80 vineyards, 30+ cellar doors, 6 wine trails and 47 cafes: a red-hot gourmet scene led by families of passionate winemakers awaits in the New South Wales town and surrounds of Orange
I don’t know about you, but when I leave the Big Smoke for a weekend away, I’m all about embracing those things I can’t find in the city: country cooking, green pastures, farm animals, really nice people that don’t cut you off on the road…you get the idea. It goes without saying that the further away you get from New South Wales’ capital city, the more heightened these attributes get, so as I begin the 3.5- to 4-hour drive from Sydney to Orange on a Friday afternoon, I presume the long drive can only be a good thing. On arriving in Australia’s colour city for the first time, amid unrelenting rainfall, no less, my theory proves true: when it comes to places to spend the weekend, the grass is definitely greener in Orange… and I’m not just talking about the scenery.
This New South Wales town and surrounding, picturesque region have been kicking gastronomic goals in recent years. As the highest vineyard area in Australia – 600 metres to 1150 metres above sea level – the cool climate wines coming out of the Orange wine region have been stacking medals left right and centre. Add to this a rapidly-emerging gourmet dining scene, and it’s no wonder this ‘new’ wine region (Orange was officially recognised as such in 1997) welcomes 1 million visitors every year to smell, swish and swirl its much-lauded chardonnay and pinot noir.
I’m in Orange ahead of the 14th Orange Wine Festival to experience for myself why this region is so highly regarded among oenophiles. Taking place from Friday 18th – Sunday 27th October to coincide with ‘budburst’ – when the grapevines produce new shoots following winter’s dormancy – this year’s festival comprises seven signature events and over 80 satellite events taking place throughout the region. But first thing’s first: where to stay?