crisp Mango Magic, the fortified Mango Moonshine liqueur and the sparkling Mango Mist.

Find out more: Red Centre Farm

Sam Miranda of King Valley, Victoria

From an architectural viewpoint, the new cellar door at Sam Miranda winery is a standout. Designed by well-known Sydney architect, Alex Popov, this modern marvel literally towers over Victoria's King Valley — 40ft to be exact. From the car park you'll enter via a subterranean passage, giving you the feeling that you are submerging into an underground cellar. Contrary to your expectations, however, the passageway opens up to reveal a bright, airy tasting room which is lit up by light streaming in from the 40ft light tower which stands sentinel above the bar. But it's not just the architecture that'll catch your attention, the wines here are superlative. My personal favourite is the Girl's Block Cabernet Sauvignon, with its ripe blackcurrant flavours and firm tannin structure.

Find out more: Sam Miranda of King Valley

Seppelt Great Western Winery, Victoria

Australia's first and arguably best known sparkling wine producers, is also one of the country's most unusual wineries. At the Seppelt Great Western Winery in Victoria's Grampians, it is not only the wine that is the attraction, it's what lies beneath. Established in 1851, the winery is famous for its labyrinth of heritage-listed underground tunnels known as ''The Drives''. The tunnels, which were dug by miners for sparkling wine maturation, reach 3km in length and are located six to eight metres underground. The temperature in the tunnels is a chilly 15 &#deg;C. Apart from tours, functions, including gala candle-lit dinners, are held underground.

Find out more: Seppelt Great Western Winery

Have you visited any of these wineries? Share your taste sensations and unique impressions with us: