Along with opportunities to taste some of the country’s most tantalising drops, you’ll nibble local delights and dine at hatted restaurants for much less than you might imagine. To top it all off, make a trip of it and stay at charming country cottages and even lavish five-star hotels for prices that leave plenty of cash in the wallet to visit exciting local attractions and truly kick up your heels.
Escape in WA
Heading to the magnificent state of Western Australia, you are spoiled for choice when it comes to wine regions. One great thing about WA is that you can find most of your favourite common wine varieties grown locally, along with your preferred wine-growing climate. From the warmth of the Swan Valley to the cool temps of Denmark, there’s something for everyone.
One wine region that must be on your hit list when you’re in WA is Perth’s closest and most historic. A mere 25 minutes from Perth’s CBD is Australia’s second oldest wine region, the Swan Valley. Established in 1829, this region has been making its mark on the local community for nearly 200 years, and has also been impressing our foreign friends for quite some time. It’s a region that is bursting with vibrant, handcrafted ‘old vine’ wines along with outstanding local produce. The Swan Valley isn’t spread out like many wine regions you see. You can jump from winery to winery within a few minutes. Throw in a brewery, a chocolate factory, perhaps a distillery and you have yourself the perfect day trip from Perth.
When visiting a wine region, many of us like to do it in style. Style can come in many different formats but, no matter what way it’s presented, you shouldn’t have to break the bank. That’s another thing that’s lovable about the Swan Valley – you can luxe it up on a budget. One way of having a more luxurious experience is by joining a wine tour run by Swan Valley experts. Think about it… You don’t have to plan a thing! Only what you’re going to wear and how you’re going to get to and from the pick-up point. Easy! Let someone else organise a day where you’ll taste premium wines, indulge in cheese and chocolate delights, and sit down for a gourmet lunch. How lavish is that?
Finding the right wine tour can be tricky. One that’s popular and well thought out is the d’Vine Swan Valley Tour by d’Vine Wine Tours. d’Vine Tours has been running premium and professional daily tours, as well as fully customised private and corporate tours, for almost seven years. Its tours are fun yet informative and give the perfect snapshot of the Swan Valley region.
This full-day tour includes six stops that are all unique and offer something to tantalise those taste buds. Once you are picked up by your host and whisked off to the Swan Valley, you’ll start the day with a premium wine tasting at a small boutique winery. The first wine tasting is always paired with sumptuous local cheeses (wine and cheese? Yes, please!). Following this, it’s on to another winery for more tastings and a delicious gourmet lunch with a glass of wine, beer or cider to savour. From there you’ll visit more cellar doors, a chocolate factory for decadent chocolate tastings, a micro-brewery for your choice of drink – whether that’s a craft beers, cider or local wine. Also, as a treat on weekdays, you are taken to a French patisserie that specialises in macarons – Perth’s best by the way. Here you can choose from 20 different macaron flavours and try to tell us they aren’t as good as the ones you had in France.
Finish the day by being dropped back to the pick-up location, feeling completely satiated while also having learned a lot about the Swan Valley region and the wine world. Everything from your transport and tastings to your lunch experience and drinks is included in the cost of $120 a person. Now, if that doesn’t sound like luxury on a budget then we don’t know what does.
If your style is to plan it yourself and perhaps spend a night or two in the beautiful wine region then we certainly have some tips for you. One of our favourite luxury places to stay is the Colony Hotel situated at Mandoon Estate. It is the only five-star winery accommodation in Perth – in fact, it’s the only five-star spot in the Swan Valley. It oozes comfort, style and top-class service. You have an award-winning winery at your disposal and let’s not forget that Wild Swan, one of WA’s few hatted restaurants, is situated on the property. You would think with all of this excellence you would be paying quite a lot to stay. Prices, however, start from as little as $169 a night (with inclusions) depending on your method of booking and what deals are on.
Seeing as though you’re staying in the Swan Valley and visiting wineries at your leisure, one vineyard we consider a must for a wine tasting is Faber Vineyard. Faber wines are considered among the best in the region. Its cellar door experience is intimate yet casual – order some delicious grazing platters and a bottle of wine to wash it down. On arrival you’ll be greeted with a friendly smile by one of the owners or winemakers. Cruise through an informative, sit-down wine tasting – there are no tasting fees – and choose a wine to take home if you like.
The style of the property itself is a cross between country Australia and rustic European – sitting out on their back veranda and sipping on the drink of the gods transports you to a Tuscan vineyard. A winery affair like this can feel increibly indulgent, however the gourmet platters at Faber Vineyard cost as little as $40 for two people, and wine starts at $23 a bottle.
The excellent news is that there are many more wineries like this in the Swan Valley.
Head to the Hunter Valley
Just soaking up the rolling vineyard views is enough to give you a sense of luxury in the Hunter Valley. Not only that, but with more cellar doors than any other wine region in the country, your options for tastings are outright lavish. All you need to do is book a Hunter Valley wine tour, sit back, relax and let local guides take you right to the sparkling highlights. Talk about a luxurious treat without the price tag.
You could easily spend weeks sipping and swirling your way through the greater Hunter region. However, the three main areas are Pokolbin, Lovedale and Rothbury. Vineyards like Tyrrell’s and Tulloch bring the history and the fame to gorgeous Pokolbin. It’s often the little things in life that deliver the most decadence, and you’ll find delicious bites at the Hunter Valley Cheese Company and the Pokolbin Chocolate and Jam Company shop.
It’s hard to drag yourself away from so much scrumptiousness, but the effort is worth it to visit the affordable Hunter Valley Gardens. The names alone – the Sunken Garden, the Italian Grotto, the Lakes Walk and more – give you a hint of the extravagant landscapes awaiting your meandering feet.
Lovedale, with its picturesque country scenery and boutique cellar doors, is just up the road from Pokolbin. Pretend you’re in Tuscany, without the cost of the flight, at Wandin Valley Estate and check out the views of the Brokenback Range from Allandale. The 20-year-old vineyard at Capercaillie Wines offers an Instagram-worthy homestead, and Binnorie Dairy ensures you’ll tuck into as many soft cheeses as you can handle. Even more cellar doors greet you in the quaint town of Rothbury, along with Hope Estate Brewery and breathtaking mountain views around every scenic corner.
All three towns offer luxurious spa retreats, romantic boutique hotels, country cottages and sprawling homesteads for overnight and longer stays. While the top hotels can be pricey, it’s easy to find countryside charm and elegance on Airbnb. To save your cash for guided wine tours, it’s often more affordable to stay on the outskirts of the main tourist towns. Don’t worry about transport, as Tastes of the Hunter Wine Tours offer door-to-door service to the surrounding towns.
If colonial history sounds grand to you, stay in Cessnock. When you’re not sipping, pop into the Marthaville Arts and Cultural Centre and the Regional Art Gallery. A base in the gorgeous village of Broke lets you indulge in cosy cafes and plenty of local olives. For a riverside escape, gather some friends and book a country cottage in Singleton, or unleash your inner artist with a stay in quirky Maitland.
Choosing a luxury base on the outskirts, without that touristy price tag, doesn’t mean missing out on anything. In fact, if you want to sample a little bit of everything, you’ll get the tastiest highlights on a Hunter Valley Wine and Beer Tour from just $79. For this price, settle in for the luxury of door-to-door service, an air-conditioned minibus, a local guide and driver, bottled water and all your bookings sorted for you. It’s your choice as to how much you spend on tasting fees and yummy lunch feasts.
You’ll visit a mix of established and boutique vineyards and taste up to eight wines at each, so get set to discover your new favourite reds, whites and blends. Switch things up with local craft beers, ciders and liqueurs that pack a serious punch for the taste buds. Speaking of which, mouthwatering cheeses and lunch at popular local restaurants help to soak up all that liquid in the most delightful way possible.
If you haven’t stopped reading yet to go and pack your bag perhaps you should. Whether you decide to visit the stunning Swan Valley or head for the undulating hills of the Hunter, a gourmet experience is a given. The best thing is it’s easy to stretch your budget to fulfill your desires, with something for everyone to splash out on. From innovative craft beer to award-winning wine labels, a little luxury in two of Australia’s most dazzling wine regions is a dream come true, without the nightmarish price tag.
Crack open that bubbly, because there’s plenty to celebrate while you’re planning a gourmet wine tour on a budget.