What Makes Australian Wines So Special?
One could argue that New World wines have a lingering stereotype of being big, bold, and fruity. Australian wines may have once fit this stereotype, but not any longer.
Australian winemakers have expanded far beyond a few varietals and regions to help Australia and its wines become an influential and sought-after part of the wine industry.
We’re here to inspire your next wine adventure if you’re unfamiliar with Australia’s wine or its regions. Continue reading for our Australian wine guide, which examines the country’s wine history and regions, and get ready to add new names to your wine collection.
An Overview of Australian Wine
Australia, as a New World wine region, does not have a wine history dating back to the medieval era or earlier. That doesn’t change the fact that it has a long and illustrious history.
During the First Fleet’s founding of New South Wales in 1788, Captain Arthur Phillip brought vine clippings. While his landing site of Sydney Cove was too hot and humid for cultivation, later attempts at the Parramatta River to the west were more successful. The early years of winemaking were still difficult, with only a few cases exported to England and elsewhere beginning in 1822.
When James Busby brought vine clippings from several classic French grapes in 1833, production of Bordeaux-style blended wines and fortified wines increased. Wine production increased until the late 1800s, when phylloxera pests destroyed much of the land.
Grafting onto resistant rootstock helped to save the wine industry, particularly in Australia’s east. Surprisingly, some regions, such as South Australia’s Barossa Valley and Western Australia’s Margaret River, have remained phylloxera-free and retain their original, ungrafted vines.
By the 1960s, wine enthusiasts had abandoned their preference for fortified wines in favor of table wines such as Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Chardonnay. Winemakers took notice and began to experiment with new varietals in their vineyards. Beginning in the 1980s, a surge in interest in new wines led to a boom in winemaking throughout Australia’s wine regions.
Australian winemakers continue to demonstrate their skills and enthusiasm for innovative production and high-quality wines with each new year.
What Makes Australian Wines So Special?
Wines in Australia love to reveal changing styles and climactic nuances, from Shiraz and Chardonnay to Viognier and Nebbiolo. From Western Australia’s cool, coastal Mediterranean climate to South Australia’s microclimates that shift from warm and dry to cool and hilly, this vast continent has it all.
Despite the fact that Australia lacks native vines, it has some of the oldest working vines, some of which are at least 150 years old. The country also has over sixty wine regions, each with its own distinct terroir. When consistent quality and new wine blends are combined, it’s no surprise that Australia ranks fifth in the world for wine exports — approximately 728 million liters per year.
Knowing Your Wine Labels and Geographical Indications
Label transparency is extremely important to Australian winemakers. A label cannot display a specific varietal, vintage, or region unless at least 85% of the wine matches.
Geographical Indications, or GIs, are similar to American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) and French Appellations. A wine’s label must include the subregion, region, zone, state, or multi-state where the grapes were harvested.
Wine Regions in Australia and What They Produce
In Australia, winemakers sometimes transport grape harvests from hundreds of miles away, resulting in a more fluid style of winemaking. Some wineries transport grapes thousands of miles, more than halfway across the country.
Winemaking in Western Australia is restricted to the southwest coast, which has a mild Mediterranean climate. Top wine regions include the coastal Margaret River, which is dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon, Semillon, and Sauvignon Blanc, and Mount Barker, which is dominated by Riesling, Shiraz, and Chardonnay. Western Australia accounts for about 5% of total national production.
Despite the fact that wine regions are only found in the southeast and south central parts of the state, South Australia accounts for more than 40% of Australia’s wine output. Wine regions in South Australia range from hot with sandier soil in the Barossa Valley or Adelaide Plains to cool with acidic soil in the Eden Valley to cool with alkaline red soil in Coonawarra.
Shiraz is the most popular varietal in many South Australian regions, including the Barossa Valley, Eden Valley, Adelaide Plains, and McLaren Vale. In Adelaide Hills, Sauvignon Blanc reigns supreme, while Cabernet Sauvignon reigns supreme in Coonawarra and the Southern Fleurieu. Clare Valley Riesling shines.
New South Wales
New South Wales comes in second, accounting for 30% of national wine production. Although this state has the most vineyard land, its microclimates vary significantly. Climates are warm, humid, and rainy to the east of the Great Dividing Range. Higher elevation regions are cool and alpine, whereas certain varietals thrive in hot, dry lands further west.
In the Hunter Valley, you’ll find Semillon and Shiraz, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon in the Central Ranges, and Shiraz, Chardonnay, and Semillon in the Big Rivers region out west.
Victoria is a cool-climate state that produces roughly 20% of Australia’s wine. Winemakers can be found all over Victoria, unlike in other states, and many are boutique wineries.
Cooler climate wines, particularly Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, perform exceptionally well here. Shiraz, on the other hand, is equally popular due to the savory qualities that are unique to Victoria. Alternate varietals grown in Victoria vineyards include Nebbiolo, Sangiovese, and Viognier. Quality wines are produced in the Yarra Valley, Heathcote, Mornington Peninsula, and Rutherglen wine regions.
Wines from Australia to Enjoy
If you want to learn more about Australian wines, browse our online catalog, which includes a variety of Australian varietals and vintages. You can also call us for personalized assistance in matching you with the best wines from Australia.
Topic: What Makes Australian Wines So Special?
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