The picturesque and lush rolling hills of the Orange wine region boast a diverse array of attractions for connoisseurs and enthusiasts alike. As the only wine region in the world bound by altitude, it is the highest wine region in Australia, with most vineyards perched 900 to 1200 metres above sea level, with Mount Canobolas as the epicentre at 1390 metres high.

The modern Orange wine region was established in the mid-1980s, but has been building some serious momentum in the past decade. Just a two-hour flight from Brisbane or three-and-a-half hour drive from Sydney, the endless splendour of the district awaits.

It’s a region that thrives on events and festivals. Be it the Orange Winter Fire Festival or the Orange Wine Festival in spring, the Banjo Paterson Australian Poetry Festival in summer or F.O.O.D Week and the Running Festival in autumn, a visit at any time of year is sure to be memorable.

But the hunt for wine was my priority, and with more than 60 wineries and 40 cellar doors to wade through, it was time to get to work.

Worth noting is the higher the altitude, the leaner the fruit profile gets. Whites thrive up high, and the reds have found a happy home further down the slope. As history has shown, cooler years have been more favourable for sparkling and white wines, and warmer years see red wines flourish.

Coming in via Bathurst, a stop at the heritage-listed town of Millthorpe is a must. Cobbled roads, bluestone buildings and tree-lined streets. It’s a step back to the early 1900s.

It’s here you can find the Slow Wine Co and Angullong cellar doors. A short stroll from one another, the wines at Slow are built with a lovely textural presence. The Reserve Pinot Noir 2019 ($50) is a highlight with its autumnal feel and delicate spices.

Angullong has the lowest vineyards in the Orange region, and their exploration of Italian varieties is most impressive.

There is something for everyone, be it the silky Fossil Hill Barbera 2022 ($30), the cherry cola and red apple crunch of the Fossil Hill Sangiovese 2022 ($30), or the muscular Fossil Hill Sagrantino 2022 ($30), the varied range caters for all wine lovers.

One producer that certainly needs to be on your radar is ChaLou. With 2022 Young Winemaker of the Year Nadja Wallington at the helm and husband Steve toiling in the vineyard, this dynamic duo explore texture, creating a delicious collection of wines. With numerous varieties under a few labels, the 2022 pinot noir is a stand-out and a cracking deal for $35.

A stone’s throw away and around the corner, you’ll find the wonderfully manicured vines and old schoolhouse that is Mayfield. Here you’ll embrace the sizzling Backyard Riesling 2022 ($34), but the star of the show is the Block 14 Chardonnay 2022 ($65). Flinty with a concentration of peach, it’s a fabulous drink, hands down.

Some of the first-planted vines in the region can be found at Canobolas Wines (formerly Canobolas Smith). The prestige and elegance across the range is supreme. Under the new ownership of winemaker Jonathon Mattick (formerly of Ten Minutes by Tractor), the offerings have elevated the brand and delivered an exceptional chardonnay 2022 ($65) and a blistering cabernet franc 2022 ($55). These wines are an asset to the region.

Ross Hill Wines was Australia’s first certified carbon-neutral winery. With a number of wines across several price points and a cooking school onsite, it’s the cabernet franc 2021 ($50) that made me sit bolt upright. Equally as captivating is the tightly coiled Eastern View Chardonnay 2021 ($95) that will age gracefully in the cellar.

Duck down the road to the cute and charismatic Colmar Estate cellar door. These wines are precise and made from estate-grown fruit. Barely a hair out of place! You’ll find exceptional riesling, chardonnay, sparkling and pinot noir. Go here.

For a winemaker of Jeff Byrne’s experience and status to uproot and move to Orange speaks volumes for the potential of the region. His Byrne Farm wines present class on a platter yet offer value deluxe. Byrne’s chardonnay is possibly the best in the region, for a skinny $35. There is no doubting his Hunter Valley roots with the Hunter River burgundy-inspired shiraz pinot 2021 ($45) showcasing a delicious and silky medium-bodied delight.

One of the most compelling wines I tasted in 2023 came from Hoosegg. Made by the highly regarded Philip Shaw, who has been making wines for more than 60 years, these wines are precise and elegant. The Seven Heaven Chardonnay 2018 ($140) spent 16 months in new oak, yet the balance and shape were nothing short of incredible. No corners are cut at Hoosegg and the quality simply glistens as a result.

Be sure to head to Rikard. With one of the most spectacular cellar door vistas in the region at one of the highest vineyards, winemaker Will Rikard-Bell prides himself on texture and finesse, and his vast array of wines demonstrate his ability to build components which lead to complexity. Hanging his hat on riesling, the Black Label 2022 ($60) is a German- and Austrian-style that hits the target deluxe. Mind you, the Black Label Chardonnay 2021 ($65) is dripping with interest and class.

Tiny producers are golden, and Amour Wines is one of the smallest in the district. Make an appointment and you’ll be in raptures with Matt Eades’ passion and drive. Not afraid to push boundaries, these wines are patient, elegant and generous. The fine detail and rhythm of the chardonnay 2021 ($60) is captivating after seeing 15 months in French oak. But it’s the wonderfully layered and detailed pinot noir 2021 ($75) that is bliss in a bottle.

After all that, you’ve earned a feed and eating at Charred Kitchen & Bar is a must. This restaurant would not be out of place in any capital city with its exquisite food and superbly appointed wine list. It’s no wonder it continues to draw praise from far and wide.

Steve Leszczynski is a wine writer, author, wine dinner host and MC. Apart from writing for his website, Steve co-authored a book, Grenache – Barossa Grown. He contributes to Halliday Wine Companion magazine, Vinomofo, Wine Business Magazine and Grapegrower & Winemaker magazine.