Image Courtesy of Starrs Reach Vineyard
Riverland—Australia’s largest wine growing region is one of its least known. Located northeast of Adelaide, Riverland covers 1,584 square miles along the South Australian stretch of the Murray River and is home to over 54,000 acres of vines. In 2022, Riverland fruit comprised 32% of Australia’s total crush by volume. Combine this with the fruit of neighboring inland regions and the figure jumps to a staggering 73% of Australian wine’s entire production.
Yet, few Aussies can point to Riverland on the map. That’s because the vast majority of this hot, dry region’s grapes, which are irrigated from the mighty Murray River, is sold in bulk to large wine companies for low prices. It’s been that way since the end of World War I, when a soldier resettlement scheme resulted in vine plantings of varieties like Palomino and Grenache for the production of fortified wines. Then, in the middle of the last century, table wines took off, and Riverland became the main source of sweet, white “Moselle” wines sold in bag-in-box form from varieties like Gordo and Sultana. Riverland ultimately cemented its bulk-wine business model at the end of the 20th century and beginning of the 21st when Australia earned a global reputation for cheap and cheerful wines from French varieties like Shiraz and Chardonnay.